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Pivoting goals in challenging times

Excellent advice for graduate students from a graduate career coach.

To pivot means different things in different contexts. In sports, it refers to planting one foot and moving the other foot in different directions to gain an advantage. In business, it has been referred to as a re-imagining, or an opportunity for growth.

COVID-19 is presenting you with an opportunity to change direction, reimagine and grow. In some instances, it may be a change of large proportions. In other cases, it might be a small adjustment. One thing is guaranteed: You will be asked by future employers to share how you have responded to COVID-19 in terms of your career and job expectations.

Here are some suggestions for adjusting, while still moving in the direction of your dreams.

Transferable skills

Currently, there is economic uncertainty and employers are being cautious regarding their hiring capacity. If you have been worrying about your ability to get a job in your area of expertise in the near future, consider “short term” job solutions. Now is a great time to reflect on your “transferable skills.” For example, if you have experience conducting research, you have developed valuable knowledge and skills that can transfer to industry jobs in research and data analysis. Understanding and having experience with developing a research project/study, utilizing various methods for data collection and analysis, as well as experience reporting the findings in a manner that is understandable, are valuable skills to many different types of employers.

Fieldwork, practicums, capstones or internships

Be proactive. If you are planning on a service-learning experience in the fall, reach out to potential employers now. Consider how you might conduct your internship virtually. Reach out to the organization(s) you are considering and see what they need. Ask them for a list of potential projects that need completion; reflect on what you want to learn, what you need to learn, what you hope to experience and consider how those goals can be accomplished in a virtual format. Remember, this is an opportunity to show how resilient and flexible you can be


Utilize LinkedIn and AlumniFire to connect with U of U alumni, and professionals who work in your field or preferred organization or company. Ask them how COVID-19 has changed the way they go about conducting their work. Their insights are valuable.

Most of all, remember that COVID-19 has presented you with an opportunity to pivot, reimagine and grow. By being flexible, proactive and showing your resiliency, you can still move positively in the career direction of your dreams.

For additional support, feel free to schedule an appointment with your Graduate Career Coach or explore the resources on our webpage for graduate students.