The Huddle: How To Make That Change (In Small, Achievable Steps)

career change

You don’t need me to tell you that we are living – and working – in uncertain times. Uncertainty, of course, can breed fear: we don’t know what will come to pass, we are nervous about external shifts and we don’t want to rock the boat.

However, uncertainty can also be a catalyst for change. And that’s what I will be focusing on in this month’s column.

Fear and change are constant bedfellows, which is exciting when you know what to do with the fear and are able to articulate the change.

But what happens when you can do neither of the above? Change without focus can be hugely destabilising, so let’s begin with defining change. Often, we assume that change needs to be BIG and REVOLUTIONARY: a career change, a promotion, a client you have never worked with before. In truth, change is a concept with very nebulous edges; perhaps it isn’t even a concept in some senses. Change can be a feeling. Change can be a driver. Change can be a tiny tweak that impacts myriad parts of your day or life.

So if you are contemplating change, but you aren’t sure whether you’re ready to go big, or if you’re in the right headspace to see it through, please first accept that change can be a simple feeling, or a re-route to the office one day a week. The important part of change is that it’s taken with intent and rolled out consistently. When we are able to shift our habits, it can have a greater impact than a ‘Big Change’ alone. So start by naming the change that you want.

It might be that you begin with the outcome: I want to have less time on my phone, I want to grow my team, I want to stand up in meetings and share my wisdom, not feel scared, and not undersell who I am and what I know.

Here’s a change charter to use that will guide you to where you want and need to be

career change

Name It

We have covered step one: name that change.

Face The Fear

Now we will move onto the more nuanced part of actioning your change: what is going on in your mind. Creating change often (almost always) requires us to face our fears and take a risk. Usually, it is this fear/risk element that keeps us riding along in our status quo. But maintaining what is, will never get you where you want to be.

A good way to get more comfortable stepping out of your comfort is to look back to times when you’ve done this before. Our own history is a futile learning ground for informing what we do going forward. Once you’ve identified what it is you want to change, think about other times you’ve made significant changes. Remember what it felt like, what worked and what didn’t, who you lent on.

Also, remember that once we step out of our comfort zone, we are learning something new. It might not work out the first time, this change. You may slip up on your longer walk to work, and catch the bus more often than you like. The fit with the new client may not just not gel in the way you want it to; you might need to move on again. But trying, and learning, is key to getting more comfortable welcoming changes of all shapes and sizes into your working life.

Plan

Change is a process. That is the single most important sentence in this column. It barely ever happens overnight, so please accept that this change will take time. You can help move the change along by planning ahead and setting yourself goals and motivators.

If it helps, think in reverse. Identify the end goal, and then work backwards. I’d also recommend getting really specific with your plan: add in dates, numbers and other tangible metrics that will act as a useful guide, but also keep you motivated. Seeing yourself achieve what you’ve set out, even just single steps along your change way, will keep you on track and in motion. If you need to, add in associated rewards to each stage.

Of course, individual changes can be helped along the way with myriad other very useful tools and behaviours. If it is a big career change and new job you’re hoping to secure in 2023, then get networking. Be active in how often you’re in touch with new and old contacts; get out there and take the initiative, rather than just relying on what comes up on LinkedIn.

If you want to go for a promotion, lean on a sponsor; think about someone at work who can fight your corner, who will speak about you positively when you are not in the room. In truth, we rarely create change alone. People are still at the heart of almost every facet of our career development, so be as open as you can about this change. And most importantly, talk about it. Say you are looking to move up, or build your client base. When you’re able to communicate and ‘live’ your change, the more it will be that you’ll make it happen.

For more career change tips, check out more from The Huddle column:

How to set realistic goals  

5 Ways to be more resilient 


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