As a change consultant with a reputation that means I never worry about where my next contract is coming from, I can honestly say most career advice is utter nonsense.
Soulless networking and changing your CV for every application miss a vital part of the puzzle, and mean you end up miserable in a job that isn’t a good fit, or frustrated in a role where you’re only using a small percentage of your talents and capabilities.
As Change Makers, we spend a lot of time at work and it’s more important than ever we’re in roles that can make a genuine impact. Ditch the stale old career advice and instead adopt a values-based approach so you can find a new role you genuinely love.
When searching for a new role, bring your whole self and be one-hundred percent YOU.
I learned this lesson the hard way. When I was growing up I desperately wanted to become a doctor. I was motivated and hard-working and when the time came to apply for medical schools, I gave my all to the applications. I was thrilled when all five universities I applied to invited me to interview. I turned up and delivered my perfectly prepared answers saying exactly I thought the panellists wanted to hear. What I failed to do was express anything about the real me. I was devastated when I got zero offers and realised that I had managed to trash my dream by not being myself.
Authenticity is vulnerable, particularly when you're being authentic from the first second with someone you've never met. But when it comes to taking steps in our careers and lives, we have to be ruthlessly authentic. When you’re looking for roles, contracts and opportunities in change management, it’s not only about who wants you, it’s about you understanding where you’re the best fit.
I once worked with an incredible Change Maker who is passionate about the environment. She goes on marches, recycles everything and genuinely lives her commitment to environmentalism. Yet one day she told me she was considering working for a huge global oil and gas company! Yes, there was a small chance she could affect change from the inside if she took the job - but she would have been miserable! She quickly realised how out-of-alignment the job was and found something she was far better suited to.
The truth is that if you fail to bring your full self to the application process and interview, you’re unlikely to show up particularly well. I don’t suggest oversharing, but if you hide a core aspect of who you are in order to “fit in”, I guarantee you’ll be unhappy and nowhere near as effective as you have the potential to be.
In the change and transformation world, it’s pointless to pretend that every project you touched turned to gold, because nobody will believe you.
If you can honestly say that every change project you’ve worked on has been a success, you haven't been challenging enough about the change you're making. Change simply doesn’t always work. So instead of showing a snapshot of a smooth journey, be honest about the bumps in the road you encountered and show your ability to navigate and learn from them.
Any potential employers you meet will believe that change is possible, but know they need to hire in expertise to get them there. It’s easy to do ‘smoke and mirrors’ in change, but true Change Makers aren’t about that. Be transparent in everything from CVs to interviews and the right company for you will appreciate your ability to learn from your experiences.
In change management, nothing ever goes from A to B smoothly. It’s vital to understand why things fail so you can learn how to work through obstacles.
You need to be able to reflect that aspect of change when you go out for new jobs.
We want to focus on lessons learned and how we implement and change what we did on a future project.
Maybe on a past project you had an issue you overcame, how did you make sure on the next project you did not fall into that trap.
Every single time you're learning and growing - that’s what tells your potential employers that you learned the lessons. There's no negativity in learning from bumps and bringing to them your understanding and clarity of how they can be undertaking change.
If you can show you're authentic, transparent with problems and you’ve learned from the problem they know they're getting someone who is getting better every project, They know that in the time with their company you’re going to get better and better because you're always building on your knowledge.
That’s not to say you only have to learn from your own mistakes. In change management we see mistakes happening all the time and if as a community of Change Makers we can learn from each other, we can supercharge our abilities to alter how we do business so we are far more successful and sustainable.
This is a really important tip if you’ve been in change for a while and know you’re good at what you do.
When you’re considering new change projects or contracts (either internal opportunities inside a company you already know, or brand new external roles) it can be tempting to assume you know best.
Beware falling into the “expert” trap! You are NOT the saviour of this project. Yes, your methodologies may be brilliant and perhaps you don’t think much of their chosen structure… but be respectful of the journey they have been on to get to here.
When you steam in full of confidence and are tempted to tell them all how wrong they are and how right you are, instead be curious. Listen to the diversity of opinion on offer. Don’t write them off as a bunch of losers but instead seek to understand how they arrived here. Employers aren’t looking for saviours so don’t try to fight a losing battle.
What do you think? Which one of these values is most important when you’re looking for a new role or project in change management? If you like this, share it with other Change Makers and join the mailing list for more expert insights: https://app.oakwoodmanagementconsulting.com/join-the-oakwood-family
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