Now in my third year at Washington and Lee University as Assistant Director of Career Development, I have had the opportunity to accomplish so many things. I’ve collaborated across campus and with professionals across Virginia. I’ve implemented programs and services that are truly making a difference to our students. I’ve been fortunate to have had boundless opportunities that will shape my future and set me up for long term success.
That’s not to say it’s been smooth sailing the entire time. I have seen a lot of organizational change – some stressful but largely exciting. Our office has been through three name changes, several staff members and countless procedural changes in my short time here. We’re a small school and a small office, so any little change affects everyone in our four person office.
Maybe I’m just a Nervous Nelly, but I’m the type that wants to know what’s happening, why it’s happening and how it’s going to affect me. Too much unexplained change used to stress me out. Emphasis on the “used to”. The changes I’ve encountered over the past couple of years have only broadened my view of how an organization is run and given me professional skills to manage future change.
While I’m still no expert, below are pieces of advice for any new professional managing organizational change.
1.) Be honest.
If you’re uncomfortable with changes that are happening or don’t understand what’s happening, be honest with your supervisor and have a conversation. This is a great learning experience for you! Understand there may be things that your supervisor may not be able to share, but honest and open communication is crucial to any understanding and managing change.
2.) Trust the process.
Sometimes it can become frustrating and uncomfortable when you feel like things are changing around you and you don’t have control over what the future looks like. However, it can be incredibly liberating to just let things play out. Instead of trying to figure out the who, what, when and why of change, sometimes it’s best to just trust the process. Often this is easier said than done but, in my experience, trusting the process is much more productive than worrying about the details.
3.) Trust the vision.
Along with trusting the process, don’t forget to trust the vision of the change. Not sure of your organization’s vision? Just ask! It’s easier to get on board with change when you know which direction you’re going.
4.) Make connections outside of your University.
One of the best decisions I’ve made was attending the ACPA New Professionals Institute. NPI gave me perspective on my place in higher education and a group of peers to connect with. It’s great to have people to turn to and say “Here’s what I’m going through right now – have you been through something similar?” When I feel like change is becoming overwhelming or I’m losing my focus, I know I can reach out to my small group members for clarity. And, I promise, this was an unsolicited endorsement
5.) Be positive.
This is a biggie. Change can be stressful. It’s easy to let your mind wander and get wrapped up in details. Stay positive. Change is usually to enhance your office. In my case, organizational change has opened doors and given me opportunities I may not have otherwise been given.
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Jake Nelko at firstname.lastname@example.org.