Making change your new comfort (for a change)

This is my horoscope for the month of February 2008 – the month that I resigned from my job as a national sales and marketing manager to write full-time – I thought it would be worth keeping.

“SCORPIO Your ruler Pluto is introducing a new cycle into your life, which can only take place every 240 years. You can expect a whole new world of connections to open up this year, with early signs this month.” (from Vogue)

Did you get that?  “A new cycle…which can only take place every 240 years.” That explains it all.

Not that I believe astrology is the be all and end all, but it seems to be the only place where I can find an explanation for the amount of change that’s taking place all around me.

And I’m not talking about the type of change that makes the headlines – like the ‘rapid’ change in technology and medical innovation. I’m talking about those quiet spots where I did not expect to see change in a million years.  I’m talking about those people who seemed to have job endurance and much higher career stamina than I do – and because of it, it looked like they were going to stay in their jobs and careers for much longer than they have. 

There’s the entrepreneur who set up an entire production plant 10 years ago to manufacture disposable medical products.  He recently sold it and is now looking for a change. Last time we spoke, he didn’t know exactly what he was going to do.  Understand that this is someone who supposedly had his life mapped out as an industrialist. He was not supposed to change.  Then there’s the well-paid brand manager at an FMCG – with an MBA from a top school under his belt – who quit his job to work in a government agency.  He, who had a ‘bright career’ ahead of him in the corporate world, was not supposed to change either.  Then there’s this executive in the finance sector who developed his career at an international level who recently quit to do…he doesn’t know what yet, but he’s sure that he wants a change.  And my favourite one of all is the doctor who studied and worked for years to become an oncologist and gave it up to become a public speaker.  I mean, come on, she had what a lot of people see as a noble job, saving lives. Nope, that was not enough for her. She too needed a change.

Why am I so surprised? And maybe you’re not? Because until very recently I have been considered by my network of friends (check it out on facebook) as a hopeless job hopper.  With 12 jobs and two careers (and a 3rd one emerging) already under my belt in a decade, I can’t necessarily disagree that I’ve hopped around. But I’d like to think that I’m far from hopeless.  

Being that in the past 5 years the three times that I’ve switched jobs, I’ve increased my salary by 30% (that’s a 30% pay rise every 14 months) and each time I’ve been promoted to positions with higher responsibility, I like to consider myself a strategic job hopper. 

Because I believe in sharing the wealth, below I share with you my top guiding principles as a strategic job hopper:

  1. Work with an employer, not for them.  Admittedly this is merely a play on words, but believing that as an employee I work with an employer not for them, has been the lynchpin of my career.  This approach to work is what allows me to feel that I’m in control of my career and the master and commander of my own ship.  I see resigning from a job a naturally occurring change of course, not an underhanded ship jump.
  2. Have a plan:  Having dreams of your own and a solid plan to make them happen places you in the seat of power of your career. Without either one, you run the risk of being at the mercy of an employer’s agenda and of wasting your life working to help others reach their goals. Personally, for the past ten years I’ve planned my life in 5-year chunks.  I’ve found that this time-frame is just right for my needs.  It’s long enough to give me the vision that I need in order to stay on track and it’s not too long as to make me feel over-committed.
  3. Focus on transferable skills:  It breaks my heart every time that someone says to me: “I want to change but this is all I know.”  I feel like yelling to them: “Wake up!”  Unless you’re planning on doing something as specialized as brain surgery – and even then – there is no such thing as starting from scratch.  The world does not work that way.  If you look and think hard enough, you’ll be able to identify skills that you already have that carry over to other jobs, professions, companies, industries.  I’ve worked in the fashion, restaurant, medical, finance/insurance, and IT industries in as many roles, and I have always found that a big chunk of my experience and skills carry over.  Knowing that regardless of what I choose to do I’m never starting from scratch is in large part what has given me the cojones* to change jobs and careers as many times as I have.
  4. Be open and able to learn quickly:  Learning is an inevitable part of the change process. Heck, even if you stay at your current job you need to learn new things.  Of course the requirement to learn increases significantly when you change jobs (and companies) and yet again when you change industries and even more if you change careers.  I’ve done all of those in the past decade and I can tell you that the steepest climb takes place during the first three months. I’m not exactly sure why, but almost on the dot, like clockwork, things begin to feel better at the end of month 3, and then again at month 6. What this means is if you can endure 3 months, max 6 months, of intense brain stimulation, you’ll make it over the hill.  Trust me.  And by the way, I’ve found that sleeping 8 hours every night usually helps my brain take it all in during those times when it’s being bombarded with new information.
  5. Be open to learning from mistakes:  Mistakophobia (intense fear of mistakes) is up there with cancer as one of the worse afflictions in our society.  It’s those who are afraid of making mistakes who never learn and consequently never grow.  It’s those same people – the mistakophobic – who tend not to change. The reality is that when you step out of your comfort zone, the risk of making mistakes increases.  It follows, that to be able to change, a healthy attitude to making mistakes will go a long way.  Being able to accept your mistakes, learn from them and get on with things quickly is crucial.  The key is to be able to recognize what went wrong – with the sole purpose of preventing the mistake from happening again – and to be able to quickly get back on the bike again.
  6. Have an open mind: It’s vital that you’re able to accept that when you change courses, things may feel uncomfortable at first. Trust me, given time (and I mean 6 months tops), things will feel more comfortable. In the mean time, keep it lite. Nothing is the end of the world. Not even getting fired from a new-found job because in my book that would be an opportunity to learn something new.

I say, keep the change, the lessons and the experiences coming!

What do you have to say?

*cojones: Spanish slang meaning to have courage, chutzpah or guts


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