Change is constant. Here's how you can you strengthen your ability to handle it.
Change is a fact of life … and work, to a certain extent. As a 10-year marketing professional, I know this much to be true: Change is constant. Marketing is no different from many industries and workplaces in this way. Consider healthcare, education, technology, manufacturing and entertainment, to name a handful - coping with change is a must.
On change, Sanjay Dholakia, CMO of marketing-automation software company Marketo, likes to say that marketing has changed more in the last 5 years than the last 500, and will change even more in the next 5.
When I was interviewing to work at my current company, I was told something I'll never forget:
“If you're not comfortable in a fast-paced environment, you probably shouldn't be working here; the one thing you can expect every day is change.”
10 years later, I can calmly handle any curveball with grace, thanks to prolonged exposure to a dynamic atmosphere. My day-to-day experiences have taught me how to deal with change properly. I'm not fazed by it.
So, how can you strengthen your ability to handle—even embrace—workplace and career change?
By being curious about what happens both inside and outside your building, across and beyond the organization, you can foster a healthy understanding of where change might/should come from. The best way to get this knowledge internally is to ask more questions. Talk to as many people as you can about their day-to-day work, throughout your entire organization. Survey a range of opinions to get a complete picture of what people might be actively striving to change or even just considering the potential sources where change could emerge. You'll want to be asking the right questions. For more on how to ask the right questions, see How to Sharpen Your Critical-Thinking Skills.
Continue your education.
Always be learning, which can include taking continuing education classes. I'm privileged in my job to learn something new every day. You should strive for the same. I try to take every opportunity I can to assimilate new knowledge with previous information and process the parallels or contradictions for a better grasp and broader awareness. Whether from a one-to-one conversation with a colleague, company training, online webinar, or professional association meeting, I'm always looking for a new perspective on what I do and all the terrific things other marketers are doing with new data, technology, tricks and methods for telling good old-fashioned stories.
As a rule, you want to be continually challenging and adapting old ways of thinking while pushing yourself just beyond your comfort zone. This kind of consistent evaluation and reevaluation ensures your growth in the face of change.
Cultivate a vision.
In order to successfully learn how to deal with change, you need to know where you're going. What's the organizational goal? What are your personal goals? How do they fit together? What does raging success look like for your fans and your business? Vision is the mechanism to tie all these things together. If you know the vision, then you can accurately gauge the changes needed to get there and start doing more of the things that support the vision while ceasing those that hurt it. Alternatively, you can change the goal in light of the present circumstances if it becomes obsolete or inappropriate due to a market shift or major business pivot.
Anticipate future trends.
You don't have to be a futurist, but you at least want to be tuned in to what the experts are predicting about your industry. This knowledge can both help you make your own career pivot and protect your employer from a competitive or market ambush. Some ways to pick up on forecasts are:
Reading business news, trade journals, blog posts, reports, books and other authoritative industry publications.
Listening to podcasts and webinars.
Attending seminars or conferences.
Networking (the old-fashioned in-person kind AND the virtual kind via LinkedIn).
By being proactive, you—and potentially your organization—can be out in front of the next big change wave when it hits, not wiped out by it. And weathering big storms of change is much harder when you don't see them coming. You risk more potential damage when you're unprepared to cope with change, hence the need for keeping a finger on the industry pulse.
Have an “internal locus of control.”
As cognitive psychologists would tell you, having an internal locus of control, where you take responsibility for your reaction to a given circumstance, as opposed to blaming outside factors (an external locus of control), is all-important. For example, when another person gets your coveted promotion or you lose a major customer, the person with an internal locus of control says, “What can I do better to prevent this from happening in the future or generally improve myself or my situation?” The person with the external locus of control says, “I envy that person; the promotion should have been mine;” or, “It's not my fault that customer doesn't like us. There's nothing I could have done differently.” The 'internal' person accepts responsibility to learn and grow from challenging circumstances. The 'external' person is resentful and dismissive, blames others, and is quick to deflect responsibility.
You want to have the internal locus of control in order to learn how to deal with change in the healthiest manner.
Remember: it ain't easy.
Change is not always easy … but it's not all bad, either. Acknowledging the occasional pain while having the right lens on the inevitable twists and turns can lead to a more enduring, happier work life. Remember, change is a fact, and welcoming the future with gusto is the appropriate response.
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