Should We Make A Career Pivot During A Crisis?

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First, we need to clarify the difference between a crisis and a pivot point in life.

Well, in life stuff happens that knocks the wind out of us and can break us down. The death of a loved one, illness, losing our jobs, all these events are traumatic. Calling them pivot points would be an would be an understatement.

A pivot point is something we make of our own choice. It is within our control. It is when we reach a point in our lives or career when we are ready to take on a challenge and create more impact. The other events mentioned above are out of our control. 

When specific events happen in our lives, we need to create the space to heal and be patient. Sometimes we need extra help and guidance in the process. Some days sometimes waking up is our definition of success for that week. I have had a few of them in the past following traumatic events in my life. 

A crisis will need more processing than planning. But not all will have the luxury to do those two things in sequence. When we are facing a crisis having time to heal is vital before embarking on the more proactive phases of a pivot.

In a lot of cases, painful life events serve as a huge wake-up call. They can encourage us to change direction and realign our values and purpose. They challenge us to focus on what matters most. When I healed from past trauma I was ready to process it in more detail. Then I could plan the way forward and what pivots to make in my life for the better. 

One book I can recommend to read if you are ready is "When Things Fall Apart" by Perma Chodron. You can read a summary of the book here.

When you are in crisis mode, it is often one of the worst times to make big life and career decisions. Career decisions and mid life pivots should be well thought out. It is very easy to suffer from what I call a false sense of reality when in crisis. Sometimes it can be a distraction from the healing process to avoid more conflict in addressing a situation in our lives.

When we look at Maslow's hierarchy of needs below, to fulfil the higher requirements, you need to have the lower level needs met. You will need to have enough food to eat, a dry, safe, place to sleep and a sense of belonging. It is only when you have the bottom 2 or 3 levels fulfilled before you want to take on a career pivot.





Here is an example of a situation where someone wanted to pivot mid-life and mid-crisis.

John was a 50+ and experiencing uncertainty in his career. He had spent 20 years in a now defunct industry in IT, and had been working on pivoting his way out of it for a while.

He had transitioned his sales and marketing skills into a completely different industry. He had held a variety of full-time and contract positions. All these positions came to an end due to that business failing, and he was made redundant.

Then there was the "other stuff" in life that he could not ignore:

  • His marriage had recently broke down, and he was getting divorced.

  • The family home was being sold.

With all this going on, he was in crisis mode. He was sick of what he was doing and had no idea what direction to go in next.

Is this a wise time to make a big, bold and brave move? No!

What are the steps he should consider to avoid further stress and chaos in life?

1. Work On Getting Out of Crisis Mode.

Sometimes we need to make compromises and return to jobs or careers that we want to leave to create the foundations to assist us to move on.

2. Start A Side Hustle First.

Keep the day job but start a side project that you can grow. When the side hustle grows large enough to provide you with an income, you can then step out of your day job.

3. Find Someone To Hold You Accountable.

Try to find an accountability partner that you can check in with on a regular basis. This will help keep your next move in focus and not let it pass you by.

This is no different than a work out partner. Find someone who is willing to hold you accountable.

4. Get a Job Similar To Your Former Role.

What is the best way to assist in getting out of crisis mode first?

Find a job, a steady income and safe place to live. The key is to think of this as temporary, for 1 or 2 years.

You can still do a good job and learn more transferable skills even if it is not exactly what you want to do in the future. You can do this without getting too invested into it. Many people are fearful that if they take a job like their former role, they will get absorbed into it. Then they will never make time to find their purpose in a pivot. In other words, they think they might work themselves into crisis again.

You won't if you put proper boundaries in place to pursue your purpose.

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