By Diane Domeyer, Senior Vice President and Managing Director, Managed Creative Solutions, Robert Half

Throughout your career, you won’t have a single “career path” to follow. As your goals, ambitions and priorities change, new paths will form and wind together to create your career journey.

These paths can be the result of:

  • Organizational change — for example, your company reorganized or was acquired
  • Professional change — maybe you gained valuable new skills or earned a promotion
  • Personal change — perhaps you had to relocate or attend to family priorities

Unexpected transitions can also create disruption for you professionally and personally. A layoff would be an example. The massive disruption of the COVID-19 pandemic would fit into this category of change, too. In fact, many studies show that women around the world, particularly working mothers, have experienced significant professional setbacks due to the pandemic.

There’s no question that navigating a new landscape after a major change event can be a challenge. One thing I can tell you, based on my own experience and observations, is that whether or not you’re making or responding to career changes, adaptability is a skill you need to steer yourself onto the road that can lead you to success.

I’ve been fortunate in that many of the detours along my career journey were motivated by personal life changes and emerging opportunities in the business. The net result has been a very fulfilling career that hasn’t followed a traditional “career path” but has allowed me to respond to personal changes while continuing to grow and make meaningful contributions.

Understand that a 50/50 work-life balance isn’t really achievable (and that’s OK)

I’ve been with Robert Half for over 30 years, and my role within the organization has changed more times than I can count. When I first started, I was a finance and accounting recruiter in Iowa. Today, I’m the senior vice president and managing director for managed creative solutions at Robert Half, and I’m based in the Los Angeles area.

As both a company leader and mother of five, one of my goals is to help other women professionals to develop and grow in their careers while responding to the many challenges we face in our lives. I remember one colleague I mentored who was going to be a first-time mom. The first question she had for me was, “How do you find work-life balance and both develop your career and focus on motherhood?” I wanted to share a secret formula. But I was honest with her — I didn’t have one.

However, I did know that the idea of achieving a 50/50 balance between your work and personal life isn’t really achievable. Instead of trying to do it all at once (or, more to the point, feeling the pressure to do that), focus on adaptability in the workplace and in your personal life, too. As your career develops, so will your priorities and goals, and it’s important to acknowledge and adjust to those shifts.

If you’re a professional splitting your time with other priorities, such as raising children or caring for a family member who is ill, your work may require your full attention at certain points, and you’ll have to dedicate your focus there. And at other times, your family life will take precedence. I’ve experienced this push and pull between “work” and “life” many times myself.

Early in my career and when I was pregnant with my first child, I was presented with an offer to lead and expand one of Robert Half’s business lines. The position required relocation and significant travel, but it was a great opportunity. While it was a difficult decision to make, it aligned with my professional goals at the time. My husband and support system helped make this opportunity a reality, and while we had to make personal sacrifices, we also gained new experiences along the way.

Create opportunities and take well-considered risks

I’ve always prescribed to a “see a need, fill a need” philosophy, even when the dynamics of my personal life have changed. My career journey and priorities shifted as my family was growing. Although my career was still important to me, there came a time when I needed to swing the balance back toward more time with my family and reduce my travel.

When that happened, it coincided with Robert Half undergoing a period of significant business transformation. So, I wrote a job description and pitched the idea of heading a new division at the company focused on technology and digital strategy. The role filled a need and required less travel. As a result, I was able to pursue internal opportunities and develop my professional skills in a new area while also spending more time with my family.

An essential part of focusing on adaptability in the workplace is being OK with where you’re dedicating your time and energy. And if you’re not OK with it, you need to find a way to change what you’re doing. Maybe that means you need to find a new path or even take a pause in your career to accommodate those changes.

You wouldn’t be alone in making career changes right now. The pandemic experience has left many professionals reassessing their personal and professional priorities — and that feeling of wanting to find something different and more fulfilling has led to the Great Resignation. Many workers also feel optimistic about their prospects in the current job market, where unemployment is low and skilled professionals are in high demand. In a recent survey by our company, 41% of U.S. workers said they are actively looking or plan to look for a new role in the second half of this year.

If you want to make a change but don’t necessarily want to leave your current employer, consider discussing your options with your manager. For example, is there a need at your company where you can help expand the business, your skills or earn a promotion, all while creating more adaptability in your personal life? If you can find an existing opportunity for yourself, that’s great. And if not, don’t hesitate to work with your boss to try to create a new one.

Seeing a need and filling that need within your organization shows determination, leadership skills and creativity, and it could make your work and personal life that much more enjoyable. If neither of these options is available to you, then maybe it is time to consider making a move outside your company.

Interested in working remotely? See this post on how to find remote jobs.

Reprioritize your goals, as needed, as you adapt to change

I can say with confidence, based on my own experience, that you need to negotiate the pivot points in your career with a leap of faith, recognizing that there are opportunities where you can do meaningful work or pause completely for personal reasons. In the scheme of your whole career, a few years isn’t a lot of time. So, focus on what decision is best for you now, because in a few years, you’ll likely have different opportunities arise, and priorities will shift again, as they did for me.

While many professionals may relate to my story, you don’t need to be a parent to experience these shifts in your career. Everyone has personal priorities that will require adaptability in the workplace — a move to a new city, a partner’s career changes, an aging parent or an illness can all cause a pause or reprioritization of your goals and ambitions.

No matter how, where or when you face career changes, be sure to rely on your personal compass for guidance. Deep down, you’ll know what direction is best for you, whether you’re looking to forge a different path in your current organization, find a new opportunity elsewhere or re-enter the job market after time away from work.

Also, make sure to reach out to trusted peers, mentors, and other valued resources for insight and encouragement. Your adaptability is vital to your career journey, but so too is professional and personal support from those who want to see you succeed.

Follow Diane Domeyer on LinkedIn.