Would you read a story or novel where, at the end, nothing has changed? Would you feel anything for a character who has learned nothing over the course of the book? Would you read the next book in the series? I think not. That fact is, change is what makes a great story. We want characters who learn new things and change over time. We want to know more about them. We want to understand their decisions based on past behavior. The same goes for your career. If you aren’t changing, both personally and professionally, why should anyone care about your career?
We have all seen them — people who got their first job right out of high school and never left. They are doing the same work today that they started doing 10, 15, 20 years ago. This isn’t to say that they are bad people or bad workers, only that the failure to change, for whatever reason, can trap us in our lives and our work. If you want to insure a more successful, and varied, career you need to embrace change and communicate that change to those around you.
In the past, I have talked extensively about developing career stories that can be used to explain your work, and your career desires, to those around you. “Change stories” are one particular type of these stories. In my experience, communicating your career change is as important as change itself. Without it, you may have changed dramatically, but unless others know it, it makes no difference.
So, how do you share the changes in your life with those around you? It is often as simple as opening your mouth. Do you discuss the new books you are reading with others? How about new software, computers and gadgets? What magazines or web sites have you discovered recently? Do you let your friends know when you enjoy one of their recommendations? If not, make a point to start sharing your changes today. Recommend that great book on management to someone who might find it useful. Forward a particularly good, and appropriate, web article to your boss or co-workers. Let those around you know how your knowledge and thoughts are changing over time.
I consider change communication to be one of the most important aspects of my writing, both here and in my blogs. I love sharing neat, new information with people, but it also gives me a chance to show how my thoughts and knowledge are changing over time. This is especially true when I have some form of epiphany that changes something fundamental about my work or life. Perhaps I have stopped recommending a particular piece of software or discovered a new type of cuisine. This makes my life more interesting, both to me and, hopefully, to my readers, friends and family. It is an important aspect of giving my life, and my life story, some excitement. Just like a character in a great novel, it makes people want to know more about me.
To bring this back to the work world, what changes are you communicating to your managers and coworkers? Have you been reading management books lately? Which ones? Did you enjoy them? What lessons did you learn? If you aspire to management, the simple act of sharing your thoughts on these books is enough to plant that idea in your managers mind. “Hmm, we need a new manager for this department. You know, I was talking about the latest Tom Peter’s book with Douglas the other day and he really seemed to know his stuff. Maybe we should ask him.” While this is an idealized scenario, you can clearly see how communicating the changes in your life can plant the seed that could grow into something much bigger.
Want to be a programmer? Start talking programming with your co-workers. Want to move into advertising, or graphics, or anything else, start sharing your thoughts, reading and learning with those around you. Tell your story frequently and well to all who will listen. Share the story of your life and career changes. Let others know where you are headed and what you want. If you do, I think you will be pleasantly surprised at the new opportunities that come your way, both in your career and in your life.