On The Job Most of us hate change. As much as we would like to think that we are adventurous, fun loving, risk taking individuals, when it comes down to it, change may be a bit harder to swallow than we initially think.
What is your reaction when you need to change your normal route to work due to construction?
What about a new computer system at work? Do you grab your instruction manual and dive in with excitement or do you complain because you have to change “the way you have always done things?”
Most of us chose the latter and get angry or upset, feeling like things are out of our control. Is this aversion to change holding you back from progressing at work and accomplishing what you want in your personal life?
As Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”
I can say I have had to personally live Darwin’s quote.
Ten years into a great career with a company that was in the top 10 of the Fortune 100, I was on the verge of suffocating. My career couldn’t have looked any better as I had been promoted four times in seven years and I was on the fast track for more.
This all sounds good, until I had to wake up in the morning and face a job I couldn’t stand, that didn’t use my talents or strengths and left me exhausted, weak and unhappy at the end of the day.
I found ways to deal with that daily pit in my gut by telling myself, “I work with some great people and have made some good friends, or I am having so much success — how can I walk away from this? Or I have a mortgage, kids and bills to pay, how could I ever leave?” Those sentences were a recording I played in my head for eight of the 10 years.
Did I look for any other jobs during that time? No!
Did I seek out any help? No!
Did I look for ways to increase my skills and competencies? No!
I waited for the change to come to me and then one day I realized I was going to have to make the change happen — so I did.
Your ability to deal with change directly impacts your performance at work.
Life is going to serve up some significant changes and they are not all going to pleasant ones. The economy has proven this best in recent years providing some impactful life lessons. Employees are finding themselves out of work, in new roles, moving from the corner office to a cubicle and changing from the decision making leader, to an individual contributor who is now being managed and implementing/executing other’s decisions and plans.
I have personally experienced and also worked with men and woman whose lives have been devastated by numerous “changes.” They were ill equipped to deal with change and the ability to be resilient amidst transition. It is imperative that you prepare now for changes that will come and have plans and options in place. As I heard recently, “It is better to repair the roof before it rains.”
So how do you deal with change and prepare yourself?
1. Become extraordinary in your chosen career and continually develop expertise in as many areas as possible. This makes you invaluable to your current employer, as well as attractive to future employers. You will also have increased confidence in your own abilities. Many companies have some type of development or “education reimbursement” funds available for your development. Take advantage of it.
2. Become innovative in what options you create for yourself. Too often we create barriers for ourselves instead of creating options. The way you work now is different than how you did five years ago. Dig into looking at all the options available to you in your area of expertise. When was the last time you looked at job postings for different organizations in your field of expertise? I recommend you do this at least once a month to ensure that you possess the competencies and skills other organizations are requiring. You may be surprised with what you find.
3. Increase your connections and professional network. The majority of individuals find their next job through a personal or professional connection. Make sure you have plenty of them! Friends and connections in your current position are also helpful during promotion time.
4. Identify your strengths and concentrate on developing them. What are you good at in your current role and what do you enjoy about your job. This will give you ideas as to what types of jobs or promotions to pursue.
5. Learn leadership behaviors and competencies — whether you manage people or not. Companies large and small are always in need of strong leaders and individuals who can manage others, even without the title. These competencies and skills are few and far between in corporate America today.
I personally had to incorporate these five career strategies into my own life.
I took advantage of tuition reimbursement from my current employer and began my MBA at night. After finishing I had a stronger idea of what I wanted to do and how to get there, so I enrolled in the PhD program at the University of Oklahoma and started a long seven-year process of earning my PhD while still working full time.
After making that initial decision to make a career change I still worked for that company for another four years, but it was a good four years because I had a plan and was taking action.
Over the years I have had the privilege of working with men and women who have been through nearly every job change, transition and crisis one can imagine. One common sentiment expressed by nearly all the individuals who have experienced some type of career change or transition is, “I wish I had been more prepared.” Take the time to think about the five strategies mentioned to begin to prepare yourself for the next promotion or transition.
Remember, it is your career.
A consultant, author, PhD, triathlete, father, and resident of Gilbert, Dr. CK Bray is a career and organizational development expert who has worked with numerous organizations – ranging from Fortune 500 companies to emerging start-ups. He can be reached at ck@DrCKBray.com or find his blog and more at www.DrCKBray.com.