Whether you’re working for a promotion or trying to change jobs altogether, every career requires a measure of change. For those craving something new or different in their work lives, the people who manage change for a living can provide a few important insights. Change management professionals work with organizations to help plan, manage, and adapt to change. And some of the very strategies they use to help companies make their way forward through turbulent or uncertain times can apply to those who are working on moving their professional lives forward, too.
Release your attachment
If you’re going to truly be open to change and its possibilities, you’ve got to release some of the comfortable ways of doing things. “We start our careers with high hopes and expectations, and we want to conquer the world. What happens too often is that eventually you get comfortable in a process or role or with a piece of technology we master,” says Lior Arussy, CEO and president of international consultancy Strativity Group and author of Next is Now: 5 Steps for Embracing Change – Building a Business that Thrives into the Future. That shifts us into the role of process operator. We stick with what we know and we’re reluctant to do things differently.
The number one challenge in change management is not the adoption of new tools or processes—it’s the assumption that change is a negative judgment on people’s past performance, Arussy says. When people feel threatened in that way, it’s difficult to see other opportunities. If you work in a bank as a cashier, for example, what does it mean when the bank transitions to automated cashiers? In your career, this complacency or attachment to the way things were can make you reluctant to stretch, try new things, and anticipate what the future holds, which can be dangerous to your career, he says.
Instead, work on understanding your “core cause,” or your true purpose in your job. For example, if you work in banking, and believe your core cause is being in charge of compliance with a policy, then you’re going to stick to the process. “And, so, I’m pretty much alienating a lot of people in the process, but maybe not keeping in mind, How do I make it impactful for the bank from a customer’s standpoint? Do I make customers happier or more upset? Do I enable them to reach their goals or, do I restrict them from reaching their goals?” he says.
If you look at your core cause as how to fulfill your responsibilities but do so in a way that helps the organization achieve its goals, too, you’re going to be more flexible in adapting to changes in process and tools, which will help you in your career, as well.
Define the outcome
Whether you’re working to create change in your career willingly or you’re dealing with the results of a layoff or reorganization, you’ve got to be clear about the outcome you want to achieve, says Julita Haber, Ph.D., clinical assistant professor of organizational behavior at Fordham University’s Gabelli School of Business. Ideally, where do you want to go in your career and how does that match your core values? Just as organizations align their change management strategies with organizational goals, “you want to actually come up with your purpose in life and how the change will help you fulfill your ultimate goals,” she says.
Know your style
Your personal leadership style will have an impact on how you navigate change. Haber says there are two types of leaders who typically drive change: the transformational leader and the transactional leader.
The transformational leader is focused on large-scale changes—reorganizing the company or changing the culture. They have big-picture ideas and operate on a grand scale. Transactional leaders take on change in a more methodical and step-by-step manner. Both can be effective, but one may help you feel more adept at managing change than the other. While a transformational leader may be comfortable saying, “I’m done with this career,” and simply move on, the transactional leader will likely want to have some sort of game plan in place, first.
Become change resilient
Whether you just got a huge promotion or were let go in a layoff, change and determining the next best steps can be stressful, says Jessica Lueck, practice manager in career transition and change management at BPI Group, a leadership and talent advisory firm based in Chicago. “There’s a piece of [change management] that’s very technical and it’s about planning and clarity and precision,” Lueck says. “Then, there’s the messy, more organic side of managing change that’s all about the human piece of it, the emotions that come with it,” she says.
Arussy recommends that people work on becoming change resilient, improving the speed and scope in which people adapt to change. “The new skill set that we are recommending for people to start thinking about is how do I build a better change resilience so I can explore, experiment, accelerate change within the organization and within my own life,” he says.
Again, he says this relates to understanding your core cause. “Define yourself through the impact you make on people. Then, you can endure a lot of things,” he says.