Change is Good: Conquering Resistance to Career Change
"For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven..." Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
Often we resist the very things we need the most. Clients frequently wait to call me for career counseling until they have gotten put on probation, or even worse, have lost their job. This "kick in the pants" is what they need to take a look at their work and their life. Sadly, some admit that they have not been happy at their job, often not just for months, but years. But they have chosen to ignore their problems for as long as possible.
You might say that not all change is positive. Like the death of a loved one, for instance. But even divorce and the break up of a family can be the catalyst for new beginnings and the opportunity for growth. And changes in our career or job, even job loss, can move us toward greater fulfillment in our work. Even when we are in jobs that we enjoy, many of us look for experiences for greater growth and fulfillment. I enjoy writing as a way of expression and to reach a greater audience. So now I make more time for this activity. Environmental forces, competition and changes in the way business is conducted, often force us to make adjustments.
Resistance to Change: Paying the Price
Resistance is the force that keeps us from taking positive action, choosing comfort and safety over challenge and growth. Resistance to change, along with procrastination, often keeps people from finding satisfying work. I find that people who resist change in their careers are often the same ones who resist activities that stretch them beyond their "comfort zone " in other areas as well. Those individuals who embrace change are the ones who find fulfillment in their careers and in life.
'Man never reaches his highest potential when he is safe and takes things easy.' An old sage
Today change is the norm. Gains in technology impact how we work. E-mail allows messages to be sent instantly. And with instant messages come the pressure for instant action. Changes in managed care impact everyone, not just those who work in health care. Those who are comfortable with change and make quick decisions, after gathering and considering the facts, are the ones who succeed in finding fulfilling work.
If there are problems in an industry or a company that are public knowledge, those employees who look for other jobs will have the advantage over those who wait. If you hesitate in the wake of an imminent mass lay-off, the market will soon be flooded with people with your skills and experiences, making it even harder to get the position you want.
Sometimes clients come to me who have been with the same company for 10-25 years. These people are always looking for reasons to maintain the status quo. "It's not always bad," they say. Sometimes they have good days. But if someone picks up the phone and calls a career consultant, it means that there has been unhappiness for some time, whether conscious or not.
Sometimes the status and money that come with the job make it difficult to let go. Other times it is not knowing what else they would do if they left this position that has been such a large part of their life for so long. And sometimes they cannot imagine a better life. Then they rationalize that the "grass isn't always greener." The grass might not be greener right away. We might need to first plant the seeds and cultivate them. But in this age of instant everything, the virtues of patience and persistence are undervalued.
'Careers, like rockets, don't always take off on schedule. The key is to keep working on the engines.' Gary Sinise
I also see this resistance when clients ask me if I know of a recruiter who can find them a job. I explain that recruiters do not find jobs for people. They identify qualified, experienced candidates to submit to their client companies for job openings. Clients often prefer to ignore the fact that most people get their jobs through networking and hard work, and that the best jobs can be found through these means. "No cross, no crown," said William Penn. The accomplishments that are the most rewarding for me are the ones that required the most sacrifice and hard work.
Most often, career problems do not go away. As Christopher Parker says, 'Procrastination is like a credit card: it's a lot of fun until you get the bill.' And the longer we wait to deal with our problems, the higher the price tag. Ever add up the costs of those finance charges? Career problems that are ignored can result in psychological and physiological symptoms such as depression, insomnia, changes in weight, and illness. One of my female attorney clients experienced hair loss until she changed jobs.
Managing Resistance to Change
We can practice getting comfortable with change by making alterations in areas that are low risk. We can try a new restaurant, or a different item on the menu. We can vacation in a new place. We can take up a new hobby. We can change our routines. We can take "baby steps" to investigate career options.
A client I work with is an accomplished professional, currently being considered for openings as COO in several start-up firms. These progressive companies are well-funded, highly innovative, would offer her part ownership, and will take her in the direction she wants to go with her career. But she has a firm job offer from an older, established company. It is a good offer, if she wants to take a step backward in her career. But the uncertainty of declining this offer and proceeding through the interview process with these other companies has her in a stalemate. Although her gut tells her to decline the offer and get this monkey off her back, her lack of confidence, impatience and inability to deal with uncertainty continues to drain her energy.
' One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.' Andre Gide
This individual gains much of her self-esteem and identity from her work. If she can make this transition, this change, she will gain the confidence she needs to make other transitions later in her life. The only thing we know with certainty is that this next change will not be her last. And the skills she learns during this process she will use continually throughout her life.
Yes, change can be good! All of us, even those who are satisfied with our careers need to continually develop new skills. We need to determine ways to add value to the services we provide. The key is our marketability. There is no such thing as job security. Put yourselves in a position where you are the one to make the decisions about your career. Don't wait for outside forces to make those decisions for you.
About the author: Debbie Brown is a career consultant and executive coach who works primarily with professionals, attorneys and entrepreneurs.
D & B Consulting 3474 Lenox Road Suit 400 Atlanta, GA 30326 404-240-8063 FAX: 678-530-0661 www.DandBconsulting.com Debbie@DandBconsulting.com