My first big change management project was changing careers to enter the field of change management consulting. I had a meaningful career in education in a variety of roles. When I think about it, two specific jobs come to mind in regard to change management: working with post-secondary schools in Tennessee to review their withdrawal, completion and job placement rates. The other, in 2012, working in teacher recruitment and selection for a large school district in Texas to redesign a large teacher selection process. The change management seed was planted.
In 2013, I shared with a college friend how much I enjoyed these projects. He responded, “That sounds a lot like what I do at my company, Expressworks.” I was intrigued and wanted to learn more. Four years later, I joined Expressworks. I’d like to share some of the personal reflections gained along the journey of my career change.
I was doing change management long before I became a change manager.
As I work on my current change management projects, I frequently recognize parallels to my prior experience in education. During my time working in Tennessee, our department implemented a new tool for post-secondary schools to submit their required data. Many institutions were not used to using technology in this way and needed guidance and support to adopt this new way of working. In my role with the school district, school leaders and hiring managers had to adjust to not only a new teacher selection process, but also a brand-new tool to capture and track hiring data. It was a lot of change to absorb and our stakeholders needed the reassurance that these changes would make their jobs more efficient. In both of those scenarios, I was managing behaviors, expectations, and being a partner to my “client” as we navigated challenging, and sometimes scary terrain. The informal change management experiences that were embedded in my education career set the foundation for the work I do today. I made this transition because those informal change activities unveiled some of my natural talents and brought me joy. I encourage anyone who particularly enjoys a specific aspect of their work to challenge themselves on how they can do more of it.
Changing careers was possible because I was willing to do the work the change required.
When I realized there might be another discipline I wanted to pursue, I became. I was not aware of the formal change management discipline when I worked on that pivotal project with the school district. I only knew that I really enjoyed driving change, simplifying processes, and helping others identify the path of least resistance to desired outcomes. Once I became aware that change management is a discipline, I realized that I needed more than a mere desire to formally do this work. I had to create a long-term plan to land the right career opportunity. I had to reflect on my transferrable skills, research the existing change management knowledge, network with change management professionals, and find opportunities to gain the experience I needed to make the career transition.
Changing careers can be a long process.
Changing careers is not for the faint of heart. I had to be patient and push toward my vision without knowing when the change would stick. My four-year journey had its fair share of delays, rejection and roadblocks I had to adapt to. I imagine the change can happen quickly for some, but that is the exception and not the rule. I never imagined that my personal change journey would give me valuable insights into my project work, but it has. Organizational changes that impact people across various lines of businesses can sometimes take years to embed, and my own experience helps me better relate to what my clients might be thinking or feeling.
I would do this all over again.
My career transition was a change management project within itself, moving from current to future state. Now that I formally practice change management, I’ve had a lot of work to do to build a solid foundation of expertise. I’m glad I landed at Expressworks to build my foundation. When I joined the firm in 2016, my informal change experience finally met up with the right opportunity. The level of expertise and knowledge sharing in this organization is inspiring. My colleagues embody a collaborative spirit where we help each other create solutions for our clients.
For anyone who is thinking about changing careers to pursue change management (or any other discipline), I can’t promise that these principles will apply to you, but I think you should go for it and discover what lessons come out of it. Like any career change, it will require resilience, discipline, and focus. At times, my transition was an uncomfortable process. I am grateful that I had supportive direct managers in my prior roles, along with family and friends, with whom I could discuss my long-term career plans. I’m so glad I persevered on my personal change journey. The purpose I feel with each opportunity I am given to help my clients navigate change successfully makes it all worth it.
Ready to begin your change journey? Contact us if your company needs help.