Change before you are forced to change

Career Opportunities podcast logoChange before you are forced to change
By Douglas E. Welch


Listen: Change before you are forced to change

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It seems a fundamental aspect of human nature that no one likes change. No matter how much we might talk about craving fun and excitement, for most of us, a stable and comfortable life is what we truly seek. This can cause great problems, though, when change is forced upon us or when change becomes key to our career growth. Too often we wait until change is forced upon us instead of seeking out small amounts of change every day.

I am confident in saying that most of us, if allowed, would stay in our current job and company forever unless acted upon by some external force. Fear of change is a form of inertia. It can hold you in place, forever. I talk to people nearly every day who feel trapped in bad jobs, but remain there because changing their job is more frightening to them. People will tolerate a host of problems, as long as they are not required to change. It is almost like we will suffer anything, just to avoid the overriding fear of losing our stability.

As you might imagine, though, sacrificing everything for a bad job or situation can leave you feeling trapped and hopeless. You don’t like where you are, but you can’t imagine going somewhere else. You don’t like your work, but you can’t imagine doing something else. You don’t like those you work with, yet you can’t imagine working with anyone else. It is this sense of entrapment, of hopelessness, that leads so many to see work as a burden to be carried, rather than something that can improve your life. Worse still, when change is forced upon you, it can be terrifying and gut-wrenching, Especially since you have resisted it for so long.

If you want to truly build the career you deserve, you can’t wait for others to force change upon you. You have to reach out and change your career for yourself. Too many workers allow their careers to happen to them. They take the first job offered and move between jobs without any thought as to where they are leading. All they know is they have a job and that is all that matters. Unfortunately, these people often wake up, years down the road, and wonder, “How did I get here?” So, driving change in your career requires that you look at each job offer, each opportunity for change and see where it might lead you. Do you have a goal for your career? Does this job match up with the goal or lead you in the opposite direction?

Next, take small steps every day. Learn a new skill. Talk to someone new. Investigate a job in a different department. Interview for jobs, even when you don’t need a new one. By investigating opportunities for change, you make yourself more comfortable with change. If you engage in change on your own terms, you will find that it isn’t as frightening as you might have thought. When you are in control, change offers a sense of freedom and power that you might not get otherwise. Driving change in your life puts you in charge of your future and will always lead to better opportunities.

Finally, learn to watch for changes that might effect you in the future. Too many of us ignore on-coming changes until they are forced upon us. Notice whether your company is doing well or poorly. In many cases, layoffs are clearly telegraphed by actions weeks or months before they occur. When you sense a change is coming, do everything you can to prepare for it. You might not need to engage all your plans, but being prepared, in itself, gives you a peace of mind that those around you might lack. When and if layoffs occur, you want to have plans ready for action. With your plans in place, you won’t feel like a victim of change. You will already be rowing your lifeboat away from the sinking ship, while others are still wondering what to do.

Look for change. Plan for change. Seek out change. Don’t let others force change upon you when you are unable or unwilling to face it. Change is inevitable and it is only by engaging in it that you can build the career you deserve.

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