Change. It’s a word that carries a lot of connotations these days, many of them political. And while we can certainly learn a lot about change in the context of politics (Change is not instantaneous! Change can’t happen on campaign slogans and good vibes alone! Change is actually kinda hard to achieve sometimes!), I’m going to focus on change that affects all of us on a much more intimate (hubba hubba) level—professional change.
A good friend shared this blog by Eklund Consulting with me recently, and it was seriously one of the raddest, most feel-good things I’ve read in a long time. That may sound a little weird since the thesis is essentially “change blows,” but don’t let the downer message fool you. If you look at it the right way, the main point of the blog is actually a much more powerful upper than ten cups of coffee or [insert illicit substance here] could ever be: change is hard.
Landing my first full-time job after a year of post-graduation underemployment was overall a very positive thing—especially financially. Unfortunately the honeymoon phase didn’t last forever, and after a while it became clear that it really wasn’t the job for me. Coming to that understanding was difficult, and learning how to be open about it was even trickier. In this economic climate there’s an immense amount of pressure to be thankful for any type of employment, and there’s a very real stigma against those who find themselves unsatisfied and unhappy despite their financial security.
Warranted or not, the desire for professional upheaval will invariably strike many of us at one point or another. So when you’re staring down the barrel at change, what do you need to know?
Once more: change is hard.
There’s no such thing as a smooth transition. There will be mistakes, misunderstandings, and awkward small talk. Just because change is “inevitable” or “constant” doesn’t mean going with the flow is as easy as flipping a switch. Training at a new job isn’t easy…nor is coming to the realization that it’s time to look for something different.
You don’t have to be positive.
The process of change will probably suck. However, the process of change will definitely suck less if you openly anticipate all its suckiness.
A new job won’t fix everything.
For all the wonderful things that come with getting a new job, there are always downsides. Sometimes, and let’s be honest here, the negatives even outweigh the positives. But because we condition ourselves to believe that “if I could just get (blank) job, everything would be perfect!” we tend to lose sight of the fact that there is no such thing as a magic wand. No job can fix all the problems in your life and no professional situation will ever be one hundred percent magnificent one hundred percent of the time.
There’s no need to be ashamed.
Although the “change is hard” mantra is already a lot to digest, I will take it one step further by suggesting that because change is so hard, we should learn to talk about it differently than we currently do. Just as there should be no shame in saying “I haven’t found a job yet,” there should be no shame in saying “I have found a job, but it isn’t exactly what I hoped it would be.” Only by accepting the fact that our professional lives aren’t perfect can we learn from them, and only by embracing the reality that change might kind of blow can we not be completely bowled over when it actually does.
You can give yourself a break.
To shamelessly paraphrase the YNPN LiFe LaB presentation with Beth Wallace from a few weeks ago, the sooner we realize that life isn’t an exponentially positive path towards ultimate enlightenment and accept that it’s actually a whole lot of ups and downs and relearning old lessons, the sooner we’ll all just give ourselves a break, get over it, and keep on keepin’ on.
Finding the ever-elusive “dream job” is almost always a long, challenging process. Many people may never make it there. But by redefining our “dream,” and readjusting our outlook on the journey, we may just end up reaching something better instead.