Transition and Change
As we make our way through life we make numerous personal transitions … child to teenager, teenager to adult, single to married, adult to parent, parent to grandparent, child to sibling, young to old & care needer to care giver. It seems that we fundamentally know how to successfully (to one degree or another) move from one life milestone to another without missing a beat. Like most of you, I have moved through the majority of these transitions without incident …mmm… basically.
So to recap, we move through life, we make numerous personal transitions instinctively knowing how to successfully move from one life milestone to another without missing a beat … we listen to our little voice and all is well … right ? WRONG, I have recently made another type of transition, a professional transition, which has gone about as shaky as any change has ever gone in my life to date. This is an issue for me because I am a firm believer that we must make changes to be able to grow in our personal or professional lives.
After thirteen years, I left a job as a Program Manager at ELCAN Optical Technologies, a fully integrated, global provider of precision optical and electronic solutions for Medical, Defense & Security, Industrial, Commercial and Entertainment customers. ELCAN provides custom-engineered optomechanical design and high-volume, contract manufacturing capabilities, design and engineering services to assist customers in co-engineering performance solutions, manufacturing efficiencies and superior design approaches to applied optics1 … to become an Implementation Project Manager at SOCAN (Society of Composers, Authors and Music Publishers of Canada), an organization that administers the communication and performing rights of virtually the world's entire repertoire of copyright-protected music, when it is used in Canada. SOCAN collects licence fees, and then distributes the fees as royalties to its members and affiliated performing rights organizations (PROs) worldwide. SOCAN ensures that music creators and publishers get paid for the communication and public performance of their music in Canada. To do this, SOCAN collects fees from individuals, businesses and organizations that play music in public, broadcast it, or communicate it by telecommunication.2
I feel like my head is spinning and I am completely out of sync, not because one employer is more or less sophisticated than the other, each is exceptional at what they do, but because of each organizations approach/commitment to change. One organization is all about the business (90% business vs. 10% people) with very little commitment to change, while the other prefers a more balanced approach (50% business vs. 50% people) with a broad commitment to change. I did not write this article to compare my past employer to my present employer, that would be both inappropriate and a completely different article. I wrote this article to try and help those of you making (or thinking about making) a professional transition to do so as smoothly as possible.
As such, here are 8 ways to help you make a successful transition into your new career:
1. Take it easy. Many people try too hard during the first weeks. Everyone wants to impress their new boss and coworkers. And people will be impressed… if you’re human, compassionate and listen to them. Rather than making every effort to appear to be a "Super Employee"... relax. Anxiety can be the cause of many new job maladjustments.
2. Figure out who the key players of the organization are. Sometimes this is overlooked. People tend to think in terms of formal chains-of-command that have a direct influence on the company. However, informal communities within the company often carry more influence than the formal networks. There are always several people in the office who are "in the know". Your success may lie in finding out which ones know so much and which ones know someone or know who to influence.
3. Avoid the trap of the gossip mill. Many people look forward to new employees arriving. After all, that means there’s a new ear who hasn’t heard all the old stories yet. Decide, before your new position starts, that you will be cordial but will not allow yourself to be pulled into that fold. By heading such behaviour off at the pass, you’re avoiding becoming involved in something you could later regret.
4. Remember not everyone will like you. It’s impractical to think that everyone at your new company will like you. Unfortunately, there are many people who don’t care for a new employee simply because he or she is new. If you find yourself facing an unsupportive co-worker, ignore it if possible. By not allowing yourself to be swayed by unprofessional behaviour, you might actually win the person over.
5. Create partnerships. Successful leaders from a variety of industries have one thing in common- they are wonderful networking gurus. They get to know people very quickly and engage them in their activities. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. People will provide you with ideas and suggestions that you have not even thought of, and that’s how relationships begin to bloom.
6. Use all your energy to focus on the right things. Before beginning a new position, make a plan of what you hope to accomplish. Perhaps you want to lead large projects or earn two promotions during your first year. Whatever your goals, make sure every ounce of your efforts & focus are somehow related to achieving them.
7. You have to become visible in your first few months. People need to know who you are and why you were hired. Decide, right from the beginning, how you would like to be perceived. Next, take steps to help yourself become known by the brand you’ve chosen. Perhaps you can participate in meetings or luncheons, write an article for the company newsletter or send out emails. Whichever manner you choose, visibility will help you become known.
8. Take extremely good care of yourself. I know... most people are so busy during the beginning phases of a new job that they don’t consider self-care as a priority. However, the stress of a new position can quickly take over. During this transition be sure to take every opportunity to care for you! You’ll want to be perceived as a well-rounded person that enjoys success on the job, and off.3
Even though I don’t feel that my first major professional transition started out with my best foot forward (it will get better, as my little voice and I learn about change together) … it is still one of the best decisions I EVER made for the enhancement of my personal and professional development.
Understand, however, that this type of growth is a difficult and wonderful progression ... Whether or not change is also growth will depend on us; life is not what happens to us but what we do with what happens to us - we must think and choose, and the shape of our lives ultimately depends on that thinking and choosing; John Henry Newman's observation must be understood in the light of the foregoing: "To grow is to change. To grow much is to have changed much."
One of my favourite motivation teachers, John Maxwell, has provided two excellent pieces of advice regarding personal growth and change. The first one is “growth is not AUTOMATIC; to grow you will have to work”. The following are seven statements from John Maxwell about personal growth ...
1. Growth is not automatic. Paul Harvey said it best: "You can tell you're on the road to success; it's uphill all the way." You can't coast uphill. Growth doesn't happen by itself; it requires an active investment of time.
Earl Nightengale said, "If you'll spend one hour a day, every day for five years on a given subject, within five years you'll become an expert on that subject."
2. Growth is the great separator between those who succeed and those who do not. When I see a person beginning to separate themselves from the pack, it's almost always an indication of personal growth. As Bennis & Nanus say, "It is the capacity to develop and improve their skills that distinguishes leaders from followers."
3. Growth takes time, and only time can reveal certain lessons to us. We've all heard, "Experience is the best teacher," but in my opinion, it never has been and never will be. Evaluated experience is the best teacher. Reflective thinking is required to turn experience into insight. If you're a young Leadership Wire subscriber (http://www.maximumimpact.com/) without a wealth of personal experience, borrow the experience. Ask questions, listen, and learn from a successful leader who has gone before you.
4. The more we grow, the more we know we need to grow. In other words, when you start developing and growing, instead of feeling wise, you'll be struck by how much you don't know. Alvin Toffler, in Future Shock, once observed, "The illiterate of the future are not those who cannot read or write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn."
5. Growth equals change. To develop, we must step away from comfort and welcome fresh and challenging experiences. Growth demands a temporary surrender of security. It may mean giving up familiar but limiting patterns, safe but unrewarding work, values no longer believed in, and relationships that have lost their meaning.
6. Growth inside fuels growth outside. The highest reward of our toil is not what we get for it, but what we become with it.
7. Choose to grow in the areas of your strengths, not in the areas of your weakness. There are only four things I do well, just four, and I focus exclusively on them. I lead, communicate, create, and network. That's it. I spend all of my time on one of those four strength zones. The secret of success lies in peoples’ ability to discover their strengths and to organize their lives so that these strengths can be applied.
Benjamin Franklin personifies the spirit of inventiveness of the modern world. His accomplishments read like an almanac of greatness:
Yet for all of his achievements, the epitaph that Franklin wrote for himself simply reads, "Here lies the body of Ben Franklin, printer."
In honoring his humble roots as a printer's apprentice, Benjamin Franklin reveals the mystery to his greatness. It was in the world of printing where Franklin was first exposed to new books, writers, and ideas. His fame, accomplishments, and accolades would never have been possible without the love of learning and habits of growth imprinted in his life during his early days as a printer.4
The second piece of advice from John Maxwell is “the secret of SUCCESS is DETERMINED by your DAILY AGENDA”. Maxwell narrows down the list of critical areas for success to twelve items that he calls the "Daily Dozen":
1. ELCAN: www.elcan.com
2. SOCAN: www.socan.ca
3. 8 Ways to Successfully Transition into Your new Job: http://us.getronicsjobs.com/interview/8waystosuccessfullytransition.shtml
4. Personal Growth: http://www.injoy.com/newsletters/leadership/content/issues/9_3/default.htm
5. Success: http://www.xanga.com/Exhorter/566142900/success.html
Carpe Diem - (English translation – Seize the Day [Opportunity])
Many more articles in Personal Development in The CEO Refresher Archives