The Art of the Pivot
It’s been 10 years since I left Hamilton College for the last time, on a bright day in May. Since then, life has taken me to six different states and one other country.
I’ve certainly had to learn the art of the pivot, when searching for positions in each new location. As an anthropology and Hispanic studies major, I knew my career options were going to be “alternative” to say the least. But the skills I learned during my time at Hamilton allowed me to transfer what I learned in each new career path, and the time I spent abroad during Hamilton has given me immense adaptability. Moving, building new communities, and explaining your pivot now comes natural to me, but I understand it might not be to others.
For a little context, I started off teaching English abroad in Argentina, and truly enjoyed this experience. It allowed me to work in another country when I had very few other commitments. After that, I chose to get a master’s degree in global education, to both amplify what I had already started learning as well as broaden my career options into education administration. As I moved back to the U.S. (to Texas), I knew I had to focus on making new friends after two whole years abroad, and not moving to New York, where most of my Hamilton friends still resided. I searched for communities of female travelers, as well as making new friends at work at a university international student office.
Since then, I’ve transitioned into alumni relations, in both nonprofit and third-party study abroad companies, and I was briefly a technical campus recruiter for a telecommunications company in Alabama. Throughout these transitions, the writing skills I learned at Hamilton from all those intensive writing courses and my honors thesis, and my intercultural communication skills gave me an edge and the ability to heavily pivot into similar but different career fields.
Now, as a career coach, I get to talk to students pivoting into data science, and my experience as a recruiter and a teacher have intertwined to enable me to help others. I’m again in a new city, this time Denver, and already, I feel myself building out my community of like-minded people, including a couple Hamilton alums that found their way here. LinkedIn has been an especially great resource, and I’m a big fan of virtual coffee chats, so I’ve been slowly building up new authentic relationships with people in the education field here.
When I talk with students who are worried about how to explain a drastic pivot in careers, I tell them the same thing I’m telling you here. In reality, the skills you bring to this new position are different than anyone else’s, and are an asset, not a burden. I saw a former hedge fund manager get two simultaneous offers at tech companies because they both needed her expertise in finance, even as she was switching over to data science, and her specific skill set and way of discussing her journey helped make her an ideal candidate. The key here is to spend time on self-reflection and awareness of transferable soft skills, to help make this process a little easier.
Someone once told me a career is not a ladder, but a roller coaster or a tree, and thinking about it that way has alleviated a lot of the stress of “expectations” of where life is supposed to go. Hopefully, that phrase rings true for you, too.