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Take 3 steps to successfully pivot your career

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If you're feeling unfulfilled in your current position, making a career change may pay off.

Switching positions is not uncommon: Over a 30-year career, the typical baby boomer has held approximately 12 different jobs, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Millennials, known as the "job-hopping generation," have a reputation for being even more likely to mix it up, whether by choice or by necessity, and 58% say they plan to make a change at least once during 2019, according to career site The Muse.

While job-hopping along the same or a parallel career track is one thing, a career pivot means learning to navigate a new field. It can be more daunting — but also even more rewarding.

After five years being a spine sales consultant, Alyssa Rosenheck made a career pivot and become an interior and architectural photographer. Rosenheck, who lives in Nashville, Tennessee, was making a six-figure salary when she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. As a "healing catharsis," she purchased her first camera.

After her cancer was removed, Rosenheck decided to quit her medical career and become a professional photographer. With savings that covered a year's worth of living expenses, she was financially prepared. She also burnished her skills by taking a two-day graphic design course. Now her work has appeared in several magazines, including Architectural Digest.

Before taking the leap, Rosenheck made sure she was financially and professionally ready. If you're considering a career pivot, these three steps can help ease the transition.

1. Conduct a skills assessment

If you know which direction you want to pivot toward, you're one step ahead. But if you're not quite sure, you can use a career aptitude test to take stock of your skills, suggests Clark D. Randall, a certified financial planner and the founder and owner of Financial Enlightenment in Dallas, Texas. "The important thing is to find overlap with your interests and your strengths," he says.

An aptitude test can help you identify what you're good at, what you enjoy doing, and what "soft skills" you possess, meaning the traits that demonstrate emotional intelligence or people skills. You can find free career tests online at, among other sites, aptitude-test.com.

The important thing is to find overlap with your interests and your strengths.
Clark D. Randall
founder and owner of Financial Enlightenment

2. Fill in experience gaps

Once you have a sense of your new career path and the skills that carry over, start looking for opportunities that can give you that experience in your new field, says John Ham, a chartered financial analyst and associate advisor at New England Investment & Retirement Group in North Andover, Massachusetts.

Let's say you know a lot about personal finance but only put your knowledge to use when you track the stock market, or better yet, help your family understand it. You may consider becoming a financial advisor. You'd be in good company: 88% of financial advisors worked in a different field before they turned to finance, according to a 2009 poll by the Financial Planning Association.

You'd need a bachelor's degree to be a financial advisor, but your degree doesn't have to be in a financial field. Depending on the track you choose, you may also need to take a series of tests and get relevant certifications. The Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board) offers resources to help guide you through the process.

3. Create a budget

Making a full career pivot can mean starting from the beginning again, which in turn may mean your earnings take a dip. After you've assessed your skills and filled in any experience gaps, you'll want to start budgeting to live on less, says Ham.

For example, if you're expecting a 10% decrease in salary, start saving 10% of your paycheck now. Putting money away before pivoting careers will create a buffer and help desensitize you to a 10% less incoming money from your paycheck. You'll also want to update your emergency fund to cover your current expenses.

Then, take a look at areas where you can cut back and assess your spending history, says Randall: "If you can cut $25 a month off a cable bill, that's immediate savings that you can put in an emergency fund or school fund."

Overall, he says, "It's hard to make a big change, but if you do little things for a consistent period of time, it can add up to a big change."

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