Leveraging Change
Change is inevitable. Change for the better and change for the worse. Either way, a time of change can be a great opportunity for you to make a statement, become more visible or take on a major challenge that ultimately builds your value over the long term. By continuously broadening your skill set and showing a willingness to adjust to the new needs of an organization throughout periods of change or to the needs of a new employer altogether, you may also discover opportunities that hadn’t previously been obvious or available.

Even with improvements in the market, there are still companies experiencing layoffs due to mergers and acquisitions. Nothing is guaranteed. Anyone who has been with an organization for a while or is beginning a new role with a new company runs the risk of being laid off if something unexpected happens. By the same token, if the upswing in the market stimulates job growth with your current employer or a potential new employer, the extra effort you put in now will make you a more attractive candidate for fresh opportunities. Instead of settling into complacency or looking over your shoulder and worrying about layoffs, it might behoove you to take more time to examine ways to increase your value.

If you have been looking around to see where the grass is greener, you may need a compass of sorts to prevent you from assuming a change is better. The following key points can provide a foundation for determining how you might fare in the open market.

Know yourself. If you have been “making do” until the market opened up, it’s possible you have made assumptions about what would be better. It’s important to examine your motivations, your values and your goals to see exactly why your current role is categorized as “making do” versus being on the road to your dream job. Being unhappy is one thing — knowing exactly why takes a little more effort. Don’t assume that more money or a promotion will be the answer to your current problems. Interpersonal conflicts will continue to arise at new companies if you haven’t learned methods for navigating any current issues you may be experiencing. More money may also come with a price. Are you willing to work longer hours? Have a longer commute? Work in an office with a stricter dress code?

Know the market. It’s all too easy to become complacent in an existing role if no one has required or encouraged you to update your skills. Although you may have been taking care of the “status quo” in your own company, the methods and tools you use to perform your current job may be completely different from an expectation in a new company. Don’t assume that because you have a particular title that you will be able to transfer into a role with the same title in a new company. Find out which skills will be needed to be competitive in a higher role. Doing the same thing for years doesn’t automatically equate to competence in someone else’s eyes.

Assess your current situation realistically. Take inventory before you throw the baby out with the bathwater. Have you taken the opportunity to learn all you can in your current role? Take a look around at coworkers and other departments. If you have allies in other areas, investigate whether a change of duties or departments would be an option before you shut the door. It’s easy to believe another company or another boss may be an improvement, but it is much easier to find out more when you are currently working in a company than assuming you will learn the full truth about a new company before you get started.

Add value. If the company is investigating the potential of a merger, will your role be eliminated? Rather than looking outside, it’s possible to build your value internally if you are assuming more responsibilities than just what has been expected to date. Going forward, if there are redundant roles that may need eliminating, the new company (or new version of the company) may see value in retaining the person who has a broader skill set and exhibits greater flexibility. It doesn’t have to turn into a game, set, match with the other side winning only because they have more years invested. Make sure management is aware of your accomplishments and the full set of skills you bring to the party.

Change in any organization’s structure or financial status will pretty much ensure staffing changes. Some people will bail because they are uncomfortable with the change, leaving open seats for others who are ready to embrace it. Positions may be eliminated because there is a tightening of the belt or to reduce overlap. These circumstances can create excellent opportunities for someone who is flexible about what they are working on, is skilled in a variety of areas and is ready and willing to persevere through the change. Taking this track can hasten your advancement and prime you for even greater rewards inside or outside of the company if carefully planned out.