I recently worked with a student who wanted to pivot from being an accountant to becoming a stand-up comedian. Let’s just say his jokes didn’t add up!

Jokes aside, a career pivot is something many people consider as they think about pursuing their MBA. As a career coach on the Career Management Center (CMC) team at Fuqua, I partner with Executive MBA students and alumni, and I see a little bit of everything in terms of individual career goals. However, one thread that remains consistent among our students is using the MBA as a catalyst for change. That change looks different for everyone but it typically involves advancement and building a network, and often includes changing industries, starting a business, or a career pivot.

Committing to the Career Pivot

A career pivot is a big decision and takes time and investment, but it is possible! Take for example, Sydney Upah, Weekend Executive MBA ’22, who prior to graduating from Fuqua had spent the entirety of her career as an advanced clinical nurse practitioner at a nationally ranked children’s hospital. She wanted to make a shift and was enthusiastic about consulting.

Sydney landed at a boutique health care and life sciences firm. She told me the keys to her success include developing and cultivating relationships with alumni in the consulting space, crafting her story to convey her value to an employer, and emphasizing both behavioral and case interview preparation.

Another critical component of success in a career pivot is harnessing a sense of curiosity and self-reflection. These are the kinds of questions that someone should consider when debating a change:

  • What are the jobs or careers of people I find fascinating, interesting, or successful?
  • What distinctive skills do people see in me?
  • What organizational cultures resonate with me, because they fit with my values, style, and preferences?
  • If there were no obstacles and I could have two different careers between now and retirement, which ones would I pick?

Finding the Right Fit

It was important for Jon Blashford, Global Executive MBA ’20, to ask himself several of those questions as he explored options after seven years working in social impact and global business operations in Kenya. He did significant research and exploration into emerging markets, technology, general management, and consulting. After graduation, he started at Amazon in operations and within two years he utilized his skillset to land an offer from McKinsey as an implementation coach with a supply chain designation.

For anyone looking to start a new role, being able to articulate their value and connect the dots in their background is important, but it is essential for those looking to make a career pivot. I love to work with our students on the most effective ways to do that through one-on-one coaching.

Entertainment to finance, nonprofit to strategy, military to product management—my team and I have worked with countless students who have been successful in transitioning career functions and industries. It requires grit and determination, as building relationships and networking is a lot of work and takes time. The CMC team is here to help students make a strategic game plan so they feel set up for success in making their pivot a reality.