3 steps to pivot your professional reputation and explore a new career path

career coaching
A reputation pivot is the shift someone makes when their current career is no longer serving them.

  • Lida Citroën is an personal branding and reputation management specialist.
  • If you feel unsatisfied with your current job or career path, Citroën says it’s never too late to consider a professional change.
  • To pivot your professional reputation, assess your new target employers or clients to determine what skills they’re looking for. 
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

With the onset of the global health crisis in 2020, many professionals and entrepreneurs were forced to consider doing something different as industries struggled, jobs dwindled, or customers stopped buying. In 2021, many of those industries, jobs, and customers are still reluctant to fully engage, leading professionals to evaluate other long-term options.

The past year has been an opportunity for us to pause and reflect on the course we are on. Do I love my work? Do I like being able to work from home, surrounded by family? Do I need additional schooling to reskill or to upskill my abilities? 

Many professionals and entrepreneurs may have a change of heart about their career, find themselves uninspired by their workmates, or find their skills irrelevant to their current work or the market. This, in turn, leads them to evaluate their path forward and make changes.

For these individuals, a new career path brings hope, possibility, and enthusiasm but the inevitable question emerges: Am I completely starting over? When shifting your work, attention, and reputation to a new direction, a reputation pivot can ensure great success.

What is a reputation pivot?

A reputation pivot describes the shift someone makes when their current reputation and career are no longer desirable or feasible, and they want to take the positive assets of their reputation with them to do something very different.

For example, the doctor who seeks to become a children’s book author, the venture capitalist who sets out to become a motivational speaker, the sales professional who launches a food-truck business, or the college football coach who becomes an actor.

When facing a shift, it’s critical to bring forward the qualities, characteristics, and reputation successes that are positive, memorable, and valuable, and, at the same time, shed the aspects of one’s reputation that don’t serve the new audience.

How to pivot

Here’s an example of a reputation pivot: Bruce loved being a popular restaurant owner in his vibrant college town. Each school year, the area was buzzing with young people eager to partake of his varied menu of American cuisine with a Latin influence. They sat at his bar, running up large bar tabs, and dined in his restaurant, which always stayed open late to accommodate their youthful stamina.

When the global health crisis hit, he had to navigate the new restrictions and keep his business running. With fewer college students on campus and seating availability shrinking due to distancing restrictions, Bruce wondered whether his future was in the restaurant business after all.

In talking through what he loved about his work, Bruce acknowledged it was interacting with “his kids,” as he called them. He often had long, heartfelt conversations with them at the bar or dining area. He even joked that some saw him as their “Dad” away from home. This gave him pride, as he’d never had children of his own.

Bruce believed his passion was working with young adults. He wasn’t personally inspired to become a social worker, therapist, or counselor, but helping young people venture into entrepreneurship excited him. “Being an investor means you’re their guide. I can share my experience as a business owner – the successes and failures – and support them through the financial, emotional, and business challenges and opportunities,” Bruce said.

After selling his restaurant, he gathered other investors who had similar passions and more experience in the industry. They launched a small boutique firm, catering to emerging entrepreneurs in specific markets. Bruce marketed his reputation and brand as “Dad” to the young entrepreneurs. His website showed images of him with former students celebrating birthdays and graduations. His LinkedIn profile and online review sites were flooded with kind sentiments from his former patrons, some of whom had now come to him for investment guidance.

Bruce leveraged his reputation as a caring, empathetic, and talented business owner who related to, and had the respect, of young people. He was not focused on investing in hospitality ventures because that brought up painful memories. Many of his contacts from the restaurant and bar business dropped off his priority list, and were replaced by fellow investors, youth advisers, and counselors, and college entrepreneur programs who all referred potential candidates to Bruce. 

Here are three main steps for pivoting, and how Bruce employed them.

1. Inventory current reputation assets 

For Bruce, he started by examining what was working: He knew how to bond with young people, gaining their respect and confidence quickly. He enjoyed being around them, hearing their stories of college challenges and offering support when needed. He was also a well-respected business owner in the area. His restaurant had been a staple in the community for 20-plus years and he was known for being generous (supporting many fundraising efforts), friendly, and insightful. He’d started many food crazes before they became national trends, earning him respect as a visionary entrepreneur.

Bruce was also smart about money. When economic times were tough, he pared down his menu to keep staff employed. When he was forced to shut down indoor dining, he invested in systems to make outdoor dining more comfortable before many of his competitors had done so. When the time came, he was able to sell his equipment and real estate for a handsome sum, even though the nation was still struggling to return to regular restaurant operations.

2. Assess the target audience

For Bruce, the target audience he’d served (literally) for so long was the same group he’d be working with next. He was no longer looking to offer a dining experience to college kids away from home but would now be seeking college-aged entrepreneurs and inventors whom he could invest in and help nurture to business growth.

While he felt he knew the audience, he still had a lot to learn. Bruce created spreadsheets of what he knew, what he didn’t know, and where he could get the needed insights into his target audience.

3. Decide which reputation assets to leverage and which to shed 

Early on, Bruce knew he wanted to retain the camaraderie, support, and father-figure style he’d enjoyed in the restaurant. That wouldn’t change. But he now wanted them to respect his business acumen, self-discipline, structures, and protocols for investment viability. He also knew that some of the casualness he’d tolerated before, which at times bordered on disrespect, would need to stop. This was a new, serious business and he was not in the hospitality space any longer.

With a clear understanding of how he wanted to be positioned (reputational goals), an assessment of his target audience’s needs and desires, and a positioning plan for growing his reputation in this new direction, he was ready to venture out. Bruce kept a close eye on how his value was perceived by his core target audience – the young entrepreneurs – as well as his business partners, the investment community, the media, and the local community. As his business grows, Bruce feels empowered to use the available levers he’s developed to course correct, learn, and scale his offer, and enhance his reputation.

Is 2021 the year for you to pivot?

Have you reflected on your career and realized that what you’ve been doing is no longer inspiring, fulfilling, or meaningful personally or professionally? Pivoting takes thought and strategy, but the time might be perfect for what you can offer. Following the steps above will help you to evaluate your goals and get where you truly want to go, rather than maintaining the path you’re on.

Read the original article on Business Insider

I worked for 25 years before taking an 11-month career break, and learned 5 things that anyone can do to reap the benefits of a ‘sabbatical mindset’ – even without taking time off

Chris Litster
Chris Litster.

  • Chris Litster is an executive at Buildium, a platform that helps property managers become more efficient and profitable.
  • Several years ago when the company he’d worked at for 10 years was acquired, he said goodbye and decided to take 11 months off from working.
  • For him, the benefits were huge, but Litser also says during a year like 2020 when taking time off might not be an option, there are 5 lessons that anyone can add into their daily routine to adopt the ‘sabbatical mindset.’
  • He encourages reframing your professional priorities, taking the opportunity to dabble and expand your network, and embracing a simplified, more personal bucket list.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Several years ago, I was lucky enough to take a sabbatical from work. 

It sounds like an exceptional luxury. It was. I’ll always be grateful for the 11 months I was able to take off in the middle of my career. It was a choice I was privileged to make and a chance few people ever get. 

I’m writing now in a very different context. The crisis of the last year has impacted so many people’s careers in unexpected, challenging and sometimes devastating ways. Many find themselves between careers or exploring new directions. Others are waiting for jobs to come back or new opportunities to surface. 

There’s no getting around how trying this experience is. But one question may be worth asking: Can this time also be an opening to regroup, refocus, and refresh, so that you’re approaching your next opportunity with purpose? 

The answer may be a flat out “no,” and that’s understandable. But for some, this unexpected break may be able to serve as a critical, even strategic, pause on the career journey. I’d like to re-share my experiences and observations in the hopes of helping others “hack” their own sabbatical, whether your break is planned or unplanned. 

Among the most powerful lessons: You don’t need a few months, or even a few weeks, to reap the benefits. A sabbatical mindset can be achieved with no formal break at all. 

Lesson 1: There’s never a perfect time 

Plenty of my colleagues were supportive of my decision to take time off, even though I didn’t exactly have an endgame in mind. But when my kids found out, one of the first things they asked was, “Are you going to be able to find a job again?” It was a more polite version of what a search firm told me: “You’re stupid. You’re in the prime of your career. Taking a year off will make you irrelevant.”  

These concerns are fair enough – but I think there’s an internal voice that lets you know you’re officially burned out. I knew for a while I wasn’t running on all cylinders. And when your work suffers, when your family life suffers, when you’re no longer in the driver’s seat of your own life, you just have to press pause and recalibrate, or you’re heading for trouble

I had a vague plan for my time off. The first six months were going to be purely about rest and recuperation. The second half would be about refocusing on career plans and next steps. Of course, disconnecting and achieving that was easier said than done.

Lesson 2: Embrace a different kind of bucket list

As I drove home from my last day of work, I practically had a panic attack. “What did you just do?!” just kept repeating in my brain. I spent the first several days of the sabbatical just wondering constantly about what was going on at the office and compulsively checking my calendar app. After spending so much time at a company, it wasn’t exactly easy to make a clean break.

But after a week or so, I did stop refreshing my work email. Once I had disentangled myself from work life, the way my energy came back was actually eye opening. And I was able to start filling my days with the things I’d been meaning to make more time for for years. 

We did do a family trip during my time off, but if anything, my sabbatical was about checking off a bucket list of ordinariness. I woke up without knowing what I was going to do that day… and that’s the way I liked it. I had breakfast with my family most mornings. I drove my kids to school. I did the grocery shopping and played tennis and even tried yoga, now that the excuse of “I’m busy with work” wasn’t true anymore. More than any grand plans or life-changing adventures, the opportunity to truly live in the moment and enjoy the people I love is what restored my energy and enthusiasm.  

Lesson 3: Master the fine art of dabbling

To say I didn’t work at all during my sabbatical would be a lie. I was “working,” but it was at a dramatically different pace and with a very different kind of focus than before. 

I made a point of casually messaging and connecting with colleagues and individuals in my network – the kind of people I’d met over the years and really liked and trusted, but never had much time to connect with outside the office. I didn’t have much of an agenda other than catching up and using them as a sounding board while I sketched out the next phase of my life. It was an opportunity to work through exactly what I was and wasn’t looking for next, putting me back in the driver’s seat of my career. With no real end goal to pursue, my ideas had time to incubate, and evolve. 

It turned out, though, that I was engineering serendipity. Opportunities began popping up through conversation, and my new schedule allowed me to explore some exciting part-time collaborations – like an entrepreneur-in-residence role at VC Michael Skok’s new investment firm. Yes, I had planned on not working for a year, but I realized it was a great way to be exposed to all sorts of companies at different stages and test-drive different roles. It let me explore my options for the future in a low-pressure environment that still left plenty of time to be home for family dinner.

Lesson 4: The sabbatical may have to end, but the benefits don’t

These networking coffee chats eventually led to the role I’m in now – running Buildium, a SaaS-based property management software company in Boston. Sure, I had other offers come my way, but because of the reflective time I had during my sabbatical, I knew they weren’t right. This position ticks the boxes that I now know really matter to me: A work environment I love, a mission I believe in, and a balance with family time.

This was the biggest benefit of the sabbatical – I didn’t just get to sleep in on weekdays; I got a chance to reorient and clarify my priorities. I’d been so focused on striving towards an executive role that I forgot what else matters. Taking time off allowed me to find a healthier way to work, and afterwards I learned to prioritize being home at 6:30 p.m. for family dinners every single night. Sure, it wasn’t always perfect, and I sometimes I still found myself answering emails after the rest of the family has gone to sleep. But I wouldn’t give up quality time again for the world. 

Lesson 5: You can find that same perspective without going on sabbatical at all

I’m acutely aware how lucky I was to take nearly a year off. More and more people are taking DIY sabbaticals like me, but I know many people in my life who simply don’t have the luxury of taking an extended break – even a few weeks off is a privilege many just can’t afford. My company does offer all employees a sabbatical for certain tenure milestones, but it’s rare in other corporate environments. 

That being said, I feel that several of the benefits of a sabbatical don’t actually require a formal one. With a little mindfulness, the lessons of an extended break can be achieved on a much shorter time frame:

  • Identify your non-negotiables and stick to them. Whether it’s getting home for family dinner every night or going to the gym every day, if something brings you joy or clarity, make it a priority in your schedule on a regular basis. If you keep putting these things off until you “have the time,” you may miss out completely.
  • When you’re off, really be off. Turn off your email, stay away from the computer, and be present in whatever you’re doing. When I was fully and completely away from work the speed with which my creativity and energy returned was amazing – literally, a matter of days.
  • Make time to talk with people you respect and trust. The casual coffee chat is the first thing to get cut in a busy week, but having this sounding board is invaluable to clarify your goals and hurdles and expose you to new opportunities. It’s a wellspring of inspiration that offers value beyond job offers. 

It’s all too easy to feel like we’re a passenger on our own career journey. Taking a moment – whether with an extended sabbatical break or just on a quiet Sunday afternoon – to ask yourself what you truly prioritize is the best way to put yourself back in the driver’s seat. 

Is your current role getting you where you want to go? Is your work environment helping you make your life richer? No one wants a career where you rack up regrets as fast as bonuses and promotions. Press pause however you can, and you might fast-forward your life in the process.

This version of this story was originally published on Business Insider December 13, 2019.

Read the original article on Business Insider