This column is part of Globe Careers’ new Leadership Lab series, where executives and leadership experts share their views and advice about the leadership and management issues of today. There will be a new column every weekday. Find all Leadership Lab stories at tgam.ca/leadershiplab
Over the past decade, we’ve all witnessed the end of the world of work as we know it.
Secure, full-time jobs are scarce, and we’ve transitioned into a labour economy of instability, outsourcing, part-time and contract work. Fuelled by a convergence of factors, from globalization to recession to new technology, the expression “the only constant is change” has never been more true.
Almost everyone I know, including myself, has been affected by this. I have friends who have changed careers, downsized, become consultants and freelancers, gone back to school, retooled their career paths, or suffered from depression because they could no longer find their place.
Here are some tips for managing change successfully that I have picked up from those who have thrived in the new environment, and from my own experience with multiple job and career changes.
Resistance to change will only make you miserable. It’s strange that as humans we are not wired to accept change more readily – we yearn for permanency and stability in an impermanent world. Yet, we have no choice but to embark on a difficult path of not only embracing change, but of expecting and loving it.
Find certainty within
Where can we find certainty when the ground we stand on is constantly shifting? Often, a career change brings a lesson about the futility of relying on outside circumstances, people or the economy, to deliver iron-clad certainty for us. We all must find a place of certainty somewhere within ourselves, and learn to turn what happens to us into something positive. This is difficult, since we are predominantly fear-driven creatures, but developing inner reliance and grit is a must for the new world. Fear will hold us back – banishing it and replacing it with certainty will open new doors.
Let go of the past
It’s incredible how much we all hang onto the past – our past successes and roles – and mourn the loss of something we once had. Yet, until we really let go, nothing new can appear because there simply isn’t a space in our heads and hearts. Change calls for the shedding of old identities and assumptions.
During times of change and uncertainty, it’s important to seed as many new paths as possible. It’s a time to be inventive and open yourself up to unorthodox ideas, becoming an active participant in what will come next. You must be willing to step off the well-trodden path, you must see this as a process of discovery for some new or different you. Talk to as many people as you can, discuss possibilities, draft a new business plan, imagine a new role, take a course, and think of how you can help others. This is an essential, creative, action-oriented process.
Learn to learn
Continuous learning is the best insurance against loss of work and income. No one is responsible for increasing your skills and knowledge other than you – this is your guarantee that you will continue to be marketable. Never has this been truer than now, when the competitive strength of an organization rests on its ability to remove barriers to learning for its employees and teams, and to develop new skills. Learning to learn is the most competitively relevant skill for today’s world, bar none, and it applies equally to organizations and individuals. Keep learning and continually reposition what you offer – you need to keep your edge up.
Pivot if needed
Imagine what you can do with the skills, passions and interests you have. You need to separate them from any specific industry and look at them generically. We all box ourselves in at some point because of our innate complacency. By doing this we actually disconnect from our potential. Why not take a page from successful startups? it’s often through experimentation and failure that they stumble upon what actually works.
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