How you respond in times of change and uncertainty can define you. This is when people’s true colours are revealed – in both personal and professional settings. It is inevitable that every professional will experience times of change and uncertainty during their career. Especially in professional services, particularly in recent years, it seems a month can’t go by without another major announcement.
This is affecting every sector we work with: whether it’s the Big 4 scooping up consultancies and new specialisms; global engineering firms with aggressive acquisition based growth plans; or the frenetic pace of mergers, combinations and globalisation in the legal sector.
It’s become more common than ever for myself, Graham and Nanik to receive calls from the market like “My firm is downsizing/merging/dissolving/combining – what do I do….?”
This article isn’t the place to give the one-on-one advice required to answer everyone’s questions, each person’s journey and situation are unique. However, here is some key advice we find ourselves giving time and time again that I thought would be useful to share.
(1) Accept that it can’t always be about you
Sometimes this can be hard to hear, especially for ambitious people. However, when you commit to an organisation, there will be periods where you are getting more out of the relationship than your employer (learning and development, mentorship, exciting new opportunities and projects) and there will be periods where your organisation needs you to return the favour and put them first. These times of change often mean that there can be several months of uncertainty about the exact direction of your career path and the work you are doing is driven more by business need than your preference.
(2) Be a chameleon
Those that not only survive but thrive in times of change are those who can be a ‘chameleon’ and turn their skills to whatever the business requires of them. This is not just a skill but also an attitude. New reporting line? New colleagues integrating into your team? New aspects to your role? Our advice is take on the challenge with positivity and determination to make it work; and know that working for a business and delivering though periods of change is an important aspect of career development.
(3) Assess your options – only jump if it’s right
There will be times where it is appropriate to be looking at your options in the market – perhaps your role is not safe, or, having been with the business for several years it is a good time for you to leave. As to if you should stick it out or make a move will ultimately be case by case – and we are very happy to have that discussion one-on-one. However, it’s important as part of this decision to realise that to build a credible career and be attractive to future employers, you don’t want to move firm every time it becomes tough or there are periods of change. You don’t want a future potential employer to wonder – will they leave here at the first hurdle too?
(4) Take time to regroup and recover
If you find yourself without a chair when the music stops, you need to give yourself time out to build up confidence and properly assess what next. Don’t carry the same adrenalin and momentum of leaving your job up into your job search by sending out coffee requests to everyone you’ve ever worked with before you’ve got a strategy, positioning and message right. You won’t be presenting yourself in your best light and you may close yourself off from opportunity that otherwise may have been there in a couple of months. I understand personal circumstances don’t always make an extensive break possible but carve out what you can to take a break – apart from anything else, you probably deserve it! Also, don’t be afraid to look at contracts and interim work rather than jumping into the next big career move right away. This can be a great strategy as part of assessing what next and diversifying your experience.
(5) Be remembered for your professional and quality approach
If you hadn’t worked it out already, it’s a small market. Even if you know a redundancy is coming (at a senior level maybe you’re even shaping your own redundancy) or if you’ve made the call you need to start looking – commit to it and take pride in delivering your very best professional self. You will be remembered for it, you’d be surprised how often it comes up in reference checks how you delivered (or didn’t) right up until the end. And you never know where your colleagues might end up…
(6) See the opportunity!
Whatever your journey and wherever it leads you, remember that change leads to opportunity and, even though it may be hard, try to stay focused on the new doors that will open to you in the next season.
Talk to us for more advice on how to navigate change in your career.