When change becomes the new normal
2020 may be remembered as the year many of us experienced the most significant life changes ever. Although we had an unassuming start to the new year, it soon took off in a direction that none of us would have imagined. We continue to use the term “unprecedented,” and rightly so. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way we do business, travel, work, shop, socialize and communicate. We’re not on the other side of this yet, and our success in meeting the challenges we face every day will affect us for years to come. Change has become a constant, and it is never ending.
In addition to the deadly disease that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives around the globe, there have been major hurricanes, a surge of deadly fires and heightened civil unrest across the United States. Each event prompts a new response. So many issues bleed into others that it is hard to determine the root cause behind the current unpredictability of things that we formerly considered as regular as rain in the Pacific Northwest. Each day brings more process changes, scheduling adjustments and conflicts to address. For those of you who thrive on routine, it may feel like the ground has fallen away beneath you.
…the new normal … expect more change.
No one is really clear about much right now because many organizations are dealing with formerly untraversed territory. Processes remain unclear because we’re still trying to adapt to the new normal. And the new normal hasn’t yet proven to be anything other than to expect more change. Behind everything we see in the workplace, budgets are changing minute by minute. Job descriptions and responsibilities are adapting to support those changes. Teams are being reformed. The pace has picked up, and it’s critical to be able to keep up. Age doesn’t have to be a deterrent to success, so don’t let it. Older should mean wiser, so make sure you step up and don’t lag behind. The key traits that will allow you survive and thrive through this difficult time are resiliency, adaptability and flexibility. And although we’ve heard the same thing for years, now more than ever, the soft skills to master are leadership, interpersonal communication and problem solving. You’ve got to be able to show that you can find your way out of a paper bag, figure out what needs to happen next and influence people enough to get them to move off the dime in a hurry.
Times of intense change lead to new beginnings. They provide new opportunities and the impetus for heading in a new direction if that has been a move you have contemplated for a while. If you are currently unemployed or planning to make a change, it may be more important to demonstrate how you have adapted and overcome difficult challenges than to possess direct experience in a particular field. New viewpoints and new approaches are welcome during times when the status quo has stopped working. You are more likely to be able to leverage broad problem-solving skills during this extraordinary time and come into an interview better equipped than a candidate with deeper experience as long as you are able to relate the relevancy of your examples to the potential employer’s needs.
But a career change is just that — another change. It requires a different approach than you may have taken in the past to ensure that your value in this new field/direction is appreciated. Taking a passive approach to your job search by throwing resumes at every position that sounds interesting will be unlikely to lead to success. You will be required to speak with a decision maker and will need to sound well informed. The effort you put into an active search will set you up for success. Take the time to research your desired goal and talk to people in the field so that you thoroughly understand their challenges before you start competing for something new. More importantly, enlisting the assistance and endorsement of someone already in the industry is much more likely to prompt the hiring manager to take a look at someone with a different background. Relying on a database to spit you out into view of a human screener with limited experience to recognize your value may prevent you from being considered at all. Automation has improved many things, but the one thing it can’t change is a real, live, trusted source communicating the right information in the right way to the right person at the right time. That conversation may take place via Zoom instead of across a desk, but it is still more valuable than staying unknown to the hiring manager.
Over the past several months, we have learned to look for new ways to do everything. Our lives have been dramatically changed and our routines altered. Our resiliency will allow us to come back, and it ensures that work will carry on around the world. With all of this, the nature of change opens up new possibilities, and true leaders will recognize reasons to try new approaches.
If you are still sorting through this as it relates to your career, you can reach out to your network to learn how others are coping and listen for their pain points. Look for solutions to the problems that you, your organization or the organization you are pursuing face. Times of change can be your opportunity to shine. It’s a good time to apply the same problem-solving skills you have used to get you this far, whether you are choosing to ride out the storm with your current employer or decide to pursue a new career: adapt, stay flexible and don’t give up.
Have you been considering a career change or already made one during these unprecedented times? Please describe the issues that are holding you back or describe the elements that have contributed to your success in your approach to a new endeavor.