Are you one of the 21.5 million Americans currently unemployed? Believe it or not, this may be an opportunity to pivot your career direction into something more rewarding financially, emotionally, and professionally. How do you determine if a career pivot is the right answer for you? A survey done by Indeed in 2019 showed that 88% of those who make a big career switch are happier since making the move—great odds for the argument to take the leap.

The immediate concern is that the job they once had is gone, but the bigger concern is that entire industries may not return for some time, if ever. As unsettling as that can be, it also opens up an exponential number of exciting new possibilities. Rather than climbing the same career ladder, we can move to a new ladder, as long as we have it leaned against the right wall.

Rather than playing a risky game of spin-the-bottle to select a new career avenue to pursue, the key to a successful pivot requires developing a solid strategy, which includes asking the right questions before you begin the journey.

Pay Attention to Emerging Trends

While some industries are sputtering, new ones are emerging as hot spots of the future. As you study the emerging industries, analyze how your greatest skill sets and strengths can be matched within new business trends. Understanding how your skills can be utilized in this new lay of the land is useful in narrowing the list of potential next moves. For example, an instructional designer in a high tech startup may be an ideal candidate to shift into an E-Learning Channel, which is expected to grow exponentially. The same skills of adult learning theory could be applied to designing smart and simple user interface for a new technology that connects distanced learners.

Finding the vein of gold within the industries you explore requires careful research. Daily time following business news outlets and trending articles will be important to help you settle in on a short list of career choices. Participating in various online industry forums through LinkedIn or other online research will give you an insider track before you invest your whole future into a new career. These online forums provide a wealth of information as to the best and worst companies, and glimpses into hotbeds of information shaping each industry. This allows you to be a quiet viewer and listen to those already in that career space giving you clues as to whether the career path you are considering has staying power.

Drivers Behind Your Desire to Switch

An honest assessment of the drivers behind a desire to switch careers is essential in arriving at the right destination. This will help determine what elements need to be present for any new opportunity to be successful. Money is clearly a consideration when changing jobs, but that is only one of many drivers that go into a career decision. What kind of work brings you the greatest satisfaction? Does a new career enable the type of lifestyle you want? Does this pivot play to your portfolio of strengths?

It’s equally important not to assume that dissatisfaction with your current career means you need a new one. 2020 ushered in a list of unpredictable events that have required energy, patience, and continual adaptation. The fatigue of these events may be sending you some signals that are being misinterpreted. Is the fatigue related to the events of the past three months, or are there deeper problems within your career path that existed pre-pandemic? Will another change really fix what ails you? Is it possible you can fix what feels broken by recommitting to your current career? The answers differ for every person, so don’t look to others to give you a sure-fire formula of success.

Crystallizing the reasons you are seeking a career pivot may help you avoid a wrong turn. Sometimes employees end up in an industry or a company that is a complete mismatch for their personality. Consider a finance major who ends up as an accountant in a buttoned-up and very traditional firm. The remedy may be as simple as changing to a company with a more entrepreneurial and creative culture instead of changing careers entirely. As well, dissatisfaction between employees and their professions have long been linked to the relationship with one’s manager. Before a massive shift, it’s worth asking if a change in leader or company culture might be the answer.

The Cost of Skills Gaps

A good shift needs to be more than a motivated move into a thriving industry. Reviewing multiple job descriptions in the new career ladder will begin to paint the picture of how big the skills and knowledge gap is for you. The larger the gap, the bigger barrier to entry.  This is not a case where you leap and then look. A careless approach could be costly and time consuming, when you could be applying the same time and money to your existing career track to make yourself more marketable.

Part of your strategic decision is whether you have the appetite to invest in building up the right skillset. This may require taking some online certifications or courses that can familiarize you with the relevant industry jargon, the foundational basics, and the essential must-haves to be considered a viable candidate. If you can’t speak the language of the new role, don’t expect to get far in the interview process. Expect you may have to pay to play with an upfront investment to learn what you need. Weighing the up-front cost to shift against the long term career opportunities in the field of interest will begin to give a clearer risk versus reward proposition.

In the past hundred years of our nation’s history, this is the one time where virtually every industry and person within it is asking anew, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

Making a pivot isn’t a decision to take lightly but given the right strategic question on the front end, it can be a springboard to great growth as well as personal satisfaction.