Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Is Change Working for You?

Change is exhausting.

Even when you welcome change and you know it is for the best, keeping up with the demands of change can simply sap you dry.

I am still trying to catch up with myself after a move just 5 blocks up the street. After all, we are such creatures of habit. Relearning the most routine things, like going straight instead of turning right at a corner or reaching to the left instead of to the right for the bathroom light switch, can use up energy reserves.

It is no surprise that moving is one of the most stressful things you can do. It ranks high on the list along with getting a divorce or starting a new job. Honestly, I don't want to admit how many times I mindlessly have driven to my old house.

Do you feel my pain?

In reality, the times are changing in far bigger ways than my simple change of address. And many of it can be exhilarating, once you get past the fear associated with change, which is the exhausting part!

For starters, we are now in a knowledge economy where intellectual skill is the new business currency and knowledge workers can live and perform their work anywhere and on their own schedules.

Then thanks to the seemingly never-ending recession, there is a whole new population segment of skillful people falling on hard times but as a result they have gained perspective and are choosing to move forward in a different way.

Don't forget there is a whole new melting pot brewing fueled by the exploding diversity in the US, leaving the Anglo population in a minority position in some key urban centers.

Not to mention how the Internet has changed everything in our lives from how we shop and work to how we network, socialize and find the love of our lives.

Never ending ch-ch-ch-changes. And we are exhausted... yet excited!

I was reminded of all of these changes (and more) this week when I went to hear Stephen L. Klineberg speak at an event hosted by the Greater Houston Partnership.

He is professor of sociology at Rice University and is the founding director of the annual Kinder Houston Area Survey. He presented the findings of this research study, now in its 30th year of tracking demographic and economic changes in the Houston Area.

I found the findings remarkable and validating.

But it was clear. Changing with the times is essential for achieving success in the 21st century. It is not going to be a different world, it is already a different world than the one you grew up in.

Here are some key implications you will need to keep in mind as you go forward in order to make change work for you.

1. Don't rely on the old model of a 9-5 job and keeping that job till you retire. I thought this model was dead when I started my career in the 80's, but instead it was on its last legs. Now, this model is officially a thing of the past. More and more people will be working for multiple companies during their lifetimes than ever before.

Increasingly knowledge workers will offer services on their own schedules and attract their buyers on their own terms.

If you have lost your job recently, it is worth your time and effort figuring out what your unique offering is and learning how to market this offering with a professional presence online rather than simply "pounding the pavement." Knowledge workers need to develop a voice and a unique perspective. In a knowledge economy employers will increasingly be looking for thought leadership.

If you are still working within the old model, don't put your head in the sand! Get out and make connections in your field, create a following and have a professional voice and presence online. Be one step ahead.

2. Quality of life has never been more important. Both in terms of the cities we live in (remember knowledge workers can live anywhere) and also in terms of how we work.

If you have lost your job recently, you need to be reevaluating what's important to you. Need more time with the kids? Don't want to travel 3 weeks a month? Need to work from home 1 day a week? Now is the time to get clear on your "must haves" and "non-negotiables". Knowledge workers are clear on their priorities and are proactive in custom-making their work to bring out the best they have to offer their customers and employers.

Even if you haven't lost your job, it is probably a good time to get clear on these things. Knowledge workers create work that works for them and adds value every step of the way.

Flexible schedules are no longer a nice-to-have, but will quickly become a must-have for employers to attract the best in the future.

3. If you aren't the prototypical leader in your company or organization, do not get discouraged! Continue to get clear on your personal vision, values and strengths and you will persevere.

The statistics are clear, the future leaders of tomorrow won't be who they are today. As an example, in Houston today 50% of all people ages 18-24 are Hispanic! This exploding trend also has implications to employers who need to take stock and evaluate if they are effectively developing and mentoring a diverse group of people for leadership.

Yes,our times have most definitely changed and  they will continue to change.  But turn your exhaustion into exhilaration by mastering a few new tricks and make change work for you! 

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