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Coping With Change

Seven ways to thrive in chaos — and realize a reinvention

What happens when change is not a personal choice but a direct order? When transformation is sparked by a corporate downsizing or an internal reorganization? When a pink slip is your permission slip for radical change?

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These questions dog and delight Valorie Cook Carpenter, an expert on unexpected management reorganization who has survived six different change scenarios at six different companies in the last 25 years. Before accepting her current position as senior VP of marketing for ScanSoft Inc., Carpenter worked at Broderbund Software, prior to its acquisition by Mattel, and at Claris, a subsidiary of Apple. Now, as ScanSoft prepares to close its Silicon Valley site, Carpenter offers advice on dealing with the twists and turns of the new economy.

1. Don’t take it personally.
Business changes and management changes. That’s the nature of high-tech. But there’s no return on spending time obsessing over who’s to blame.

2. Assess your accomplishments.
After every project, it’s important to sort the positives and negatives, and then integrate the lessons learned into your new project, job, or career.

3. Don’t focus on the negative.
There is a positive outlook in every situation, and it’s important to focus on that before any departure. Look at what you did and what wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t been there. This will encourage you to move forward to the next challenge.

4. Know when to give up.
I truly believe that if you can’t go through the door, you go over it, you go under it, or you go around it. But I’ve also learned to step back when it’s too hard. If you feel you are constantly pushing uphill or hitting your head against a wall, it’s time to let go or to take a new approach.

5. Know your purpose.
Focus on your long-term goals. I’m more interested in building a business as a whole than I am in championing any one particular cause. Don’t get caught up in one particular aspect of a project. Take a step back and concentrate on the original purpose.

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6. Balance your life.
When a job or career isn’t going as planned, it’s important to have a personal life to fall back on and to support you through the rough times. This can work both ways. When I went through a divorce, I leaned on my job to pull me through.”

7. Keep exploring new venues.
Keep trying new things. I have worked with a startup. I have started my own consulting company. I have done volunteer work, and I have been on a couple of nonprofit boards. I’ve been on corporate boards, and I’ve been an individual investor. There is always another angle or approach to a job. Try them all.

Contact Valorie Cook Carpenter by email (VCarpenter@aol.com)

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