Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Career changes, career transitions 4: recognizing and accommodating the pressures of change, and career planning as an exercise in shifting the balance

Posted in career development, job search, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on January 31, 2013

This is my fourth posting to a series on careers, career development and career transitions, and on looking at work and the work experience from a wider perspective than that of the here and now job or job search (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 285-7 for Parts 1-3.)

I stated at the end of Part 3: knowing where you want to go in your career, and why this is important to you that I would discuss addressing the career challenges of “the unexpected and unplanned for, and as both opportunity and set-back” next. And I begin that with acknowledgment of what is arguably the central challenge that we face when planning and pursuing a career: complacency and simply following a day-to-day path of least resistance as we do our work and meet our current job requirements. I add that this is a trap that we can fall into when searching for a next job too and even when unemployed. In that case this means falling into a standard and automatically followed search routine – often with routine inefficiency and busy-work included.

I am going to explicitly discuss change in this posting and the unexpected and unplanned-for, but before really delving into that I need to raise the very real issue of even knowing when change is approaching.

• Routines can be very comfortable and with time can become very easy to follow, and with little real forethought or planning. They become simply what we do, and as a narrowly defined path without alternatives or allowance for them.
• And in this they can and do become traps and long-term, our own worst enemies where any real career possibilities are involved. We stop even seeing the potential for real change, and both around us and in what we have to be able to adapt to, and in our own professional practices and routines and what we do day-to-day.
• So when change becomes unavoidable and undeniable we find ourselves blindsided by its seemingly sudden consequences and even when that means change that came with what should have been advance notice.
• Downsizings come to mind here, where in retrospect the writing is almost always on the wall when something like that is going to happen. Downsizings almost always come with at least some advance warning when a business has to make fundamental changes and in personnel as well as business practices if it is to survive. Business acquisitions and mergers with their staff consolidations and headcount reductions always come with advance notice. When a business fails, its increasing weakness leading up to that gives notice of change to come. And even when downsizings are localized to specific specialty positions in a still strongly competitive business, with for example specific work formerly done in-house now set to be outsourced – that comes with warning signs too for anyone who would be let go.
• And recognition of that advance notice means that people affected by these impending changes have time before they take effect, to begin to actively start preparing for their own best new and next.

I intentionally chose what without warning, would come at most employees as a virtual end of the world event and certainly from the initial shock that a sudden and unexpected pink slip would bring. Career planning with open eyes and an awareness of what can happen will not forestall or prevent the pressures or reality of workplace change and cannot be expected to limit or prevent downsizings. But it denies change and even threateningly challenging change the power of being that end of the world event. And if this can work for a major, disruptive change-based challenge it can also work for proactively addressing more routine challenges and opportunities too. And it can work in helping to develop greater opportunity from positive change too.

• This means seeing and thinking dispassionately about what is happening and likely to happen, and even if that means change and its consequences that would not be desired – and this, in fact, is especially important then.

I have to add as I write this, that I see this posting at least in part as a “do as I say and not as I do” posting. That is because there are times when I have followed the advice of this approach but there are times when I have simply drifted along too. That can be particularly easy when you see a steady progression of very favorable performance reviews – but factors outside of your own work performance and the importance that your work has brought the business up to now do not always accurately predict forward to the business’ emerging realities.

I take it as a given that we all fall into this trap, and if not long-term at least occasionally and short-term. So I add this posting to this series to help promote career mindfulness and as a basis for facilitating learning curves.

• This does not mean never being surprised by change and its imperatives – that we did not see coming even as we realize in retrospect that we should have.
• It means recognizing change and its complications and imperatives at least somewhat more effectively and it means being able to plan and execute more proactively in our career development as a result.

So this posting is about stepping out of the shadow of being strictly and entirely reactive and into a position of being able to proactively anticipate and plan too. That, as I have been noting throughout this posting, is key to our actually taking control of our own careers and career paths, and our own professional lives.

I am going to turn this discussion around in my next installment and proceed from change imposed from the outside and responding to that, to planned change as you think thorough and carry out your own career path. Meanwhile, you can find this posting and series at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2. I have also posted extensively on jobs and careers-related topics in my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.

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