How to tackle your next career pivot
Dropping grad school, shifting from engineering to art, consulting to wedding choreographer, marketing to product, or customer success to a founder. The most common shift these days is moving to Web3. The friction, inconvenience, and risk associated with career pivots are so high. It is the scariest part of our professional lives and we need to take a reasonable, courageous, leap of faith—one that is unsettling but is required to open new doors in our profession.
The smartest way to advance in your job is periodically to take a lateral step. There may be fewer prospects for promotions as you move up the professional ladder since there are fewer positions above you. If you remain on your current rung while waiting for a position to arise, there is a potential chance that your career will stagnate for years.
This can be internal, within the same organization, or externally, shifting in a different company, industry, or even domain.
Taking lateral steps and diversifying experience provides more opportunities to grow, advance, and challenge yourself. If you've been working in investments, you could gain experience in accounting and finance. Expanding your skillset can make you more desirable for open positions and give you a greater understanding of the business world. Taking this step can also open networking possibilities and further expand your industry knowledge.
The challenge for many professionals is having the fearlessness to try something new. Let’s dig into this.
You must feel you are uniquely qualified exactly because of your unique history, not in spite of your unique past, in order to move forward with confidence while entering into a new field if you want to stand out.
Beginning the process of changing the status quo is the most difficult phase in career transitions and this is where many professionals get stuck, specifically, the senior executives are particularly affected by this. Personal reinvention entails reevaluating life decisions and visualizing other pathways, but this is more challenging when a leader is on a path that is, at least externally, perceived as successful. It might be challenging for leaders to examine other options since their identities are so reliant on their profession. Additionally, while these leaders have received training in organizational transformation and strategic planning, most management schools do not include personal reinvention in their curricula.
Therefore, personal reinvention requires a shift in mindset and a commitment to redefining one's career. It is important that leaders keep an open mind and are willing to explore different possibilities. Additionally, they must be willing to take risks and be ready to learn new skills to transition into new positions. A successful strategy for personal reinvention involves actively seeking out mentors, attending workshops and conferences, joining professional networks, and doing research into potential new positions and industries. Finally, it is important to create a new vision of themselves, believe in it, and take action. The most successful professionals never stop learning and exploring new possibilities.
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This week we’re in conversation with Saumya Saxena, Entrepreneur in Residence at Antler India.
Q- Can you run through your journey?
A lot of these career moves are not very thought-through or well-defined. But it may seem like that at the moment, but if you go back, you can reconnect these dots. So for me, I started off as an engineer, then a financial consultant to a non-profit to impact investing, and now a web3 founder. All of this in itself is a big leap, because I had no clue about accounts, and then I wanted an operations role at a nonprofit with no experience in it. All of this helped me understand that I can learn anything. So there's this inherent confidence in moving across industries and that plays out. Then the strategy role, the role becomes so broad and it becomes mostly about like whatever needs to be done in taking care of that. And off it's only like after doing that is when I realized, now that I can do anything, might as well do it for myself. And then I got into the Blockchain space. I spent like 14 hours per day just reading and listening to people and talking to people about it. And it's been more than a year now of building side projects and running a community, and finally, I joined Antler India 5-6 months ago and found my CTO there. And now we're building a payment product in web3.
Q- How can people upskill and be ready for transitions laterally or when they want to shift into something they want to explore
Here it's all about mindset. Even before upskilling, you need to answer - “can I do this?” And it's the way I see it, it keeps compounding. So once you've made the jump before, in a completely different field, then it's easier for you to do it again.
You need to really believe that you can do it. It doesn't matter if you're a product designer today, you could be a product manager. Mostly understand what skill sets are that you currently possess and be honest about that, evaluating what you need to learn. Every role is different. And once you've mapped out skill sets, it's easy to prepare for it.
Q- How was the compensation affected when you shifted- From strategy to nonprofit? Do you think pay cuts are okay when you are taking a lateral shift?
I had a 45% - 50% pay cut at a point in time when everyone was taking a 40-50% jump. I had to do it because I felt like it was important for me to do that. And it has paid off right because after that I could easily marry the consulting experience with the social impact and directly jump to investment banking, which otherwise would be incredibly hard to do. I don't think there's a clear way around pay-cut navigation, because it's gonna hurt for sure. But once you have a core skill set in place, and once you have some experience, then it's easier to make these transitions. If I had started off without a nonprofit experience, it would have been very hard to get into investment banking. Have in mind a long-term picture of where it is going. This is just a small dip, but it's gonna like go up eventually.
Q- You mentioned that when you were shifting careers, people were getting promoted and taking hikes. How do you feel that lateral moves versus promotion work? Whether you grow in the same job?
I don't think there's a clear way to approach this but for me, it's whatever is the lowest friction and highest return on investment of the time invested. That's the way to look at it. I'm not saying that you’ve to make drastic moves that you can't cope with. It has to be small baby steps eventually that lead to something so even when you're doing lateral shifts, ensure you have those hard skills.
Q- We're also seeing a lot of people wanting to transfer but there are a lot of things that stop them Can you put out some things to keep in mind that helped you to make/before making the transitions that can help others looking to take that step?.
I think it boils down to two broad buckets. One, you can categorize and say mindset, soft skills, etc. And the second is the harder skills and education that could supplement alongside. So on the first piece around mindset, I think it has to start with doing smaller things out of your comfort zone within your particular job. So if you're at a company or an accountant, and you want to get into design, start asking your company for brochures that you can design or posters. That will allow you to work on the company time and also create value for the company while making sure that you are learning something. You need to be at that level to compete, supplement it with education, do some self-learning and second is making sure that your previous experience adds value to this experience.
I think a lot of times, it’s best to speak with people in that space. And the easiest thing you can do is follow people who are in that space or join communities in that space. Even for this new blockchain foundation, I followed so many people from Crypto on Twitter. And start Googling, looking at videos, looking at research papers, etc. So a lot of time has to be ingested before you can transition.
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Lateral career moves are not easy, it’s important to ensure that you have a strong reason behind it and remember that reason in every move you take post that.Compensation, employee benefits, work culture, career advancement, industry relevance, unsatisfactory management, better location etc are just to name a few.
You have to take the leap of faith- Play your strengths, navigate your risks and take the leap of faith. Anubhuti says “Growth doesn't have to be vertical and that's always something I believe very, very strongly about. I'm a jack of all trades because I enjoy doing that. And I think that in today's time it is important to know many things. Multi-skilling is more important than just knowing one thing really well. It helps you grow.”
Have emergency fund/savings - Can you sustain yourself for at least 6 months if this doesn’t work out? Having an emergency fund provides you with a financial cushion while you explore different career options. Additionally, having an emergency fund gives you the confidence to take risks and make necessary changes in order to revive a stale career.
Try Internal Shift - “I would say it's a personal thing, but it's a great opportunity and a great option if you want to move laterally and change organizations. I think it's also safer. Because you have the comfort of everything else around you. The only thing that changes is your job. But when you move to another organization, everything is new. You also have a little bit of background and your own goodwill that you've established over the years.” mentions Ahaan Pandit
Upskill and learn a lot - Anubhuti says “I think the most important thing is that we have to be open to learning. And being open to change. Again, not everybody is very open to change or is very happy with it. But let the change take you wherever it does, and you will definitely benefit from it more.”
Document a lot to redefine your story - Ahaan Pandit says “If you have documented everything you are doing at your job, then you can use those details to draw similarities and comparisons to what your new role requires. This helps both the organisation and you to judge the fit.”
Make connections - Most recruiters call people for positions very much like the one they already have, not the job that they aspire to. The majority of employment is discovered via "weak tie" relationships. Identifying these chances through your own research and networking is necessary if you desire a bigger job, more money, or some other change. Building relationships early on has a significant cumulative value. They can identify what you are capable of doing. And these are the people who will contact you in ten years to let you know about employment possibilities or career shifts.
Additionally, go on social media and follow people who have done it before.
Baby steps - Ahaan Pandit mentions “When you are shifting entire domains, you have to keep in mind that you will not get what you wish for immediately. You will have to learn everything from the start. So be patient around it. And if you can build side projects or work on similar projects within the company, then do it!”
Pay cuts - Don’t neglect to consider what you could lose if you make the switch. Ahaan Pandit says “I was ready for a pay cut, I knew it was coming, but in a long run I was going to grow.”
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