Category Archives: Managing Change

It’s Celebration Season: 9 Top Tips for Navigating Change!

9th Year Anniversary Celebration-Photo
9 Year Anniversary Celebration

It’s not an easy road

And many see the glamour and the glitter so them think a bed of rose, mi say

Who feels it knows, ooh

Lord help me sustain these blows

I cry!

Not An Easy Road- Buju Banton

November is celebration season for me! It is the month the earth was blessed with my presence (Birthday Edition Loading), the month I made the big change to move to America and the month some of my favorite people were born. So, for the month of November, I’ll be sharing lessons and insights based on my key milestones, and the deep sense of gratitude I feel at this stage of my life for all the experiences I have had and the people who have journeyed with me so far. This post will share my reflections about the top 9 tips I have learned on this my 9th Year Anniversary of moving to America.

November 1st, marked 9 years since my daughter (then two years old) and I migrated from Jamaica to the United States. As we celebrate the milestone, I find myself reflecting on that big change I made nine years ago and our journey over the years. For me, the title of (International singer /songwriter) Buju Banton’s song “Not An Easy Road, succinctly captures the struggle and  hardships I have had to overcome over the last 9 years to be where we are today. In fact, I have often told people that I cried more tears in the first 5 years of making the transition, than I did in my entire life- before or since. So, when I think of the lines from the song, I’m reminded of God’s goodness and faithfulness and how he has always provided for us and protected us.

Why Change is Hard?

I know you will agree with me that change is hard. This is true whether you are an immigrant to another country, just made an important life decision to get married, divorced, have children, change career, move to another city, sell or purchase a home, lost a loved one or are dealing with a scary health diagnosis.  According to Psychology Today, one reason that makes change difficult  “is that we are not ready and willing for change. We may be comfortable where we are and even scared to step into the unknown. If our current state provides us with comfort and security, making the change will be difficult.”  

Nevertheless, change is a constant and necessary part of life- personally and professionally. Our abilty to deal with change (See previous post based on Who Moved My Cheese)at work and at home will directly impact our progress in life, the quality of our relationships, our stress levels and whether we will thrive or merely survive.

Stepping into Comfort Zone vs Risk Zone
Stepping into Comfort Zone vs Risk Zone

9 Top Tips for Navigating Change

That said, there are huge benefits to celebrating milestones such as birthday and anniversaries. Celebrating significant events in your life provides you with opportunities to remember all the difficulties that you have had to overcome; take stock of your life and assess the progress you have made in key areas; think about the future and begin to plan for what lies ahead. And while this is uncomfortable and difficult for many, it is necessary for personal and professional development growth.

As I reflect on my journey so far, I am deeply aware that our testimonies, lessons, and experiences are not just for us. Sometimes we go through difficult periods in life that cause us to struggle with self-doubt, insecurity and that can drive feelings of despair and discouragement. And when we get through them, some of us are inclined to keep them a secret to keep up appearances that all is well or because we are ashamed of these painful experiences. When in fact, these experiences taught us crucial lessons to inform the way forward and that we can share and use to encourage other people who might need encouragement and wisdom to walk through their own valley moments.

So, if you are navigating your own life events and challenges, here are my top 9 tips and takeaways for dealing with change and navigating transitions:

  1. .Don’t ever let fear prevent stop you from taking a bold and brave leap toward the direction of your goals and dreams.
  2. Have a clear vision for yourself and the life you hope to have. This will help you on the days when you feel desperate, discouraged, and tempted to settle for less than you deserve or need.
  3. Dreams might be deferred but not forgotten. Be careful not to hold yourself hostage to specific timelines. Have faith throughout the journey and trust the process.
  4.  Preparation is important, but it never guarantees the desired outcome. The best laid plans might go awry but be prepare anyways.
  5. Be humble enough to embrace the discomfort of starting over, trying something different and learn something new.
  6. Relationships are the most valuable currency you have. If you build and invest in positive and supportive relationships, they will show up for you when times are good and bad, and you’ll always have a shoulder to lean on.
  7. Always show up as your best self. This means you must commit to keep learning and growing and making the changes that will help you become the best version of yourself.
  8. You are not your failures or your mistakes. When you fall or fail, cry If you need to but always pick yourself up and try again. You are stronger and more resilient than you know.
  9. Pay it Forward: Your gifts, talents and resources and experiences are not just for you. They are intended for you to help and support others. Give back, serve and help others.

I’m so excited for what the #NextNine years will bring!

What milestones are you #celebrating?  Share and let me know!

Until next time Remember, ItsALearningLife!

Who Moved My Cheese? 7 Tips For Dealing With Change!

Change and Challenge
Change- and -Challenge -Image

If you do not change, you can become extinct!”

Spencer Johnson

Think about the past year and all the changes you have seen and experienced in your world and the world around you. If you are like me, you have seen and experienced significant changes in both your personal and professional lives. For work, these changes may have included a shift to working from home, change in work processes and procedures as well as an increase in the use of technology to drive and maintain business operations. On the personal side, the changes might have applied to a juggling a new work /life dynamic of multiple roles and significant changes in how you do school, attend church, and even socialize. And chances are, you can readily identify other changes that might be coming in the months ahead.

While change is constantly happening in the environment around us, change can be difficult to deal with. Some people see change as exciting and readily embrace it because of the new opportunities and innovations it presents. But for others, the process of change is chaotic, risky, and filled with negative emotions such as uncertainty, stress, and fear since change marks a departure from what is comfortable or familiar. One reason why people fear change is that they do not understand it. When people do not understand the change or the reason for it, they tend to resist it, become overwhelmed by the change and begin to feel stuck.

Individuals and organizations that resist change or ignore it, are more likely to be overtaken by the competition or simply left behind. Therefore, it is crucial that both individuals and organizations demonstrate the ability to anticipate change and adapt quickly to changes in the environment if they are to succeed. So, how can we get better at dealing with and responding to change?

See what you’re doing wrong, laugh at it, change and do better.”

Spencer Johnson

Summary of Who Moved My Cheese

Who Moved My Cheese- Book Cover -Google Search
Who- Moved -My -Cheese- Book Cover -Google -Search -Image

Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson (An oldie but goodie) is one of the simplest and best book I have read about change. It provides key insights on how change impacts people, typical responses and important lessons to remember when dealing with change. It tells a parable story about four characters- two mice (Sniff and Scurry) and two little people (Hem and Haw) who search for cheese in a maze. For the purposes of the story, ‘Cheese’ represents the things we want in life that will make us happy and satisfied. For you, cheese could be wealth, loving relationships, security, a career, good health, or spiritual peace of mind. And the ‘Maze’ is where we look for what exactly we want. This could be the place you work, your family, your community and the world around you .

At the start of the story, all four characters search the maze and find their cheese at Cheese Station C. Then one day, Sniff and Scurry arrived early at the Cheese Station C to discover that all the cheese had disappeared. Rather than stopping to overanalyze what had happened to the cheese and why it was gone, the mice determined that the situation at Cheese Station C had changed, so they needed to change. Both looked out into the maze and immediately moved on in search of new cheese. Sometime later in the day, Hem and Haw slowly arrived at the Cheese Station C to find that the cheese has disappeared. Both Hem and Haw were caught off- guard and their responses were totally different. Hem got angry and screamed that “it wasn’t fair. “Haw was shocked and frozen in denial.” Both struggled to accept the reality that the cheese was gone. Because the cheese was so important to them, Hem and Haw spent a long time trying to figure out what had happened to the cheese and what to do.

Because Sniff and Scurry had moved on quickly back into the maze in search of new cheese, after much trial and error, they eventually found new cheese. However, Hem and Haw stayed at Cheese Station C, wondering how it was possible for the cheese to be gone. They spent their days being upset about the situation and trying to figure out had gone wrong. After some time, Haw noticed that the mice were gone and wondered if they had found new cheese. Haw told Hem that since things were changing, they needed to change and do things differently. Haw suggested they stop analyzing the situation and move on. Hem refused because he was stuck on trying to find answers and unwilling to try something new. 

Though Haw was interested in moving on, Hem’s pessimism and discouragement caused him to lose hope and not act. One day, Haw realized that their “cheese-less” situation was deteriorating while they were waiting for things to improve. Realizing his folly, Haw started laughing at himself and told Hem that they could not keep doing the same thing over and over again and expect anything to get better. Haw then told Hem that “Things change, life moves on and so should we.” But, Hem could not get past his fear and refused to venture back out into the maze. Haw then decided it was time to leave his friend and go back out into the maze to search for new cheese.

Though Haw was afraid, he gathered his courage and stepped out bravely into the maze. As he searched the maze for new cheese, Haw found bits and pieces of cheese, but not enough to sustain him. Excitedly, Haw ran back to Cheese Station C to share the news with Hem and found him looking hungry. Haw offered his friend some of the new cheese, but Hem was unwilling to try the new cheese because he did not think he would like it and wanted his old cheese back. Haw then realized that Hem did not want to try anything new and left him behind to continue his search for new cheese. Before long, Haw found Cheese Station N, which had plenty of new cheese in all shapes and sizes that he had never seen, heard of, or tried before. He looked around and saw Sniff and Scurry with big tummies which suggested they had been here awhile. Haw dived into enjoying the cheese while hoping that Hem would eventually step back out into the maze and follow him.

When you change what you believe, you change what you do!”

Spencer Johnson
Four Characters in Who Moved My Cheese-Which One are you?-Image
Four- Characters- in- Who -Moved- My -Cheese-Book

Responses to Change

As evidenced by the story, change happens to all of us but each of us responds differently. How we react to change determines the impact change will have on our lives and our chances of success. To better understand your own reactions to the change(s) taking place in your life, reflect on the how the four characters of book responded to their cheese being moved and consider if there are any similarities in your own responses to change:

  • Sniff:  These are people who sniff out and anticipate changes in their environment and notice the change happening around them at an early stage. They are flexible and generally better prepared for change when it comes.
  • Scurry: These people who jump into action immediately once a change has been detected or has occurred. They are open to changing direction easily and quickly and tend to benefit from change sooner than others.
  • Hem: These people who deny and ignore change and want to stay where they are comfortable. Hems feel entitled and act like victims (blaming others) when change occurs. They get stuck in fear and do not adapt. They resist change and ultimately pay the price for it when they are left behind.
  • Haw: These people “hem and haw” at first but become open-minded when they see that change can lead to something better. They are willing to adapt, learn something new and will laugh at themselves when they see what they are doing wrong and make the changes to do better.

So, which of these characters are you most like? And what could you do differently to handle change more effectively? Believe it or not, we all have these four characters in our families, and on our work teams.

Quote explaining nothing grows in the comfort zone
Nothing -grows- in- the- comfort- zone- quote-image

Being in the uncomfortable zone is much better than staying in the cheese-less situation.”

Spencer Johnson

7 Tips for Dealing with Change

No one controls how you respond to change—just you. Here are seven tips and lessons from Haw (as he moved through the maze to find new cheese) that you can apply to improve your ability to deal with change and ensure your personal and professional success:

  1. Change happens – they keep moving the cheese. In other words, change is everywhere.
  2. Anticipate change – Get ready for the cheese to move. This reminds us to be aware of what is happening in our environment and never get complacent with our cheese or where we are.
  3. Monitor change – Smell the cheese often so you know it is getting old. Since nothing stays the same keep assessing how you and your cheese are doing . Are things getting better or worse?
  4. Adapt to change quickly – the quicker you let go of old change the sooner you can enjoy new cheese. Holding onto the past and the familiar will never move you forward. So, keep learning.
  5. Change – Move with the cheese. Don’t get stuck in negative emotions. Stay flexible and open.
  6. Enjoy the change – Savor the adventure and enjoy the taste of new cheese. Change is good.
  7. Be ready to quickly change again and again – They keep moving with the cheese. Be willing to adjust and adapt repeatedly and stay ready.

So over to you, how is your cheese doing? Are you monitoring your cheese to see if it has moved lately?  Are you moving with the cheese or are you stuck? Whether we accept it or not, change will happen to us. Never be afraid to step back into the maze. The quicker we adapt to change, the happier and less stressful our lives will be. Afterall, we do not grow in places of comfort. Embrace change and grow. Until next time, Remember, It’s A Learning Life!

What would you do it you weren’t afraid?”

Spencer Johnson

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It’s Been A Year:COVID-19 Anniversary!

COVID-19 Global Pandemic-sign
COVID-19 Global Pandemic

March 12th, 2021, marked one year (the anniversary) since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic and stay at home orders were issued across the U.S. According to the World Health Organization, “Globally, as of 12:25pm CET, 22 March 2021, there have been 122,822,505 confirmed cases of COVID-19, including 2,709,041 deaths, reported to WHO. Read that statistic again and let it sink in.

Prior to the onslaught of the COVID-19 disease (Coronavirus) in 2020, no one saw a global pandemic coming. Most of us had heard the news of the virus in China and probably thought it would have been confined to that region or country. The only corona many of us knew of was the popular beer. Still, many of us had little or no context for the word pandemic (infectious disease affecting people across the world) and no real knowledge of what it meant to live through one. Sure, we had heard about the Swine Flu that killed thousands of people over the period 2009-2010, and of other infectious diseases that had emerged from time to time. Yet, all those recent diseases pale in comparison to COVID-19 and the far-reaching devastation, loss of lives and the sheer havoc wreaked on people lives and economies all across the world.

If fact, if we were to compare apples to apples, except for the Influenza pandemic of 1918, no other infectious disease in recent times had affected the world like COVID-19. Nobody could anticipate or imagine how COVID-19 would rock our worlds, disrupt every plan, and change the ways we fundamentally lived our lives. We were not prepared. We did not know how long it would last (still do not) and could only watch as the world as we knew it shut down and real life became as if we were living in a movie.

The Next New Normal-Wooden Blocks-Image
The Next New Normal

No More Normal

Here in the U.S, I can still remember when the stay-at-home orders rolled in. My daughter’s school had sent urgent emails indicating closure, which was shortly followed by my employer’s announcement that we should transition to working from home for the foreseeable future. Then came the news that churches, retail businesses, restaurants, recreational and entertainment establishments would be closing their doors and life as we knew it ended abruptly. Uncertainty, fear, panic, confusion, and chaos filled the air and our homes, as our TVs and social media bombarded us with news of deaths, severe illnesses and the suffering of people infected by the coronavirus across the world. We were advised to stay inside, socially distance and to restrict outdoor activities to help flatten the curve.

Hand sanitizers, masks, toilet paper, disinfectant sprays became scarce hot commodities in very high demand as we scrambled to figure out how to keep ourselves and our families safe. We turned everywhere for information to learn all we could about the coronavirus, how it spreads and googled home-made remedies with ginger, garlic, and turmeric to boost our immune system. Trips to the supermarket required careful planning and mental preparation to avoid crowds and get supplies safely. When we interacted with persons outside of our bubbles, we would painstakingly go over the interaction in our minds to ensure that we had not touched our face, phone, pocketbooks, or any item of clothing we were wearing.

Wash your hands, do not touch your face and sanitize seemed to be the never-ending tune playing in our heads.  Sneezing and coughing became taboo in public spaces and could earn you the side eye amongst family and friends. Paranoia set in and many of us became germaphobes and hoarders overnight, while our home became multipurpose spaces for school, church, and work. Suddenly, normal daily routines were abandoned, the outdoors were empty, cars were parked, and the roads were traffic free. Life became quiet and eerie.

Safety Protocols for COVID-19 -Image
Safety Protocols for COVID-19

Challenges of the New Normal

Dealing with change is hard is normal times but the struggle got more real as COVID-19 began to impact every aspect of our everyday lives. Over the last year to current times, some of the biggest challenges I have experienced and heard echoed by my friends, family and coworkers had to do with the following:

  • Social isolation: At the start of the pandemic, the first thing the authorities advised to do was to practice social distance to slow the spread of virus. One unfortunate psychological effect of this social isolation has been an increase in feelings of loneliness that people have experienced due to the lack of interactions with others. This has led to anxiety and depression in both children and adults alike. For me and others, minimal physical touch and contact when greeting friends or families, smiles being masked and the no large in person social gatherings have been especially hard. Additionally, effective communication has been made even more difficult as we largely rely on texts, emails and phone calls and are not always able to pick up on the emotions that the other person might be feeling.
  • Work life balance: It has been a year since I have been working from home and I have now adjusted to my new routine. However, the first couple of months were incredibly stressful as I tried to figure out how to keep my team connected, adjust to new technologies and systems to get the work done while supervising online school for my daughter and keeping her engaged. The lines between work and home became blurred and I now work longer hours (many times without the necessary breaks) at home and still find it hard to wind down at the end of the day.
  • Technology overload: Pre COVID-10, one of the parenting struggles I had was managing my daughter’s screen time. That became an exercise in futility the moment school went virtual, and she currently spends way more time looking at screens (from Computer, to iPad to TV) than ever before. The same is true for me as I spend my days doing back-to-back online trainings and meetings on Zoom and Microsoft Teams and then turn to my TV or video calls to connect with friends and loved ones. The struggle to unplug is real.
  • Decline in mental health: Whether you were affected by the coronavirus or not, fear for personal health and safety, as well as that of loved ones was a huge driver for poor mental health. And if that were not enough, every day the news was saturated with alarming death statistics, images of grief, job losses, hospitals inundated with patients, overwhelmed doctors and nurses and misinformation about the virus which had us questioning what was safe and what was true. All these factors created the perfect storm conditions for a mental health catastrophe.
  • Loss of leisure life: Closed borders, travel restrictions and occupancy guidelines have all resulted in a loss of opportunities to travel, participate in organized events and activities to have fun and maintain physical health. With a few exceptions, my interactions with public spaces have been reduced to going to the supermarket and doctors’ appointments. For my daughter and I, the decision to participate in any fun recreational event or even to visit friends can be stressful as we balance the need to be safe and sane. And so, my daughter frequently laments about the good old days of playing with friends, going to camps and longs for the days when she can feel free again.
Key Takeaways
Key Takeaways

Top Takeaways for the Next and New Normal

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, it is easy to get stuck reminiscing about the good old days before the coronavirus and all the opportunities that you have lost. But despite the many hardships we have endured and continue to, if you are reading this article, you are still here. So, what will you take away from this experience? How will you use the lessons you learned during this time to serve you in the future? As I reflect on this COVID 19 anniversary and the ongoing pandemic, here are my top reflections and takeaways for the future:

  1. Mental Health is everyone business: Regardless of your age, gender, status, educational level or financial position, no one is immune. Mental illness is not about being “crazy” or being locked up in an institution. Mental health is an important part of our overall well-being and we should pay attention to signs of stress, anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts in ourselves and others. If you or someone you know are struggling, get help.
  2. Change is constant: Navigating change and transitions can be hard and uncomfortable. Since change is always happening around us, it does not make sense to resist. Spend your time and efforts trying to figure out how you will adapt, what new skill you need to learn to respond effectively and how you will make it work for you. Embrace uncertainty and learn to become more open and comfortable with not having all the answers.
  3. Life is short and precious: ‘Here today and gone tomorrow’, gained new meaning for me as I watched countless amounts of people express their grief over the sudden loss of loved ones to the coronavirus. Pay attention to what and who truly matters in your life and take no one or nothing for granted. Try to be intentional about staying connected to the important people and relationships in your live and to let them know often how much you love and appreciate them.
  4. Gratitude is a must:  Waking up every day and being able to breathe on your own has never been more meaningful. So, at a minimum, all of us have something to be grateful for. Avoid the temptation to grumble about the 10 lbs. you have gained, the vacation you did not get to take, the opportunities that you missed, or the amount of money in your account. We have more than we need. Instead. use this time to think about your plans and start putting things in place that will help you work towards achieving your goals in whichever version of normal we move on to.

So, stop, pause, and reflect on the past year and identify your biggest challenge, takeaway or win.

Until next time, Remember, It’s A Learning Life!

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Coming to America..4 Years Later

animal-1524168_1920 Four years ago (Today), I migrated to the USA to embark on a brand new chapter of my life. Excited about my visions of success, the lure of new opportunities and the well wishes of friends and family, I flew out bravely. But, like any big life event or major change, the journey has been filled with challenges and opportunities that I had to navigate to transition successfully. I quickly learnt that, even the best laid plans go awry and that research never fully prepares you for what is to come. Now, three jobs later, after many second interviews, even more informational interviews, some serious networking efforts, CPLP certification, volunteering, starting a Blog, the ground has finally settled under me and I am moving forward steadily. So, as I reflect on my own experience and progress to date, here a few insights that might help you.

  1. Plan, Plan, Plan:  If you fail to plan, prepare to fail.  Having a clear vision or set goals about what you want to and achieve will help to you stay focused regardless of what is happening around you. Share your goals often and openly, as this will help the people you meet figure out how they might best help you.
  2. Accept that setbacks and detours are normal: If you are super lucky, you might land a job in your field of choice before you even make the move.  If you didn’t, your job hunt will likely start shortly thereafter and your first job might not be what you envisioned. It might be a job that gets you employed and earning, but, it may not be a good fit for your skills and background. That just means you have to keep looking
  3. Be positive and persistent: Chances are, you are going to have some disappointments particularly with the job search process. Acknowledge them, but do not dwell on them. Your failure to get that job you wanted is not necessarily an indictment on your own value, skills and experiences. Instead, treat every interview as a learning experience, assess your performance after and use it to prepare for your next opportunity.
  4. Ask for and find help: Your success is really up to you. Start by identifying the organizations you would like to work with and try to make connections with people who are doing the kinds of work that you would like to do. Professional networks such as Linked In and/or your local professional organizations are great for establishing new relationships.
  5.  Practice a growth mindset:  Your ability and willingness to quickly learn, unlearn and relearn and will be important as you acquire the new skills required to be successful and adapt to the new culture or your environment. Be open to feedback and trying new ways of doing things.
  6. Believe in yourself and value your experiences: Though you might be in a new setting, all your experiences are valid. Your challenge is to find new ways of thinking about your skills and prior experiences and how to leverage them. Being able to determine your transferable skills, articulate and demonstrate them, will help you to reinvent yourself and position you for success.
  7. Surround yourself with good people: Like any good fighter knows, the roar of the crowd might be nice to hear but it doesn’t win the fight. When life knocks you down, all you really need are a few good supporters in your corner helping you get up to resume the fight and cheering you on.

Until next time, Remember, It’s a Learning Life!

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On Change & Transitions: Make Your Change Work For You!

chMarriage/divorce, relocation/migration, critical illness, new job or starting a business, are just a few of the important life events that one may have to deal with at some point in their lives. If you’re lucky, you may only have to deal with just one of these life events, and hopefully one that you choose. Sadly, sometimes, and for some people, the circumstances are never that easy, and they don’t ever get to choose. Regardless of who you are, how strong you are, your situation, dealing with any of these life events can be a potential “deal breaker or game changer”, fundamentally altering life as you know it, and sometimes-forever. Life events have the potential to derail people, or place them on a path towards actualizing their personal and professional dreams and goals. Whichever the case, the range of emotions that people experience during, and after any of these life events might include: fear, sadness, confusion, doubt, uncertainty or happiness, hope, excitement and fulfillment. So how does one manage these challenging periods of transitions? How does one cope with the far-reaching changes which life events produce?

chaIn 2012, I made the decision to migrate to the United States. This decision meant I would opt to leave my solid job (Nearly 10 years), my homesweethome, my friends, my native country, and life as I knew it, to start over all in a whole new big world. I recall many of my friends, and co- workers expressing congratulatory sentiments. and well wishes, amidst the sad expressions/ sentiments about being sorry to see me go. All were confident of my continued success, and encouraged me to continue to do my best. Like many other people  who have also made this decision,(Some say brave and courageous step), I also recall feeling some trepidation about the move, wondering whether I would successful, whether I would like it, whether I was doing the best thing etc. At the same time, I brimmed with hope, and excitement about the move, and the possibilities of fulfilling my personal and professional dreams.

chgAs with any major life event, adjustments are inevitable. Managing the changes that come along , and making the transition is never seamless. For the  process of change is often times painful and difficult as challenges and uncertainty  abound. For me though, everything has not gone according to plan,  there have been many detours and significant strides. I have had to totally re-invent myself, re-position my skills, adjust my mindset to consider other opportunities that are not directly related to my background, to effectively navigate my current environment. I have learnt that, it is one thing to be successful in your own country where you have many advantages (by virtue of just citizenship), or the ready knowledge and understanding of how everything works. But, establishing yourself in a totally new and different country, with a different culture and climate, coupled with the pressure of competing with people who are equally, or much more qualified than you, for the same employment opportunities, is no easy feat. There are barriers everywhere (Tangible and intangible), yet at the same time, there are limitless opportunities that I didn’t have, might not have thought of, or known of before.

chgaLike many other people in this situation, I spent many waking moments doing research, and trying to figure out how to position my skills and experience, acquire new skills/certification, and brand myself (Read related post on Branding) for an international market, to enable me to find employment opportunities commensurate with my education, skills and background. I found that, my previous experiences and exposures  mattered, but , only to the extent that I was able to show solid employment and work history. In this new environment, I was an “unknown quantity and quality”. My ability to prove that my skills and experiences were relevant and  transferable became even more paramount.

In managing this  life event and trying to make this change work for me, I have learnt some important  lessons, and gained some  new insights that might prove useful to persons grappling with how to make the change work for them, or how to effectively manage the transition periods in their lives. As such, The tips I’m sharing for managing life events are not exhaustive. They might apply to one life event more than another, and might not apply to some persons but not all.

  1.  Have a vision and make it clear: This simply means you need to plan and have a plan (in your head and down on paper). The phrase-“fail to plan or plan to fail”,  is true. Your plan should clearly answer the 5Ws and H questions, i.e .Who, What Where, When, Why and How? This  is key since even the best laid plans may go awry. However, having  S.M.A.R.T. goals will help you to organize yourself, clarify your short to long-term goals and prioritize key activities. Having a clear vision will also help you to communicate your brand to the people  you seek help from, and help them steer you in the right direction.
  2. Build and establish a new network: The fact is, your network of friends, family and professional connections, might no longer be just a drive away or readily accessible. And even if they are, they might not be able to help you in your new environment, to the extent to that you might need support. The world works differently from place to place, and you will need to establish yourself in your new environment and in your field. One strategy I found hugely beneficial in my move was, doing informational interviews. These interviews enabled me to connect with new people, professionals in my field, understand how the industry functioned, as each person I met with, referred me to, or connected me with other professionals.
  3.  Develop and lean on your support system: Whereas one can reasonably expect support from family and friends, help can come from the most unlikely places and people. Continue to believe in the generosity of the human spirit. If you need help, ask for it. People are and can be generous with their times, resources and connections. So be kind and polite to the people you meet, and help and support others when and where you can. Some days will be better than others as you experience near hits, misses and curve balls coming at you from all sides. On other days your emotions will run high, and will need to step back, hear that encouraging word from a friend, or just  need someone to take the time to listen as you share your doubts and frustrations. Don’t be took hard on yourself, every experience is priceless
  4. Stay focused and positive: As you attempt to make the transition,  you will find that everyone will have an opinion on what you do,  or what you should be doing. This may apply to the kinds of jobs you should be seeking, where might be the best place to settle, or even how to prepare your resume (Omitting education and/or experience).It is wise  to listen to the advice your receive, but be careful of the advice  you accept. Surround yourself with positive people, for some persons might not be able to see your vision, or to even support it. To some people, your vision may seem too lofty, or vary too far from their own personal experiences and/or the expectations they hold for themselves. Therefore, it is most important  that you stay committed, know who you are, what you can do and what you are about. This will help you to stay focused on your own goals, and not accept the limits that  some people place on you, or  set  limits on yourself. Ultimately, it’s your life, your decision, your goal and  your dream.

Finally….Keep an Open Mind! Always Be Positive! The journey continues as long as your life does!

 

Images Courtesy of Google.

Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Engaged?

engagement3I am pretty sure that when you think or hear of the term engagement – the first thing that comes to mind is a proposal for marriage. Yes, the moment the man or woman (not so uncommon these days) pops the question and ask his/her beloved for their hand in marriage. If you thought so, you would be quite right but that’s not what I am thinking, nor is it the focus of this post.

In today’s  workplace, the term engagement  is a relatively new  buzz word used to describe the degree to which employees are motivated, happy, satisfied with the work they do, interested  in their organizations, and  display support  for  the company’s mission or their team. On the other hand, disengagement speaks a situation where employee’s behaviors and attitudes are negative, morale is low and they do the bare minimum to get by. Studies suggest that between 20-30% of employees within organizations are disengaged.  As such, one would reasonably conclude that each organization is comprised of two categories of employees – the engaged and the disengaged.

engagement2In any organization and for any manager or leader, the engaged employee is a dream. Not unlike a newly engaged person, this individual is happy, finds meaning in their work, supports the fellow members of the team and are highly productive. They are driven and they get the job done. On the flip side, are the disengaged employees. These are the unhappy ones, less motivated by the work they are doing and even less satisfied with their jobs. Usually, the disengaged employee operate at two extremes. That is, from the heavy silence and passive participation in meetings/ teams to the vocal opposition, negative attitudes/opinions they express when anything is to be done or any change is proposed. Working with them, is akin to pulling teeth and saps your energy. Because for them, it is  never just about the matter at hand, but everything else (past and present) as they are shackled by the history of their experiences. Does any of  this sound familiar or does anyone come to mind?

imagesCAMEZKVII’m sure by now you are probably making a mental note the people in your organization to whom these categories applies. But better yet, do you know where you fall? Are you engaged or not? Regardless of what your answer is, there is no need to judge or condemn these persons. The issues they struggle with are real. And however this is manifested, they need help and support from their supervisors and coworkers. I’ve not always thought so. But, I have come to learn that at some point of our work lives, we ourselves are not immune. We too risk becoming disengaged, or can slide along the continuum (engagement or disengagement) as a result of a problem with a supervisor, a small win, a big failure or just the general work environment/culture of the organization.

Which brings me to the point? What really causes an individual to become disengaged? A quick review of the literature will tell you that disengagement might be caused by one or all of the following:

  • Lack of respect from management.
  • Employee feeling that his/her  contribution or work is not valued.
  • Inadequate knowledge/understanding of company’s mission or even how they fit in.
  • Inequity and unfairness in how employees are treated(managers have favorites).
  • Poor working relationships with supervisor and managers.

imagesCAH1MI1BA case in point was my first experience with a disengaged coworker. She was a very mature, knowledgeable and competent individual who had spent over 15 years working with the company, prior to the 8+ years we worked together. After a couple of interactions, watching her body language in meetings, observing her level of responsiveness and just the negative attitude and tone with which she operated, I was pretty annoyed. She was never rude, but I wondered how someone with such a wealth of experience and maturity could be like that. And better yet, if she was so obviously unhappy with the company and the work, why didn’t she just leave? Why torture herself? Why make life and work more difficult for  the other people with whom she worked, due to the sheer amount of effort and energy, they would have to expend to work effectively with her.

imagesCA23Z6XAThough I struggled to understand why she was just like that, I came to accept that there were many others like her as well. While she was expressive,  the others were silent and passive. I  figured that, at the very least, we all had a job to do and that job paid our bills. And as long as that was true, then each of us had an obligation to give of our best efforts. That for me was simply a matter of personal integrity. I would later learn my annoyance was misplaced, for she like others who were , were not always like that. Once upon a time, she too had been engaged and she did in fact, love what she did. Unfortunately, she had, had, one too many bad experiences in the workplace –with leaders, supervisors and even customers. As a result, she no longer trusted the organization. And since everyone had a right to work, she responded as best she could to survive.

Therefore, it important that both organizations and individuals remember:

  1. imagesCAHR4550Organizations through their management teams and climate they create or foster, have an obligation to provide a “safe and enabling environment” for their employees to thrive and grow.
  2. Issues left ignored or swept under the rug- do not disappear. The buildup and may later threaten to derail even the very  best employees and the most engaged.
  3. Disengaged employees hurt organizations as much as they hurt themselves. They are likely to hurt an organizations performance and bottom line due to their levels of service and productivity.
  4. Disengaged employees can negatively affect an organization’s culture or may even negatively influence new recruits.
  5. Both organizations and individuals have to make a conscious effort to recognize and assess the levels of engagement amongst employees in their organization and in themselves.

Images Courtesy of Google.

Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved

It’s Not An Easy Road or Intro to the World of Work

imagesCATBHRXUWhether you’ve had to search for a job or even had one handed to  you’ve been hired. And I reckon that regardless of how you got your first job, the experience is one you’re not likely to forget. This is partly because the process might have been long and frustrating or because of all the changes, challenges or the exciting opportunities it presented.  For with all things new, there is a sense of expectation, excitement, anxiousness and even fear that comes along with it. Will I be good at it? Will I like it? Will they like me?  And while these questions will occupy your thoughts for days or years to come, as you tackle your “many firsts”, one thing is sure, your life will change.

For some people, the change and opportunity costs might be small /subtle, but for others they might be more far-reaching as noted below:

  • Relocating or leaving  the comfort of home for the first time  for your own place ;
  • Greater  independence  and responsibility as you  can now access things you couldn’t previously afford,  may have to contribute to the household/sibling, or simply  take care of yourself ;
  • The loss of endless free time  to sleep late, watch TV, hang out  or  party like a rock star until the wee hours of the morning;
  • The unnerving  realization of just how small the world is – as suddenly people from work “pop up” in the strangest places like the supermarket, hairdresser/barbershop, movies, parties. And suddenly, there is always somebody you know from work who knows somebody and you are reminded to be on your best behavior.

imagesD9R7JRUOFor me, the   year was 2004, and my first job brought all that and then some. I had aced my interview and was offered a more senior role than the position I had interviewed for. This opportunity was to uproot me from my comfort zone and circle of family and friends in Kingston, Jamaica  to the cool climes of Mandeville, Manchester. And though I was not familiar with the area, had no contacts there, and only two weeks to get relocated, I jumped at  the offer and accepted my new job. After all, the way I reasoned it, I would still be living in the same country, I had no  ties, my new job would be centrally located (only 2 hours’ drive) from the places I called home, and  my friends and family would be relatively close enough for me to maintain my social life.

So with  all the gusto that only youth and starting  new chapter in one’s life can  bring, I tackled the challenges of finding an apartment, acquiring furniture, learning to navigate a new town without being mobile, meeting my  supervisor  and the rest of the team. Looking back, this big change brought me equal doses of fear, doubt, anxiety and excitement. Nonetheless, I managed all this with relative success and survived my first day on the job. But, there  was no way I could have or would have  envisaged or  adequately planned  for  the added dimension  of a Category 5 hurricane hitting the  entire island during my first week on the job. Hurricane Ivan ravaged Jamaica’s physical infrastructure (homes, roads), wreaked havoc on the natural landscape, plunged huge sections of the island into darkness and damaged other utilities that would make communications via telephone/internet particularly challenging if not impossible.

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So to make a long story short, I weathered the hurricane reasonably well at home, but had no such luck at work, as  Murphy’s Law was in full swing, and everything that could go wrong- did. Notwithstanding, the  effects of the hurricane  was a mixed blessing. It created considerable  down time in the company’s operations. This frustrated our customers and  prevented me and the rest of the team from executing  some of our deliverables on the job . Yet, it provided me with great opportunities for teamwork and building relationships  with my colleagues, which would make the difficult days/years more pleasant. More importantly, it enabled me “to jump in at the deep end”, add value and demonstrate the unique talent I brought to the team,which would augur well for my later success.

Therefore, here is  my advice to anyone  entering the world of work, starting a new job or a first job:

  • Be open-minded, committed and expect the unexpected.Great opportunities may come from outside your comfort zone;
  • Be gracious and kind to everyone. You never know  just how your actions may impact others, create goodwill  or send recognition your way;
  • Give of your best efforts and don’t be a slave  to your  job description. So while you do your job, help out a colleague whenever you see a need and wherever you can- you will learn  the company’s operations much faster ;
  • Take your time- no matter how perfect, bright and talented you think you are, you will make mistakes, but that just another way to learn.

What’s your story? Please share, I’d like to hear from you.

Copyright © 2014 All Rights Reserved