In today's economy, especially with all the downsizing and bankruptcies taking place, many professionals are well aware that they need to make some career changes. The future work world is not going to work the same way as the past. Although a new job at a new company might be what you want, that's often difficult today. But still others are recognizing the need for new skills, further information or just different work experiences. Some of these are within your control--and some clearly aren't. Adding new skills or building a better network is usually within your control. Sometimes further education is a possibility, but other times the cost and time may be tough sledding.
All of us have those occasions when we can't get off the dime and make personal change. Some professionals seem to never get off the dime. Why is change so difficult for us?
Edgar Schein of MIT has talked and written about this real problem for years. He believes that when the gap between your present situation and the hoped for new situation is too large, the more likely it'll be that you'll ignore the information.
A number of years ago one of my high school classmates, a factory supervisor at GM, wisely took a buy-out offer, and then decided that he wanted to go into sales. I was skeptical and told him that it would be a huge move from his job in manufacturing. He was adamant. He left the sales position in three months, a victim of an exaggerated gap.
What causes this? There's a lot of pain associated with unlearning. My friend had worked in the factory with employees for thirty years. He understood that culture. Knew how to work successfully with subordinates. Understood assembly line problem solving. But he also had a lot of new learning to do. He had to learn to work with clients who were not his subordinates. New product lines. Get buy-in from clients. Define client needs. Ask for business. The demands were too large, he became defensive and anxious and couldn't progress in the sales world.
So what does that teach us about growth and change. It's not going to happen when there are too many new skills and too much organizational difference. New organizational cultures pose fundamental difficulties, and new relationships can be very demanding.
Successful changes take place in small chunks. So you're after small wins, not big ones. That's an important change reality. You succeed on the multiplier effect of small wins. You'll lose if your objective is too large.