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Five business leaders share their career pivot stories

It is not uncommon to have a career pivot, and while the path may vary, almost every business leader shifts focus at some point in their careers.

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career pivot

Have you ever experienced a career pivot?

Sometimes we graduate college with a Geology degree, but we end up practicing real estate. We launch a tech startup but end up at an ad agency. Life is funny that way in that every day we are faced with choices, some of which are not only career changing, but put us on a completely different path. It can be because of life changes or choice, but not all business leaders were born in the role they are presently in.

We asked six respected business leaders if they have ever experienced a career pivot, and all six had gone through the transformation. Here are their tales:

Saying adios to a cushy corporate job

Scott Lerner, Founder of Solixir said, “If you call leaving a comfortable job in corporate America to the start-up world pivoting I would say yes. Before 2008 I was working for large CPG firms like ConAgra, Kimberly-Clark, and Pepsi. I decided to leave that all behind and launch Solixir by myself in Sept. of 2008. It was a scary yet exciting time for me and I haven’t looked back.”

I realized I was in the wrong place

Sanjay Sathe, Founder and CEO of RiseSmart said, “I have pivoted across several industries, from information management to telecom, from banking to travel, and now HR. At the beginning of my career I was on the accounting side, and within a few months I realized I was in the wrong place. I quickly switched to sales, where I established my early career. I then moved into marketing.”

Sathe succinctly calls it “more of a career lattice than ladder,” adding that it “seems to be the name of the game in the corporate world today.”

Life after startup success

Donna Horton Novitsky is the CEO of Yiftee and is proof of a unique path in her career pivots. “Sure – from big company to start-up. From start-up to Venture Capital. From Venture Capital back to start-up. From all that to professor of marketing and entrepreneurship at Stanford.”

From volunteer to CEO

Nancy A. Aossey, President & CEO of International Medical Corps offers a very inspiring tale. After graduating from college, she worked as a sales executive at AT&T and dreamed of running her own business some day, but knew she wanted it to be meaningful. She moved to L.A. and learned about International Medical corps, a humanitarian relief organization that had gotten its start training Afghan medical professionals during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

“I met International Medical Corps’ volunteers and its founder, hoping I might volunteer in some way,” Aossey said. “They told me they were looking for a C.E.O. I was only in my mid-20’s at the time, but I loved the organization’s mission and never doubted that I could do the job. I told them that I would be committed to the organization, work hard and do whatever it took to get the job done. So they hired me as their CEO in 1986, two years after its founding. I later asked them why they hired me for the role, given that I had no experience in humanitarian relief, and they told me that they were looking for a deep commitment to the mission of the organization and for qualities that could not be found in a C.V.”

“When I started, International Medical Corps was comprised of a handful of volunteer doctors and nurses,” Aossey added. “I had to be very hands-on in war-torn countries like Angola, Somalia, Bosnia, Rwanda and more to reach those most in need with lifesaving medical care. But as we’ve grown—International Medical Corps now has 4,500 global staff and a network of thousands of volunteers—my role has shifted and I now focus on bringing in the right people to lead those programs, and continuing to foster our entrepreneurial culture.”

Ditching corporate life

Paul Aitken, CEO of borro spent eight years working for large corporations, but in 2004, he and a friend decided to start their own company. Aitken said, “Movota provided interactive mobile solutions to Europe’s leading TV and Radio broadcasters. It was financed by private investors, and the company was sold to Bertelsmann in 2005. After this, I founded borro in 2008.”

The American Genius is news, insights, tools, and inspiration for business owners and professionals. AG condenses information on technology, business, social media, startups, economics and more, so you don’t have to.

Business Entrepreneur

Startup helps freelancers find trusted partners for overflow work

(BUSINESS NEWS) Covailnt is a service for freelancers that takes the mystery out of collaborating, helping us all to focus on what’s in front of us.

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Trying to balance work and networking can be a huge pain even as a traditional worker; for freelancers, maintaining both categories is often downright impossible. If you’re struggling to make meaningful partnerships in the freelancing world, Covailnt may have a solution for you.

Covailnt takes the mystery out of freelancing, which—unlike romance—could do with a bit less guesswork. The service is best described as a combination of a workflow app and a social network, but its core function is to serve as a database of freelancers. Each person who signs up for Covailnt fills out a profile which includes skills, availability, location, and a portfolio; as a Covailnt user, you can use this information to determine whether you want to work with the person.

The ability to review a freelancer’s highlight reel without having to initiate a conversation is sure to be a time-saver, and you get to avoid the awkward follow-up conversation to boot.

Time efficiency is clearly a strong influence on Covailnt’s platform: each freelancer’s surface-level profile prioritizes the preview window to display their level of business, using metrics from “Not Working” all the way through “Slammed”. Having this information front-and-center makes it easy to differentiate between who in your network might be available for overflow work and who you shouldn’t contact for the time being.

Covailnt also makes it easy to find compatible people with whom to collaborate. In what always seems to be the case when a group project emerges, your go-to collaborator might be too busy to handle a joint effort, and not everyone has the time to troll through the classifieds in search of a temporary partner. Searching for a like-minded, similarly skilled freelancer via Covailnt can significantly cut down on the time you spend looking and help you prioritize the work itself.

Beyond its site-level features, the coolest part of this service is that it allows you to build a network of talented people with whom you share interests, goals, and workstyles. Once you’ve established such a network, you may find your work queue filling up with things you actually care about, enabling you to push some of your less enjoyable work to someone in your network who will give it the care it deserves.

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Business Entrepreneur

How to know when it’s time to go freelance full time

(ENTREPRENEUR) There may come a point when traditional work becomes burdensome. Know how to spot when it is time to go full freelance.

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Freelancing is often thought of as a mythical concept, something that is almost too good to be true. While it isn’t all about hanging out at home in your pajamas all day, being a freelance is something that is completely possible to be successful – assuming you do your homework.

Recently, a friend of mine who is a licensed esthetician was no longer happy with her position at the salon and spa she worked for. The set hours were becoming a burden, as was having to divvy up appointments between another esthetician within the salon.

She noticed an increasing number of people asking her if she could perform services (eyebrow and lip waxing) from her home, as they preferred not to go into the hectic salon. My friend also found an increase in requests for her to travel to bridal parties for their makeup, rather than the parties coming into the salon.

It was around this time that my friend began to seriously consider becoming a freelance esthetician, rather than a salon employee. After about six months of research and consideration, she decided that this was the best route for her.

Below are the reasons she felt ready to pursue this option, and if they resonate with you, you may be ready for a full time freelance career.

1. She had a number of built-in clients and a list of people she could contact to announce her at-home services. Doing this at the start of one’s career would be very difficult without a contact list and word-of-mouth references, so it’s important to have…

2. …experience! My friend had worked for a number of salons over the years, and had the experience of working with all different types of clients. She also learned what she liked and didn’t like about each salon, which were pieces that factored into her own work-from-home space.

3. Since she had years of experience and had done all of the necessary aforementioned research, she knew what was expected of her and knew that getting a freelance career off the ground wouldn’t be a walk in the park. Operating a freelance career is completely on you, so you have to be 100 percent dedicated to making it work – it won’t just happen for you.

4. Once she began thinking about this idea nonstop and became more excited, she knew it was time to move forward. At first, the “what ifs” were daunting, but became more positive as time went on. If the idea of being a freelancer elicits more smiles than frowns, definitely take the time to consider this option.

5. In addition to the clients she already had, she also had an amazing support system who helped her develop her freelance brand and get her at-home business up and running. Having a solid group of people in your life that will help you is crucial, and any offer for help should be appreciated.

Other things to consider are: do you have enough money saved in case the freelance venture takes longer than planned to take off? If not, maybe stick with the day job until you feel more financially secure.

Jumping into something too quickly can cause you to become overwhelmed and drown in the stress. Make sure you’ve covered every single base before making this leap. Good luck, freelancers!

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Business Entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs’ edge – working quality, not quantity hours

(ENTREPRENEURS) A huge advantage of the entrepreneur life is full control over your day – and using your hours wisely (and creatively) boosts productivity, even if it means sleeping in and staying up late. Think quality, not quantity.

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So often, we hear the phrase “quality, not quantity,” which can be appropriately used to describe ideas we give to our boss or the amount of effort we put into volunteering. The long and short of it is – don’t half-ass something because you think it’s fulfilling the need of “quantity.”

Quality is always so much more important when it comes to output in your job. Like, okay, great, you worked 11 gillion hours this month, but what did you actually accomplish? Did you finish endless busy work and take pictures for social media of how busy you are? Or did you grow your bottom line?

Over the years, we’ve heard a lot about flex hours and more working from home options, but a hot new idea is (you guessed it) quality hours, not quantity hours. Sometimes fitting into that 9-to-5 framework is satisfying the quantity aspect, but are we really being as productive as we should?

Many people argue that we should be working less in order to produce more. Wait, don’t leave, let me explain.

Does it really seem like the best idea to be working when your energy level is in the negatives? Probably not. This opens the door for more mistakes, less engaged work, and less output. If you’re a night owl and your brain fires on all cylinders when the sun has gone down, is it really worth focusing your work energy during the hours that your brain isn’t fully on?

If we work only when we know we’re going to be productive, we can really make the most of our time. Now, don’t get that confused with “sit around and wait for lightning to strike and THEN work,” it means schedule your tasks based on when your mind is typically the most productive.

When are you most productive? In the morning after you’ve had a quick job and some coffee? Or post mid-afternoon when you’re full-on awake? Jonas Downey pondered this question, and said, “I’m usually at my creative peak in the mid-morning and lose steam after lunch, so I shuffle my work accordingly. I do exploratory freeform stuff in the morning, and I save routine tasks (like implementing something I already know how to do) for the afternoon. I also have a rather short attention span, so I take tiny breaks a lot.”

He notes that working just to hit a certain number of hours is counterproductive, because in that time, there are likely to be hours worked when you are not at your best. Click To Tweet

Be honest – do you do your best work when your head is in the clouds, or when you show up to a task, raring to go?

Glorification of the 80 hour work week is dead in most circle, so consider scheduling yourself for times and days that your brain will cooperate with you instead of work against you and force you into menial work that feels like you’re accomplishing tasks!

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