reading between the lines
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The Twelve Days of Christmas are over, Dry January is on and it seems everyone is moving jobs – or at least thinking of it. Since I have returned to work it seems all I hear are tales of resignation, new starts and changes of direction, all from wildly different sectors, age groups and stages of life.
It may be a recent graduate moving from their first job or a seasoned executive looking at the last big role but it seems that Santa does not just bring presents but rather a jolt to the mindset. More cynically there may be a correlation to be found in the recent passing of ‘peak divorce day’. While I do have some idea as to what causes the post-Christmas new job hunt, I don’t intend to dwell on those – rather to reflect a little about a couple of areas related to new jobs.
The first is excitement. It is pretty understandable and would be slightly worrying if those embarking on a change did not feel excited. Clearly having a new job ‘in the bag’ is, in itself, exciting, but I have been struck by how much those who have simply made a decision to move on are equally upbeat – even if the future is less secure. Making the big decision is often the toughest bit and the knowledge that you will no longer be working in an environment that is not congenial or a job that bores seems to fill people with optimism.
If excitement about leaving or starting seems pretty obvious, the second area – certainly when anticipating the first day in the office or when looking for a new job – is perhaps slightly counter-intuitive. It is a sense of being uncomfortable.
Being uncomfortable is more than just the sense of nervousness which we all feel on first meetings and new jobs, but actually relates to the role itself and the knowledge that you have complete mastery of it – or better still, you don’t. And here is the irony – you have spent most of the selection process trying to convince the new team that you are the real deal.
I owe the germ of these two insights to my friend and colleague Claire Derry and a chat we had about our children’s jobs. Almost immediately after we had been speaking I listened to an interview on the Today programme about university education. The topic was about ‘student rights’ (I am paying for my education so I have a right to be spoon fed) and freedom to express different opinions. The academic response was that good education (as distinct from training) should challenge and make you feel uncomfortable – because that will make you think more deeply about your own beliefs and opinions and become more open-minded.
Back to jobs and being uncomfortable. As with education, a new role should provide challenge and an opportunity to learn. Without it, boredom is quick on the scene and the jobs merry-go-round starts again. Pitching for a job that will make you feel uncomfortable requires confidence and a growth mindset but I reckon there are few jobs I have seen where a competent person with the right attitude has not been able to make a decent go of it.
It isn’t all about the employee either. The organisation will benefit from an uncomfortable employee who is striving to improve, resulting in reduced employee churn, increased productivity and better engagement. The trick for the employer is to be bold enough to take some risk when hiring – focus more on innate behavioural characteristics and less on technical competence – and make sure there is a framework in place to support development.
Assuming that the January blues have nearly worn off and you are still thinking of moving, you might want to test your planned course of action. Does it excite you? Does it make you feel uncomfortable? If it doesn’t, (it is still Panto season) I suggest you don’t follow Dick Whittington and ‘turn again’.
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