I’m changing things up with this blog post to talk about change, and how do you know if you’re good at accepting it? There’s been a lot of it in my life these days, and I have learned that the only thing constant in my work-life and personal life is change. This is a notion I’ve come to realize through not-so-easy practice and adoption.
Right out of college in 2008, I was able to score a job in San Francisco working for a legal publishing company. It was unfathomable that I was able to get a job in June of 2008 right as the “bubble” was bursting and all hell was breaking loose, but I did. It wasn’t a great paying job (I made more as a nanny in college), but I looked at it as a step in the right direction – everyone has that one job right out of college right? However, the two years I spent at the publishing company I saw very little turnover in staff. I think this was due in part to how bad the economy had gotten. So, when I left the publishing company I was under the false notion that people stayed at their jobs for a long time – I had always stayed with an employer for more than 2 or 3 years.
When I was made the offer at the utility I work for now the opportunity was above and beyond what I had ever imagined. My salary was doubled, the benefits were fantastic, I was a year into grad school at that point in my life, and they offered tuition reimbursement. I had stars in my eyes! When I told the publisher I had accepted this unbelievable offer and I was giving her my two weeks, I’ll never forget what she asked me, “Do you not like it here? Are you not happy?” It never occurred to me that she might think that was the only reason I was leaving. I told her honestly that I loved working there, but what this other company was offering me was impossible for her to counter – at this point it wasn’t just the benefits but it was also the opportunity to further my career. That seemed to make sense to her, but I left feeling like I had just broken up with someone – it seemed so personal.
As you can imagine, that only added to my notion of “people don’t just leave,” and “people stay when they’re happy,” and “seeing the same people every day for two years is normal.” Boy was I wrong and tad naive!
I would say a short month into my position at the utility, the person who on-boarded me and was essentially my lifeline was leaving the organization with the Director she was supporting, who was being promoted to VP. That was my very first experience with change. I felt like I handled that one fairly well – I made friends with others who I knew I could reach out to with questions, and I was starting to get the hang of things so it was OK.
I stayed on that team for two years and within those two years, I went from supporting 3 directors, to one and I saw the team turnover about 85 percent. Instead of embracing the changes, I worried and questioned whether it was the leadership, or the work etc., as opposed to wondering if that type of change was normal and to be expected.
Eventually it was my time to move on and everyone was really excited for me. This was a very welcomed change for I was the one initiating it. I’ve learned over the years, that the changes which impact you the most are the ones you can’t control at all. These past 12 months alone have been the most change I have ever experienced and also the most challenging year of my career.
- I left a position I had been in for 3 1/2 years. It was a change I was making, and in hindsight I realize I was scared to make it but went for it anyway. The following impactful things happened : I attended my first staff meeting on the new team to find out the person who hired me was no longer going to be my boss. Shock of my life! I decided to make the best of it and roll with the punches. It was a rough go at first but I managed to figure out how to make the best out of a less than ideal situation – and still learn something.
- At almost my 1 year mark my entire company went through a major layoff – having to say goodbye to people I had worked with for many years was extremely hard.
- The manager whom I had worked so hard to establish a relationship with (and had finally established a decent one) announced she was retiring – this occurred about 2 weeks after the layoffs.
- Simultaneously I was in the process of interviewing for another position within the company – and I’m excited to say I accepted the position and will be embarking on yet another change – though at least I initiated this one!
- To top things off, while I’m transitioning my current work over to the person back filling for me, we found out our director and fearless leader would be leaving the company.
The changing tide was strong over these last 12 months. The strangest thing to come out of all of this is that I feel calm and I think I have finally come to terms with the fact that this is normal. Because I never thought I was good at dealing with change, I decided to look up some articles published and other thoughts around dealing with change (my sources are cited at the end of this post):
- Don’t stress out about stressing out – Our reaction to stress has a greater impact on our health and success than the stress itself. I learned this in two situations just this year. The first was my “freak out” moment when I realized my boss was not going to be my boss. My instinct was to call HR and rescind my acceptance – that was me stressing out about the stress that might come with having to establish another new connection with someone.
- Don’t expect stability – Expect these changes as a part of your story, rather than a tragic thing that will ruin your life. I’ve had to practice not being shocked over this past year, but I think eventually you just come to expect that everything is always going to be changing.
- You’re prepared – Those who live in a constant state of readiness are unfazed by change and step easily into what’s next. They don’t victimize themselves by wishing for different circumstances. They capitalize on change by having the foresight to be prepared for what’s headed their way. Remember, success will depend on your ability and willingness to adapt, not on everything staying the same. Plus, don’t we all agree that when everything stays the same it eventually gets stale and boring?
- You can re-frame – Visionaries don’t see their situations as a challenge, they see them as an opportunity even if they aren’t sure what the opportunity will be. Though I had the rug pulled out from under me when I found out my boss was not going to be my boss, I had to re-frame what was happening. I kept telling myself that as bad as it may have seemed at the time, I would be learning and taking something away from my experience.
- You give yourself permission to fail – Change means risk, which can be tough for the ego to handle if it’s been built upon a false premise that failure is or was never an option. I kept feeling like I made the wrong move 12 months ago, but I gave myself permission for it to be OK that I maybe didn’t make the most ideal career move. But quite frankly, we can’t always hit it out of the ball park.
- You move on from your mistakes with confidence – Do what you can to fix it, learn from the situation and how to do it better next time. Failure becomes a teachable moment that is a step toward self-growth, not their identity. Though I had a rough year, I’m leaving it with confidence because I took the curve balls thrown at me and tried my best to hit it out of the park (can you tell I’m a baseball fan!?)
I now find myself embarking on yet another change – of my doing – that I’m very excited about. I will be staying with my company, but leaving the organization I’ve called home for the past 4 1/2 years to join a team where I don’t know anyone, and become apart of an organization that I know nothing about. BUT, I’m excited, I’m embracing the change and I’m more optimistic about this move than I have been in a long time.
I will leave you all with this: every experience, no matter how bad it seems, holds within it a blessing of some kind – the goal is to find it. I hope that what I’ve shared today will inspire thought around how you deal with change, what you could be doing to deal with it better, or to simply reaffirm and encourage you to continue accepting change in the ways that work best for you.
Harvard Business Review: “How to get better at dealing with change” by nick Tasler – September 21, 2016
The Huffington Post: “Saying ‘yes’ to what’s next – 4 signs you are a master at handling change” by Cy Wakeman – April 26, 2015