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How Kathleen Persevered & Kept Her Job Search Momentum During a Career Pivot

Kathleen Dickenson’s rich career as an interactive digital media project manager ranged from work at healthcare, mobile, online retail and technology, and she loved the flexibility and freedom project work allowed. Mid career, after taking several engagements with fast moving organizations, she wanted to prioritize corporate culture, team relationships and

peer engagements. But, as a mid-career pivoter, she wasn’t getting the callbacks. With money was running short, Kathleen joined The Swing Shift’s Spring 2019 cohort, taking advantage of our scholarship program, and recently started a job with REI.


Q: You have an incredibly varied project management career with lots of job experiences. Why did you want to switch?

A: I had several projects I was working on, but hated the culture at the places I was working. It was exciting to see a cool company, getting the job, then coming on board and thinking “OMG. This place is impossible. People are awful to each other.” I needed a change. So I was looking for work that had a better cultural fit, but I was getting a lot of rejections. In squash terms (I’m an avid player) I realized I I had to switch up my serve to get support.

Q: You came through The Swing Shift’s Spring 2019 Career Catalyst. What did you expect, and what did you get?

Honestly, what I thought I’d get was mainly job leads. What I found was so, so much more. The Swing Shift offered a structure and formalized discernment process. And the support in the room from my compatriots, with our accountability groups, was especially compelling and supportive. It made a huge difference as I focused on my next job. I still meet with my accountability group: we’re joining The Riveter, taking advantage of our membership special, to keep things going.

Q: Is there a speaker or a session that stands out for you that really changed your job search game?

A: Somewhat to my surprise, (because all the speakers were so good, and from such incredible corporate backgrounds) the speaker who really resonated with me was Bridget Quigg with her improvisation work. I didn’t expect her work to be so impactful. Rather than saying “no”, I now say “yes, and!” Also, I saw firsthand the progression in the room from her exercises and suggestions.

Q: What are you doing now?

A: I’m working at REI as a project manager, supporting the photo studio and tools that support their online system. I’m learning so much, from what PINS means (It’s just what you think! Pins in a garment: coming from tech I thought it was an acronym!) to the best way to display merchandise on a model for photography and online display purposes. I truly believe I got the job because of all the support I received from The Swing Shift. For the phone interview I had my cheat sheet by my side and flawlessly answered the “Tell me about yourself” question while tying in my answer to the position, just as we rehearsed in the Career Catalyst program. The last question during the phone screen? “Give me your top 3 skills that would make you the ideal candidate.” Well I had my answer written out as we discussed during the program, had practiced it, and was able to deliver it smoothly.

Q: What advice would you give to others looking to transition to a different role or career?

Be patient and compassionate with yourself. Change is hard, and it’s tempting to beat yourself up. Just use your to-do list and make sure to follow through. The people who came through my cohort who have made the most progress are the folks who use that follow-through. And keep the momentum going. It’s so easy to lay back, thinking “well it’s summer vacation. It’s the holidays. It’s back to school time.” There’s always an excuse that will get in the way of your moving ahead in your plan! The best way to make progress is to steadily move forward.

Our Fall 2019 Catalyst is Full but RSVP here to get on our waitlist for Spring 2020!


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