Career Changes & Pivots

The Importance of Mental Flexibility and Professional Versatility.
Career Changes & Pivots
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The statistics about displaced workers and career outlook projections have been documented in painstaking detail since the pandemic began in 2020. According to industry news, 63% of workers who lost jobs because of the outbreak have changed their industry and 4% have changed their field or overall career path, according to a Harris Poll survey for USA TODAY.

There are industries that are thriving based on the necessity for economic recovery. And not surprisingly, those are technology, healthcare, real estate, banking, and warehousing.  

In an interview with Fast Company, Jenny Blake, author of Pivot: The Only Move That Matters Is Your Next One, explains that employers will be more understanding about mid-career changes because of the crisis. “The snow globe of the world has been shaken up,” Blake says. “No one is judging anyone for making a career change.”

Of course making a career pivot is exponentially more complicated when you’re a working mother. The prejudices inherent in our workforce mean women with families must be prepared to not only advocate for themselves, but they must have the mental flexibility and agility to adapt to changes, and grow around obstacles put in their path. Working mother Emily Haft Bloom reflects on her her life, the challenges she faced, and how she mastered a pivot out of a career into starting her own business.

When I was eight years old, my mother earned a graduate degree, then worked full time for 25 years. She left for work before my brother and I went to school and returned after we did. She made us dinner every night, packed our lunches for the next day, and played tennis, read voraciously, was and still is an excellent partner to my dad, and continues to maintain many decades-old friendships. I never thought of her remarkable ability to balance so much seemingly with ease until I was a working mom myself. I think the word pivot, vaunted by college admissions officers of late, describes how she got it all done so well. Despite a move to step away from historical gender roles, in some families, the mom (or one parent in same-sex relationships) usually ends up managing much of the household. Everything from handling the kids to cleaning up after the pets to calling the plumber somehow ends up this one parent’s responsibility. When you add a career, or entrepreneurship, or a job search, or even a hobby (or anything other than being a parent, really) to the equation you may have a recipe for disaster. Or it could be a master class in pivoting. 

There are thousands of resources about juggling everything successfully, but I have found that no matter how brilliant or thoughtful the dispenser of said advice might be, what works for some won’t work for others. I believe the key to surviving as a working mom is learning how to pivot effectively and learning to let go. That is different from multitasking, which means doing a lousy job at a few things, just to get them done, rather than focusing entirely on one and executing effectively. My kids grew up at the very beginning of the social media/smartphone era, so there was no bottomless vortex of Twitter, Insta, or Facebook to consume hours of the day. I was also not distracted by a nightmarish political landscape. I found having the agility to pivot made establishing boundaries easier.

I believe the key to surviving as a working mom is learning how to pivot effectively and learning to let go.

After being unceremoniously tossed from my finance job because the blousy tops were no longer effectively concealing my pregnancy, I pivoted. I focused on freelance writing: for a now-defunct newspaper, authoring three books and many magazine articles. We moved to a house a short walk from my kids’ elementary school to make things a little easier for all. The next pivot came several years later when a friend asked me to help her daughter craft her college essay. I found my niche, so I earned a college advising certificate, did a stint as a 40+-year-old intern, and then founded my business. My kids were in middle school then, so a bit more self-sufficient.

I set a firm schedule for myself each night for the following day down to the quarter-hour. I laid down the law with the offspring and spouse: a forgotten project or musical instrument would not be brought to school, buses were meant to be ridden, and I was meeting with a family or student in my home office I was not to be disturbed. Without a commute or colleagues to chat with by the proverbial water cooler, I could work most productively when the family went to sleep. Most importantly, I stopped trying to be a perfectionist outside my work and learn to let some things go. 

Since those first years when I had no mentor or guidance and had to figure things out myself, I moved my business to an office 11 minutes from home. With the kids launched, I finally had the time I wanted to expand my reach and services. I pivoted again in March, moving to a virtual business model thanks to COVID. 

Learning how to pivot has allowed me to move from a male-dominated trading floor to a desktop in a spare room to founding a business that fulfills me. Loving what I do makes the constant demands of business ownership more manageable. My kids watched me work hard when I was trying to get Athena College Advisors off the ground, and I think it left a big impression on them. They are both doing what they dreamed of as young professionals and have excellent work ethics. 

Managing the many demands of parenthood and work, knowing how to prioritize, and thinking about what is important to my family and me as my business grows and expands is no small feat but entirely possible. I believe mastering the pivot is how it all gets done. 

 

Emily Haft Bloom

Emily Haft Bloom

Emily is an Independent Educational Consultant focused on the college process and owner of Athena College Advisors, LLC, based in Chappaqua, NY.  Emily earned a BA in English from Union College (NY) and a Certificate in College Counseling with Distinction from UCLA. Emily is also an NYS EMT with Chappaqua Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Her son Charles is a land-use attorney practicing in Maine, and her son Timothy is a Producing Associate for a Broadway production company. 

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