coping with change

Ted Pollock, contributing editor

It’s hard to adjust to change, for we are all the willing victims of inertia. We feel comfortable with the status quo because we’re used to it. If something new (technologies, government regulations, reorganizations, etc.) comes along that threatens to rock the boat, we view it with suspicion and, sometimes, hostility.

Yet change is a condition of life, the only thing that has brought progress. And, the truth of the matter is, the rate of change itself is accelerating. Those who fail, or refuse to adjust to it, are condemning themselves to professional obsolescence.

How can you adapt to change? First, try to understand it.

Compare your own reaction to thunder to that of a small child. You ignore it. But, a child displays signs of anxiety and seeks assurances from the nearest adult. From long experience, you know that thunder is a natural phenomenon that cannot harm you. The child knows no such thing. It’s only human to fear the unknown.

With understanding comes confidence. That’s why the first step toward coping with change is understanding it-the whys, hows and whats of it.

Department being reorganized? Worried about the impact on you? That’s natural. But, don’t fall victim to rumors, speculation or the inclination to assume the worst. Wait for your boss to explain why it’s being done, how the new department will work, what specific changes will result. Chances are the changes represent an improvement of some sort. If he or she doesn’t explain these things to you-and that’s extremely unlikely-ask.

Next, assess your situation. Okay. You understand what’s happening and why. Now what does it mean to you? More work? Additional responsibility? Reporting to a new boss? What? Once you know its probable effects on you, you are in a position to take appropriate action.

Then, identify the opportunity. What may initially appear to be simply more work for you may really be a golden opportunity to show what you can do. A new boss may be more receptive to your ideas than the old one. Additional responsibilities can “stretch” you, provide the experience you need to qualify for bigger things. In a nutshell: Don’t assume a change is necessarily bad. Think about it and dig out the opportunity behind it.

Finally, accept the challenge. Once you recognize the possibilities created by the change, you’re ready to take advantage of them. In today’s high tech world, that usually means increasing your knowledge in some way. Learning is an exciting experience and should be approached in a spirit of adventure and anticipation.

Prepare yourself. All development is self-development, and it is up to you to add to your personal know-how. Most companies schedule meetings, seminars and classes to help their people keep abreast of the latest developments. Courses may range from personal effectiveness programs to advanced training in highly technical skills. If these are offered on a voluntary basis, take advantage of them.

If your industry or profession has an association, join it, attend meetings, swap ideas with others doing the same kind of work. If there are any outside classes you can take, look into them. Get your hands on books that will keep you abreast of developments in your field of specialization. Subscribe to periodicals that regularly report on innovations and new methods that can help you in your work.

And, face the change with confidence. “Knowledge is power” is true so far as it goes. Bu,t knowledge is a lot more-it’s also ability, confidence, and promotability.

improving your interviewing

With the best of intentions, as an interviewer you can be prejudiced-for an attractive member of the opposite sex, against someone who reminds you of your least favorite in-law.

Lack of objectivity can sometimes be subtle. For instance, many people are unconsciously thrown off the track by the “halo effect,” the tendency to allow their overall judgment to be unduly influenced by certain individual characteristics. For example, if someone speaks well, people tend to conclude that the person will work well, too. Or, people tend to assume that a person who looks them squarely in the eye when speaking is honest.

Some of us tend to over-generalize as well. Just because an individual behaves in a certain way in one situation, we conclude that he or she will behave in the same way in all situations. For instance, anyone who defends an unpopular point of view is assumed to be an independent thinker on all subjects.

Finally, interviewers occasionally fall into the trap of habitually seeking overqualified applicants. They will only hire those whose experience and knowledge far surpass the requirements of the job. The eventual outcome is a foregone conclusion: overqualified employees holding jobs they find boring, unchallenging, and unrewarding. Such employees don’t remain on a job very long, and, before the interviewer knows it, the entire process must be repeated.

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