5 Indicators That It May Be Time For A Career Pivot

Moneyball is one of my top ten baseball movies of all time (behind Field of Dreams, and The Natural, of course). My favorite quote in the movie comes when a baseball scout talks to Billy Beane about the moment a baseball player is told to hang up their uniform. Here’s a clip from the movie, followed by the quote:

Scout: “We’re all told at some point in time that we can no longer play the children’s game, we just don’t…we don’t know when that’s gonna be. Some of us are told at eighteen, some of us are told at forty, but we’re all told.”

Instead of the game of baseball, what if that quote referred to our careers as artists?

I’m an eternal optimist, but I’m also a realist.

If you’re struggling or frustrated on your current path, it may be time to pivot into something else. Gather facts and face this challenge head on by starting the process of asking tough questions of yourself now.

You may find happiness in the long-run.

Here are five indicators that you may be ready for a career pivot:

  1. You’re not making enough money: An artist’s work is time bound. An hour of your time equals an hour of pay.  This equation places a limit on how much money you can make, especially in a world that often devalues your work.

    Tip: Look back at your income and spending for the past 12-24 months to get a clear financial snapshot. When you have a clear sense of your income and spending, look at your finances to identify what you would like to be making in 3 years. If you can’t reasonably find a path to making that amount of money within 3 years, it might be time for a pivot. 


  2. The gigs are not artistically satisfying:  There is a hierarchy to the type of work you can secure. Gaining experience and a reputation by taking unsatisfying work is often an important stepping stone to better, higher paying work, however, sometimes, artists can’t seem to move up the chain, which can be frustrating.

    Tip: Only you can define where you’d like to be within the established hierarchy and, word of caution, there is often a “grass is always greener” mentality here.  Set a plan for the types of gigs you would like to secure over an established period of time (I like 3-years). If you don’t reach your goal by the end of your established timeline, it might be time to consider moving in a different direction. 


  3. You don’t have time for your family: If you’re running around taking every gig that comes your way to make ends meet and you don’t have time for your family or to enjoy life, it might be an indicator that it’s time to find a different line of work.

    Tip: Look at your work/life balance over the past 12-24 months, if you find that you haven’t had time to spend with your family, it may be time to make a change. 


  4. You have other interests you’d like to explore: A lot of individuals I mentor realize about 5-10 years after graduation that, while they have this gift of being an incredibly talented artist, what they REALLY what to be doing is X.

    Tip: Listen to the voices pulling you in the direction of your interests outside your art. If you decide you want to make a move in your career, start to carve out a plan for transitioning into something new now.


  5. It’s not fun: Life is too short people, if you’re not absolutely loving what you do, look for something that makes you happy.

    Tip: Just because you are good at your art doesn’t mean you need to make it your career, especially if the work isn’t fun. Explore the aspects of your life that make you happy and jot them down on a piece of paper. The goal is to identify some other potential areas of work that could be more enjoyable to you. 

YOU control your future. Make the changes that will give you a more satisfying life and career.

(Photo Credit: Steven Key)

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Nate Zeisler is the Dean for Community Initiatives at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. He envisions a world where students majoring in the arts have a clear path to a sustainable career, where creative minds are empowered and inspired to rule the workforce, and where access to the arts is not just for the privileged few, but for all.

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