I sat and listened as Brittany released her pent up frustration in a monologue. As her captive audience, I had no other choice but to sit in silence, focused on her recount of a series of events that led to this overflow of emotions.
As her emotional tide ebbed, she sat back in her chair. We sat and stared at each other for what felt like an eternity. It was Brittany who broke the silence when she asked... "how can my tomorrow be different from today?"
We live in a world that continues to offer countless challenges. At the organizational level, there is a deluge of information that must be processed in order to respond to untoward events. Having left the industrial age behind us (somewhat), the new mental models are housed in how to quickly analyze our outer sphere whilst making changes in our inner sphere. Companies are forced to move briskly, as time is a valuable resource and decision making demands its "pound of flesh", as companies become atuned to the environment.
Now, moving from the organization to the individual in an organization, the question of how to manage one's response to rapid change comes into sharp focus. Work as baby-boomers knew it has changed. You just have to ask those who are so labeled. A secure job, is becoming a concept of the past.
Brittany's response is by no means strange. In her world, constant change has presented a dilemma, which can be framed in this way, "Am I next?"
Our experiences with change have grafted in our minds that it threatens our comfortable existence. But as the story illustrates, organizations are responding to stimuli and are making decisions that will disrupt the comfort levels to which many have grown accustomed. As a consequence, workers too must begin the process of analysing their environment to aid future decisions.
Brittany's narrative shows that the current state of affairs with the company is not the first, nor will retrenchment activities be the last. What must she and others like her do to manage the anxieties and frustrations that accompany change?
Here are a few suggestions. I am positive you will see the benefits of mapping your career aspirations to realistic goals.
- Begin by assessing where you are in the organization. At different stages in one's career, needs will differ significantly. You may be an entry level worker with a laundry list of goals or you may be looking to shift careers. You may be hearing rumors about a disruption in your organization. Are you an asset or a liability?
- The skills and knowledge brought to an entity are tradeable resources. Further assessment is required to identify what gaps exist in you education. Track the changes made in your company. What was the precursor to the changes made and what time frame did it take for the effects to be noticeable? If there is a gap, what program could you enrol in to prepare you for future shifts?
- Create a visible map. Transfer all your dreams and aspirations to paper. This task does not have to be flambouyant and your artistic skills are not of great consequence. A career map is simply your plan to get from point A to B. It produces clarity and should act as a guide to achieving your defined goals. It is necessary to build in a feedback loop. This will serve the purpose of tagging where you may need to alter your response based on some stimuli.
- Find a mentor who will be supportive of your efforts. One who will provide you with genuine feedback as you re-brand your image. Look out for those individuals who have taken a vested interest in your growth. And remember, you don't have to choose just one mentor.
- Read voraciously. Add value to your worldview. In this big world, cultures vary and as companies expand,they are interested in talent that appreciates multiculturalism. We are no longer constrained by the traditions and cultures of a monoculture. I liken our evoluton to the concept of osmosis. We are more connected today than years past.
- Become a volunteer/mentor. For many people, volunteering provides a great way to enrich the lives of others. Focus on a cause you are passionate about and make the connections.
- Switch careers. Your map may direct you to another career interest. If you are no longer committed to your current role. Figure out what will give you greater satisfaction. Align your vision with available options and plan your exit strategy.
- Become an entrepreneur. You have always wanted to be your own boss but something always pulls you back. Name that something and decide if it is tied to your being comfortable. Moving towards a goal that does not offer job security is frightening. But even more nerve wracking is being told you no longer have a job.
- Finally, develop the habit of putting aside (money) a little at a time for rainy days. As societies become more and more complex, there will be a preponderance of shocks that will force companies to make drastic changes to their operational models. It takes great sacrifice to adjust spending habits, especially when an economy is booming. But as the recession in recent memory taught us, there are peaks and valleys and we must be alert to the signals within our environment.
Everybody has accepted by now that change is unavoidable. But that still implies that change is like death and taxes — it should be postponed as long as possible and no change would be vastly preferable. But in a period of upheaval, such as the one we are living in, change is the norm."
— Peter Drucker
Management Challenges for the 21st Century (1999) - http://www.leadershipnow.com/changequotes.html