Career Skills

How to Tell the Story of a Mid-Career Pivot

with Anne Ditmeyer, Creative Coach

Learn how to have confidence in the stories you tell after making a career change in this tutorial.


How to Tell the Story of a Mid-Career Pivot

with Anne Ditmeyer

Career pivots used to have more stigma attached than they do today. Dramatic shifts in profession will still raise questions from employers. So you need to be ultra prepared to answer them. You know you’re ready for a new challenge. But how do you convince the person on the hiring end that you’re the right fit? You know you’d be great at the role, but you’re coming in with a less traditional resume, so you can’t help but feel a bit insecure.

I’m Anne Ditmeyer, a designer, creative coaching consultant. My own career has pivoted from graphic design to UX and now creative coaching. Even completely unrelated jobs have taught me great skills that I can bring to other industries.

No matter what your background is, let’s examine how you can better tell your story.

Big Idea, Number 1: Embrace the plot twist.

In storytelling in the cinema, movies have tension and unexpected moments. They’re what make it exciting and memorable. If the hero didn’t have to fight a villain in an action movie, it’d be a pretty boring movie. The inciting incident is the thing that sparks the action.

In your story, it’s the moment that inspired your change. It can be tempting to try to cover it up, but you’re writing your own story. So why not embrace it? What was the moment that inspired your pivot?

Was stress causing you health problems? Did you realize that you love traveling for work and wanted more of it? Whatever the case may be, you should be able to simply and clearly articulate your moment in a sentence or two.

Big Idea, Number 2: Stories help engage your audience.

A good interview is not you listing off all the projects you worked on or tools and software you know how to use. You want to go deeper and get beyond the surface. Another way to think of it is — show, don’t tell.

Did your work in customer service inspire you to become a UX researcher? What was it that you learned about people from that job? How do you apply what you learned to what you do now?

You want to have a handful of stories ready in your back pocket that you can pull out whenever you need them. If you need help figuring out what these stories are, let’s take a look at our next Best Practice: Use a mind map to help you discover a story.

It wasn’t until I made a mind map that I realized how my studies in anthropology directly related to my interest in design thinking as well as UX. The interviewing skills I learned through anthropology made me a better interviewer for UX research and hone my skills for listening. Mind maps are a creative brainstorming tool that are unstructured and free-flowing in a way that helps you explore ideas and make new connections, and are a great way to help figure out how to communicate your evolution.

What first may seem like a weakness may in fact be a strength. Think back to your past professional work, but also volunteer experiences and personal projects. There are mind mapping tools online, like Coggle or Lucid Charts. Or start with a pen and paper.

In a mid-career pivot, it’s essential that you emphasize and leverage your professional experience. This leads us to our next Best Practice: Researching a company proves you’re a professional.

Whether you’re looking for a new freelance gig, preparing for an interview, or just doing some networking, always do your homework and research the company or person you’re talking to.

Check what’s in the press, social media accounts, and see if you have any LinkedIn connections. This is an essential step, because you need to make sure you can connect your previous experience to another organization. As a career pivoter, you may feel like you’re coming in at a disadvantage. But by putting in a bit of work, you can more than prove yourself. In fact, it may be a huge asset to set you apart from the competition.

Big Idea, Number 3: Practice, practice, practice.

Having confidence is easier said than done. That’s why you’re going to take all your stories that you’ve explored and then tell them to anyone who will listen. The more you get comfortable in communicating these ideas and the pivot you’re taking, the better your chances are for landing that dream job or project.

When you share your stories, don’t be afraid to be yourself. Embrace who you are, your passion, and enthusiasm. The way you tell a story is just as important as what you’re saying.

Thanks for joining me. If you liked this Take 5 tutorial, be sure to check out the rest of the series and all the courses offered by Gymnasium.

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