Written by: Mark Koulianos // Feb 26, 2020
Last updated: Feb 26, 2020
Part One: Learning When to Pivot
Playing organized basketball as a young boy, I discovered the importance of pivoting. When defensive pressure forces the player dribbling the ball to stop the advance up the court, that player can ‘pivot’ by keeping one foot stationary while the other can move. This allows the ball-handler an opportunity to reposition, to determine whether a pass to a teammate or taking a shot is the best option. Sometimes, a well-executed pivot can be the catalyst for a great, but unexpected, play.
A pivot might turn into a great play at work, too, even when it’s not part your current career strategy. I started a 14-year run with Nielsen in 1999 as a member of the finance department. One of my assignments was to evaluate an underperforming business unit. Based upon my recommendations, I was asked to manage that group. I decided to pivot and accepted the offer. I went directly from zero experience in management to leading a team of 35 that, in time, elevated its performance to outstanding reviews.
When an economic crunch forced Nielsen to downsize, my position was eliminated. I transitioned to work with another financial unit—this time with USF in its Innovative Education department. Similar to the Nielsen situation, I was given the task of analyzing the financial viability of Continuing Education, which was struggling to such an extent it was on the chopping block. I listed the issues that, I felt, were hampering the office but confidently stated the office could be profitable with some changes.
History would repeat itself. I was asked if I wanted serve as director of Continuing Education (what is now Corporate Training and Professional Education). I accepted the challenge. It was time to pivot. Although I had no higher-education management experience, I, again, jumped at the chance to lead a new team. And today, an office that teetered on the edge of extinction not so long ago is now a vibrant, profitable component of the USF community. I have my dream job!
Like in basketball, a bit of repositioning in your career can place you in advantageous spots. It requires preparation and faith in yourself. In pivoting to new roles, I’ve been able to develop valuable traits—characteristics that have helped my career. My abilities to grind, to adapt, and to be resilient have emerged from my willingness to assume positions that weren’t necessarily on my radar or wish list—but I’m grateful they came about. You can take control of your career—be ready for your chance to pivot!
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