Pivoting for opportunity – why job hopping isn’t the only option

16th November 2016

Posted In: The Topic

All too often we receive an email from a colleague leaving the organisation sometimes after decades at the organisation, but more frequently, after only a short stint. The details of the resignation aren’t always apparent – perhaps dissatisfaction in terms of opportunities offered within the organisation, or simply a better opportunity elsewhere.

Whatever the reason may be, in addition to a sense of loss it does give some of us (particularly those close to talent related issues) pause; could nothing really be done to retain these individuals especially the top performing colleagues?

Words: Nneka Orji

With employee turnover rates expected to increase sharply over the coming years – according to Hay Group from 14.6% in 2012 to 18% in 2018 in the UK – the question around what we do to retain talent should be one we keep asking ourselves and our business leaders. It is no longer the norm to have a job for life, rather employees are continuously on the look-out for those opportunities which best meet their needs.

Gallup’s recent report (How Millennials Want to Work and Live), this is particularly true for millennials who are predicted to make up half of the global workforce by 2020. 21% of the millennials interviewed had changed jobs in the previous 12 months; this compared to the less than 10% among non-millennials who had done the same. In fact, LinkedIn’s recent survey found that job-hopping among millennials is almost double that of previous generations – with millennials averaging just under four different jobs within the first decade after university. So is job-hopping really inevitable?

The simple answer is no. Rather than seeing job-hopping as the most effective way to achieve one’s career aspirations, there is a case to be made to this “job-hopping generation” for career pivoting – refocusing on what motivates and inspires at their organisations may provide opportunities to transition to new but related career paths. According to Jodey Greenstone – CEO of Business Talent Group, in Stanford Business Schools 5 Strategies to Survive a Career Pivot, career pivoting is “taking a path that looks different than what we would consider a traditional, old style progression…it’s about doing things differently.”

Pivoting does not mean staying put and doing the same thing; it is a much more concerted effort to identify those aspects of our portfolios that excite and inspire us, shifting our focus to further develop our experiences, and then transitioning into new roles or reshaping existing roles to support longer term career aspirations. The benefit of this approach is that it can be done within an organisation, giving colleagues career development opportunities without the hassle of moving organisations, and saving businesses significant recruitment and related knowledge management costs (Gallup estimates that job-hopping costs $30.5bn each year in the US alone). Although instinct may tell us to “move on” from the organisation, there may well be reasons to consider staying within the same organisation and following what may be a non-traditional career path.


Pivoting – a must for women and millennials

Pivoting is an important career shaping tool for everyone as we all experience changing priorities at various points in our lives, and pivoting gives us the opportunity to re-evaluate where we are, where we want to be, and how to get there. We see it with directors and producers who were once actors and have decided to move behind the screen. We see it in business where leaders who started their careers in one discipline and have since moved across the organisation over the course of their career – drawing on their varied experiences to deliver on their leadership responsibilities.

It is important we talk about these “pivot role models”, particularly for female colleagues and job-hopping millennials. The aforementioned LinkedIn survey found that female millennials were more likely (although only slightly) than their male peers to move between jobs. We know that retaining female talent continues to be a challenge – evidenced by the recently published Hampton Alexander Review which has set a voluntary target for FTSE organisations to ensure 33% female representation in executive committees by 2020. Women aren’t staying within the workforce and without interventions such as these and cultures that support multi-disciplinary career pathways, the next generation of female leaders will likely face barriers to progression. Millennials – both female and male – are looking for opportunities to develop in organisations with purpose, to work and be led by inspiring colleagues whilst also having opportunities to lead, to apply creative thinking, to have the flexibility to see to their personal commitments, and to be compensated fairly.

These insights aren’t new; many business leaders are aware of these prerequisites and strides have been made across organisations to embed cultural change to meet these needs, yet millennials continue to move around – perhaps seeing the dominant traditional career path as the only option in their organisations. Yet, each job change doesn’t necessarily meet their expectations. So how can individuals make the most of their skills and the organisation’s resources and opportunities to define and follow their unique career paths?


Getting pivoting right

Pivoting only delivers on its benefits if done correctly. The first thing to decide is when to pivot; pivoting on a whim or in response to a frustrating situation is not the answer. Jenny Blake, author and Forbes contributor, writes about some of these considerations; before jumping in, considering the “pivot runway” in terms of money saved, timelines to deliver on specific projects, and the external factors which will play into how successfully you can pivot. With all these considerations as well as the critical stakeholder management, Jenny suggests individuals identify those key stakeholders without whose approval your pivot cannot go ahead successfully.

Of course planning for a pivot and getting timing right is important, but understanding why you are pivoting and how to go about realising your goals is just as critical. In Greenstone’s interview, she refers to the five strategies required to pivot successfully:

1. Know what you want and ask for it – have a clear goal in mind from the outset and engage in the right discussions to ensure you have the opportunities to pivot

2. Build your knowledge base – identify the skills and experiences you need before you pivot and those you would like to gain as part of your transition

3. Leverage your strengths – focus on the transferable skills you have developed and the networks you can draw on to be successful in your new role

4. Market your skills – develop a narrative and enhance your self-marketing so others understand your transition and your career pathway

5. Avoid common mistakes – mismanaging expectations is a common mistake and creates avoidable obstacles, so manage the expectations of your stakeholders as well as your own expectations

There are a number of examples of successful businesses – including Google, Facebook and Apple – that have pivoted; having initially set out with intentions to operate in specific areas and provide services for a demographic, changing circumstances led them to re-evaluate their services and operations, leverage their strengths, and refocus their investments differently. In the same way, we too can pivot – identifying new career opportunities and getting more out of the organisations and teams we already work with. We don’t always have to hop. Why not try a pivot instead?