• Gustavo Serbia

Pivoting: Not Just for Basketball Players


I grew up playing basketball. Anyone learning the game will be introduced to fundamental skills such as dribbling, passing, and shooting. However, there are other fundamentals one must learn when playing basketball. For me, pivoting became an essential skill to learn.

What is pivoting?

Pivoting happens when a player who stopped dribbling the ball and is now stationary on the court, moves one foot around while keeping the other foot (the "pivot foot") planted on the floor. Moving both feet at the same time is considered “traveling" - a penalty that results in the opposing team getting the ball. Pivoting allows you to have a 360-degree view of your surroundings, the possibilities around, so you can determine what to do; to pass, shoot, or perhaps call a much needed time out to evaluate the available options, and then make a decision. Pivoting in your career is no different; an opportunity to consider alternatives, a new path, or a needed break, so you can reflect on how to move forward.

The big break was not coming

After graduating from college with a degree in fine arts, drama to be precise, I worked on pursuing my passion of becoming an actor. I was the typical struggling artist - auditioning, being regularly rejected, struggling to make ends meet - but optimistic my "big break" was coming. I worked doing voice overs, recorded music, wrote, partnered with friends, and even tried puppeteering. However, I grew frustrated. After a few years working at it, the call from Hollywood was yet to arrive.

With the frustration of not getting bigger roles, not making enough money, and the pressure of a growing family (I was married and with a child), I started thinking of what I wanted to do. You know, the dreaded Plan B. I did not have a Plan B. With one foot still planted pursuing acting, I started considering other possibilities. I was not sure what to do. I did know I did not want to move the stationary foot; I had spent a good few years, time, and money trying to make it as an actor. I also was afraid of feeling like and being seen as a failure. For a while, that fear prevented me from moving my pivot foot. Then, between the struggle to make a change, feelings of failure, and a growing family, an opportunity to work in human resources opened up.

To pivot or not, that is the question?

I was not looking for human resources. I often say I tripped into human resources. The reality is that I was only looking for something else to do, something I could re-engage myself in, that I was good at, and that I could earn enough money to support my family. With that in mind, I gave human resources a try.

While still pursuing my acting dream (pivot foot!), I juggled a full-time job in HR with the various gigs as an actor, another part-time job, and a family. For about two years I pivoted, looking around for what was possible, but did not let go of the planted foot. Then, I made the decision to let go. I resigned the part-time job, quit all the side gigs, and went full force into human resources. I have not looked back ever since. Well, not true. I have planted my pivot foot a couple of times, just in case I wanted to make a change.

Back to the future

Most of us start with the passion for pursuing our dreams. We are repeatedly told we must live our dreams. However, we are not reminded regularly that dreams come with significant obstacles and challenges and that in some cases, we must replace them with new ones. As long as you are willing to sacrifice to pursue your dreams, you should go after them. They are yours and no one else's. However, if you discover it is no longer your passion to pursue your original dream, or you learn you are not good at it, or simply want to try something new, pivoting may be the right option to give you perspective.

The new normal

Some say pivoting is giving up; a politically correct way of saying “I quit.” Well, I agree. I did leave acting behind. So what? So I quit. The question to ask then is why are you quitting, what are you going to do next and why, and how will you push forward to achieve your next goal? Your next dream? I also know that change is "the new normal" in today's work environment. Demonstrating the ability to assess the changes around you, make recommendations, and be ready to change is expected from today's workforce. Therefore, you must be willing to pivot, or you may fall behind.

As time went by, I realized I was going to be okay. I was learning new things, growing, and enjoying very much what I was doing. I also realized that many of the skills I gained as an actor related to human behavior I was putting to good use in my new career in human resources. So, if you are not sure what to do, consider pivoting; it can give you a great perspective on what you are doing, where to go, and a view of the opportunities around, all while having a foot firmly planted, just in case you are not ready to let go. When you are ready and willing to make a change, new opportunities may open up.


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