September 25, 2022
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5 Steps To Making A Successful Career Pivot In Your Fifties

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It’s a myth that you have to choose one career path and follow it from education to retirement. The world has changed. Opportunity is everywhere, different topics will interest you at different times, and there is nothing wrong with changing tack as often as you like. Job hopping in your twenties, traveling the world in your thirties, and regular sabbaticals in your forties are all no big deal. Your fifties are no different. Absolutely anything goes.

Andrea McLean is a #1 Sunday Times bestselling author, life coach and mindset mentor. She is CEO and co-founder of This Girl Is On Fire, a mindset membership dedicated to helping women “get brave, get confident and get going.” McLean began her television career in 1997, spending eleven years as a weather presenter on British morning television then a further 13 years as a co-host on ITV’s Loose Women, winning several awards for best daytime programme, including from the National Television Awards and Royal Television Society.

McLean knows about pivoting in your fifties. She was 51 when she quit her job in the middle of a global pandemic to go all-in on a business idea she had been nurturing on the side.

Here are her five steps to making a success of yours.

1. Make sure it’s what you want

Is a career pivot actually what you want, or do you just like the sound of it? Before you take the leap, make sure you know for sure. Clarity comes from knowing yourself. McLean recommends you ask yourself questions including “do you want to pivot away from something or towards something?” as well as, “How can you bring some of what you want into the situation you already have?” and “What would have to change for you to feel more enthusiastic about your work?”

McLean advises extensive reflection on where you are right now, why you may have lost your mojo, and all the possible ways you could get it back. “Pivoting takes time, attention to detail and dedication. It happens slowly then all at once,” she said. Changing course is not for the faint-hearted, so make sure it’s truly what you want before taking the leap.

2. Hold yourself accountable

McLean quit her job, “by announcing live on national television that I was handing in my notice because I needed to see if my business could work.” She wasn’t just letting the world know she was going, she was making herself accountable to every single viewer. “Announcing something we have been thinking for ages is the most terrifying part of any pivot, because if it goes wrong, everyone will know.”

Being accountable to others could help keep you on track. They’ll ask how you’re doing, they’ll find ways to support you and they’ll be cheering for your success. Fear of letting them down takes over and you pull out all the stops to ensure that doesn’t happen. You dig deeper, uncover more stones and do more in a bid to not let them down. Hold yourself accountable to yourself and other people for ultimate pivot perseverance.

3. Don’t let age stop you

Age is no reason to not pivot but it could be your excuse. “If you think you’re too old, you’re simply looking for another reason not to do something,” said McLean. If you’re looking for a get-out clause, you can find them at every turn. You may have been on the planet longer but you’re still you. Same eyes, same mouth, and a tonne more life experience to channel into your new venture.

Age didn’t stop Vera Wang designing her first dress at 40. Henry Royce started Rolls Royce at 41. Ray Kroc of McDonalds was 51. Anne Boden of Starling Bank was 54. Charles Flint of IBM was 61 and Colonel Sanders of KFC was 65 when he sold his first restaurant to focus on his fried chicken recipe. McLean said, “if you want this pivot as much as you think you do, don’t even entertain the idea of age being a barrier.”

4. Make a blueprint for failure

Let’s face it, there will be fear. Pivoting at any time in a career can feel daunting and we are wired to stay safe and avoid change. McLean’s situation was no different. “I had 25 years of experience in my field, financial success, national recognition, a mortgage to pay and a family to support.” My pivot took, “either insanity or balls!” McLean believed she had a mix of the two, which made the leap to entrepreneurship a possibility.

“Making a vision board, manifesting your dreams, setting your goals and giving yourself a timeline to hit your target is the easy part,” said McLean. Instead, make your plan of action for when things go wrong. “You must look your ugliest fears in the face,” she added. Write down everything you’re so afraid of and imagine it all coming true. McLean said you should ask, “Could I live with that?” to every scenario, and if the answer is yes, keep going. If you could wriggle your way out and find another way, it’s probably not so bad. Fear can be a positive thing, signalling you’re heading in the right direction rather than festering in comfort.

5. Let go of old identities

After quitting the Loose Women role live on air and preparing to make a success of her new venture, McLean’s list of failures started to come true. “Every PR job I had been counting on in my projections dumped me because I would no longer be in the public eye.” Before she had even started, her financial tap was cut off, putting more pressure on the business. “Things now needed to happen fast,” said McLean, who knew, “if my resources dried up, my resourcefulness needed to step up.”

Pivoting brings an identity crisis to deal with too. “Having a great job that comes with perks, pension plans and bragging rights at dinner parties is great,” said McLean, “but if you leave, you won’t have those anymore.” McLean’s situation was similar. While she was working through the challenges at hand, she was still being recognised by people in the street as a former version of her. They asked, “Did you used to be that women off the telly?” and they weren’t wrong. “I am still her, I just do something else now. And that’s okay.”

You’re still very much you, just a newer, bolder version, who is only slightly less sure. The future might be unknown but figuring it out it inevitable. As McLean knows first-hand, your allies for the journey might surprise you. “You will discover who your real friends are when you pivot, just as you do in any challenging times. If you’d rather not know who they are, then stay where you are.”

McLean likens making the success of a career pivot to a pivot in dancing, which both come down to two things. “Focusing your eyes on a fixed point and practising until it appears effortless.” Whilst a pivot sounds scary and dramatic, you can, “take baby steps which lead to little twirls, before graduating to the grand pivot, either in a job, a business or simply in life.”



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