Pivoting is Possible | Real Advice From Returners

As you think about returning to work, you may end up deciding that your previous career field is no longer the one for you. Maybe you worked in an industry that has become obsolete or your motivations have changed or you simply want to do something different.

A fresh start may be exactly what you want and need! We call this “pivoting” and while it adds an extra layer to your return-to-work journey, it can also result in a very fulfilling second chapter.

Take inspiration from these four Path Forward alumni. Each pivoted into new fields after caregiving breaks of two to 16 years. They applied for and completed a returnship and then returned to work with thriving new careers.

Tip 1: Value your transferable skills

Carrie Kirk took a 15-year break from her career as an athletics director and lacrosse coach. When she was ready to return to the workforce, she decided to pivot into a corporate role that would utilize many of the same skills.

“I ran a project during my returnship and found that running a project is so much akin to running a sports team because it’s constantly changing, always new stuff going on, you’ve got to mitigate risks,” she says. “A big lesson I took from my career transition and making a pivot is to take with you a transferable skill set that you have and can adapt to a new field.”

Carrie now works in IT.

Tip 2: Portfolios and networking are important

Deborah Chin pivoted from a career in digital and print design to UX (user experience) design. She made the transition from an older to a newer field that uses many of the same skill sets.

created a portfolio to show off her work to employers and demonstrate she had the skills to succeed despite a lack of professional experience in the field.

She also made sure to expand her network. “I would reach out to people I had taken classes with and connect with fellow converts from visual to UX design,” she says.

Deborah completed a returnship in UX design and now works as a product designer.

Tip 3: Gain a foothold in a new industry

Ellein Cheng was a market risk analyst and then a math teacher. When she was ready to return to work, Ellein wasn’t sure she wanted to pivot away from teaching. She explored a variety of job listings and kept her options open. When she saw a company that grabbed her attention, she applied and completed a returnship in product support. She now works as a senior data scientist.

Ellein gained a foothold and then made lateral moves into her current career. She learned the ins and outs of a new field while putting to use many of the skills from her previous teaching and banking experiences.

“I never thought I would be working for a technology company,” says Ellein. “I have two kids who are growing up in a world that’s ever-changing because of technology, and it’s exciting that I am a part of it. I am navigating this world and growing with them.”

Tip 4: Volunteer and reskill during your time off

Sherri Ruhl pivoted to a business analyst role when she returned to work after a 16-year caregiving break. During her lengthy break, she kept her soft skills up-to-date and also invested time and energy into reskilling.

“I kept my soft skills sharp by doing a lot of volunteering, taking up roles of responsibility and leadership on different projects,” says Sherri. “In terms of getting ready to reenter the workforce, I figured that my best bet would be in project management, which had transferable skills from my previous position. I obtained a Google certification and spent a lot of time studying to update my skills in that area.”

There are many free and paid options for reskilling on sites like Udemy, Coursera, LinkedIn Learning, and even YouTube. Make sure to list any certifications you earn on your resume and LinkedIn profile.


Sincere thanks to Path Forward alumni for generously sharing their stories. Pictured above: Ellein Cheng, Sherri Ruhl, Deborah Chin, and Carrie Kirk.

Anna Khomina is a content writer and marketing coordinator at Path Forward.