Every management consultant in the world talks openly about change. Change in business, change in your life, change in your career. But change, in my opinion, isn’t as important a concept as is transformation. Change feels unwanted, doesn’t it? We don’t like change, we don’t like the idea of change shaking up our lives or our careers. Change feels scary. But when someone says the word transformation, even in place of the word change, our entire mindset changes. The word transformation feels very “Oprah”, if you will. It feels strong, it feels empowered, it feels bigger than ourselves and welcomed.
We wrote in “Knowing When It’s Time to Quit Your Job” that the average American changes jobs every 4.4 years. In a different direction, though, Pew Research Centers tells us that a majority of Americans have spent their entire life living in the same state. Therefore, it’s safe for us to assume that most of our change…ahem….transformation in our lives will come because of our jobs, not because of our locations. So the question then becomes, how do I transform myself in my career.
First, why is it important to transform yourself in your career:
- Seeing transformation as a positive thing means looking at your career with an eye for opportunity rather than pessimism. It’s easy to look at your job, the job above you, and think, “There’s no opportunity for advancement here because of A, B, or C.” When in fact, you may see that looking onto your career with opportunity could mean leaving open an option to create your own job and get the promotion you wished for.
- Just climbing the ladder means you’re growing, but are you really transforming. Be willing to step off of the traditional ladder to truly transform. Transformation means becoming something bigger and better than you could ever be normally. You can’t get to transformation from the rungs of your ladder.
- Transformation breeds followers. When people around you see you transforming and embracing transformation, they will want to learn more, and they will follow. Be the leader who teaches others it’s ok to transform.
Next, what are the steps you should take to transform your career:
- Look for and recruit your transformation team. When I moved to Chicago, knowing I was about to enter a huge transformation in my life, I reached out to alumni from my university who lived in Chicago, a few fundraisers whose careers I respected, and I asked them for help in crafting my goals. I also reached out to my network in Minneapolis to help with the transition. I created a team, all of whom knew my goals and were supportive of my journey, to see me through the transformation.
- Admit that transformation requires at least some sense of ambiguity. When a caterpillar enters its cocoon, it knows intuitively why it’s going there, but does it really know it’s about to become a butterfly? Maybe not. Similarly for you, when you enter a period of transformation, you may only know that you want or need to transform but not realize what you’re transforming into. Allow that ambiguity, and explore transformation, don’t manage it.
- Stop caring about what others might think. You are the only person who crafts the “why” in your life. When starting a business, I thought to myself, “If I do this and it fails, will I be unemployable?” But I quickly realized it didn’t matter. I am doing something I love and care for and I believe it will succeed. I transformed myself from career fundraiser to solopreneur, and if I decide someday to transform again, I’ll know that I’m the only person who has to believe in that choice and I have to know the “why” and that’s all.
- A transformation is like a drastic haircut…it takes a bit to get used to. We’ve all done it – decided we want red hair or short hair or black hair, and when the stylist turns the chair around, we think, “OMG, what did I do?!?!?!?” But no matter the transformation we see in the mirror, whether or not we love it or hate it, we eventually get used to it and we often decide we love it.
So transform, Career Girls. Transform all the time. It’s important, it’s amazing, and it’s much safer than just “change.”