During the seven years I’ve been with the American Red Cross, my co-workers and I have weathered many reorganizations. These changes have directly affected each of us. Next week as yet another wave of change crashes ashore, another handful of associates will be washed away.
Change is never easy, yet there are valuable lessons to be learned during a transition. As I have observed organizational changes, I have realized that:
- An employer is not a parent. No one—especially an employer— is going to take care of us unconditionally and look out for our best interests. Perhaps our fathers or grandfathers had that kind of relationship with their employers, but those days are long gone. (On a political side note, I never want to get comfortable with the naive notion that my elected officials will take care of me.)
- Wise people dig their wells before they are thirsty. Networking and personal branding are things that too many people begin doing once they find themselves between jobs. Granted, everyone has to begin sometime, but it’s best to expand your network and build your professional reputation when you are not in a free fall after a job loss.
- Protectors of the status quo are most at risk. Those who are deeply vested in the status quo are most likely to resist change. Change is inevitable and even necessary. As the great basketball coach John Wooden once said, “There is no progress without change,” Of course, he also went on to say, “Not all change is progress.” Granted, not all reorganizations move an organization forward, but any true progress ultimately requires that things be done differently.
- The solutions we learned in school are outdated and perhaps irrelevant. In recent years my job description has changed countless times. For example, I am now responsible for social media—tools and technology that have come of age only within the past five or so years. I wonder what the next five years will bring. I love technology and new ways of doing things, so I’m eager to keep learning and to discover what lies ahead.
- An employee’s “shelf life” expires much quicker than it once did. Longevity is often admired and even celebrated, but being in the same job for a long time can become a liability. Obsolescence threatens the careers of anyone, especially a person who becomes too comfortable after being in a job for many years. Longevity can be an albatross.
- Working hard is never a substitute for producing results. Perhaps there was a time back in the industrial age when employees were paid for their hard work. No longer. Neither are employees paid for what they know, unless they can do something with that knowledge. Results matter most.
- Uncertain times can strengthen spiritual roots. When I’ve been between jobs, I have found assurance in Jeremiah 29:11 which says, “For I know the plans that I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” When I face uncertainty, even in my current job, I anchor on the comforting message of Matthew 6:24-26: “Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”
To survive in today’s workplace, I’ve learned that I must be flexible and I must expect the unexpected. I must strive to remain relevant in an ever-changing environment. And I must never be content to rest upon my laurels, no matter how impressive they may have once appeared.
Today is a new day. It carries the potential to be the best one yet, so I’ll give it everything I’ve got!