Change is an inevitable aspect of a growing career. As we aspire towards success, it can feel like what we strive for is complicated by a constantly-evolving professional environment. This sentiment is reflected in the saying that “the only certainty in life is that life is uncertain.” As this phrase suggests, we should learn to become comfortable with change and cultivate our skills to embrace it, since it is a part of our day-to-day lives. The tools and personal qualities that help us survive change in our careers are not difficult to acquire, but true success requires personal reflection and reframing. This checklist provides a basis to succeed and thrive in the face of change.
Here are the steps you can take to grow in career success:
1. Make the shift to believing that you alone are responsible for the path of your career success.
Recognize that it is your responsibility to be aware of opportunities for growth and embrace them in a way that builds your career. Although a constantly changing environment can complicate your career efforts, you are capable of controlling your own response and strategy in the face of uncertainty. In today’s competitive environment, “Doing a job well” through hard work is not necessarily sufficient for evolving your career towards your goals. It takes exceptional effort and astute awareness of your own abilities and how they can best serve your professional goals.
2. Take the time to clarify what you want to learn over the course of your career.
Create a “Learning Plan” to ensure that you continue education throughout your career, and maintain the mindset of being a student into your professional life. Acquiring skills is key to your career success and cultivating continued growth, but it takes focus and planning to stay on track. Consider the ways that you can grow professionally. Are there specific skills, industries, or technologies that are areas of interest? Creating a “Learning Plan” and reviewing it annually renews your commitment to growing in knowledge, skills, and mindset.
3. Know what makes you successful.
Take the time to assess your strengths and weaknesses. Develop a clear picture of your personality and the environment which brings out your best abilities. What about it makes you particularly productive and successful? Know what you do best, and what draws you to it. Balance this strength with your weaknesses, and make efforts to minimize the gaps in your abilities. It can be difficult to set aside time to inventory your skills and personality traits, especially when balancing many competing demands. It may be uncomfortable to face your own weaknesses, especially if you are not naturally introspective. However, it is better to assess yourself critically than to let someone else define your strengths and weaknesses.
4. Pay attention to the technology and learning in both your industry and other markets.
Take note of new innovations from the perspective of developing your career. Keeping up to date on the environment of multiple industries positions you to navigate change and stay on the forefront of new developments. The skill set you have cultivated for your current position and the specialization required for your next position may require you to develop new tools. To keep your sword sharp, use leading technologies and innovations across industries to prepare your knowledge and skills and remain a competitive player as opportunity arises.
5. Know how you react and deal with change.
Develop your ability to both manage change and make it your friend. A successful technique is to learn about change by being a student of it. Once you understand it better, reflect on what your “hot buttons” are about change, and why. Examine how you can insulate these “buttons” and develop a better response in the face of unexpected change. How have others survived—and thrived—during times of change? What skills did they use to cope? How can you develop and sharpen those skills?
6. Know your personal philosophy.
When clear in your own core values, exploring new opportunities is more rewarding. Instead of evaluating opportunities solely based on external benefits, seeking opportunities that “fit” with your values creates a feeling of internal congruity. Learn to be receptive to how others express their core values in their lives. How do these core principles manifest in their day-to-day lives? How does the organization you work for express its values? Do you know how to look for corporate values that align with your own as you look for a target new employer?
7. Appreciate that changes on a broad scale create incredible opportunities.
Large environmental changes, such as market consolidation, restructuring, mergers, acquisitions, downsizing, and reengineering pose significant opportunities. It is sometimes difficult to appreciate this change, especially if it feels threatening to the position that you have worked for. However, you can navigate these changes and transform them into unique opportunities. Do you know how to make those opportunities work to your best advantage? In the moments of stress that come with deep change, where are your thoughts focused? Check your vision. Where are you looking? Make sure to look ahead at new possibilities, and not at what lies behind you.
8. Don’t take change personally.
When undergoing changes that seem extensive, such as a merger, buyout, or restructuring, the effort is much broader than you are! These are often necessary corporate realities, not personal attacks. Remember that reacting to change defensively only sets you back. Push back against change in your own way, and evaluate what constructive actions you can take on a personal level. Removing yourself from the equation allows you to evaluate the effects of change more objectively. Thinking about the decisions that led to the change and the reasoning behind it can help you to make more rational decisions. Be sure to take an offensive approach by skillfully knowing how to manage it and yourself.
9. Check your collaboration IQ.
Recognize that the challenges of a successful career include not only navigating competition, but also embracing collaboration. Take inventory of your professional relationships. Are there patterns in how you interact with your peers, mentors, and other professional contacts? In the corporate world, new partnerships are created daily. How good of a partner are you? Is there untapped potential in a new partner? How can you effectively maximize your own relationships to create outstanding partnerships? Collaboration can offer you unique opportunities in terms of employment, exploration, and growth.
10. Create your own future.
As an agent of change in your career, recognize that fully participating in the evolution of your organization, relationships, and personal development allows you to create your own future. When faced with change in your work, rise to the challenge with a full tool-kit. The opportunities and innovations that you create will surely be inspiring. In particular, if faced with restructuring or reorganization that impacts your current position, remember these steps to manage the situation. By successfully managing change, you could likely emerge as a top candidate for a new position. At a minimum, you will gain the skills of self-reflection and searching for something challenging, fulfilling, and congruent with your personal values.
A successful professional knows that weathering change is a survival skill, but thriving in the face of change requires determination, discipline, and persistence. Surviving can maintain your current career position, but thriving in the face of change ensures that you evolve into the next stages of your career. The most successful leaders have embraced change as a companion of their professional careers. They have made change management and agency tools which give them the possibility of growing in their future professional lives. You, too, can harness change to bring about career success. Look towards the future and make it a priority to not only navigate, but orchestrate the opportunities of change and evolution in your career.
Get clear, gain confidence, make it happen – get hired sooner. Stay courageous.
As always, I wish you health and a clear path to offer your professional creativity within a job that’s truly right for you.
Success – at work, at play, every day!