Many years ago, I think in 1999, I worked at Simplot in Pocatello, Idaho. I was in school and took on an internship where I was a Cold Fusion developer, working on intranet applications.
One day, after a bunch of closed door hush-hush meetings with the heavies (not me… definitely not me), an announcement came out: the office was closing, and they would move everyone, or most everyone, to Boise, Idaho. Boise isn’t far from Pocatello… only a few hours. But it would mean that anyone who moved would effectively say goodbye to family, friends, homes, and their lives in Pocatello.
My boss asked me to create a section on the intranet where employees could read articles about “change.” I was a student at the time, and I was not impacted by this announcement at all. I was not planning on staying with the company (although it would have been an awesome career). I was not going to move to Boise because I was just an intern. I just had another project to do (figure out how to present the change management articles)… but I am an observer of people. I love to watch people, and learn about them, and learn from them.
Watching these people make the very difficult decisions that faced them was beyond intriguing, sometimes exciting, and usually sad. If I remember correctly, the majority chose to stay in Pocatello, a smaller, more blue-collar town with less “good job” opportunites than Boise. Why? Because their family was there. In plenty of cases they had child custody issues and couldn’t imagine leaving that small town, even though they would lose their jobs, because they wanted to stay in the lives of their kids. The executive decision to move the office had a profound impact on many, many people.
Death and taxes. They say those are the things that no one can avoid. I suggest that change is a third thing that no one can avoid.
As job seekers, we know this. We are living through a HUGE change.
As I’m learning more about “product management,” I’m can see the profound changes in the world. Imagine a hundred years ago, saying “people will mostly work sitting at a desk, punching buttons on a little box (keyboard), and staring into another box that has light and letters and moving things and colors… and we’ll stare at that light box for hours and hours a day. And we get paid to do that.”
The TV wasn’t even invented a hundred years ago. It was still 10ish years away. The concept of this light box… unfathomable.
And yet, here we are. Punching buttons on a little box, staring at a light box, and not doing any farm or factory work.
Change is changing jobs every three years… very different than a few decades ago. It’s not all our fault, though. It’s now a part of society, and business. In the olden days, if you changed jobs a lot it was because you had a problem. No company would let you go if there wasn’t something wrong with you. Today, though, companies don’t act the same.
Change makes us do crazy things.
Like start a business. Like change careers. Like move to another city. Like downsize.
Here’s my big lesson, observing many of my friends at Simplot, when they were forced to decide where to live: We must be flexible.
If you created a five, ten, or twenty year plan, great. Kudos. But be ready to adjust your plan. There are some things that are under your control, and many, many things that are outside of your control.
You can’t make a long-term plan that you swear by with so many variables. But you can figure out how you’ll react and pivot.
You have to embrace the concept of change, and change your thoughts and attitudes enough to be responsive enough to react appropriately to the changes that come, instead of being crushed by them.
We’re all in this together.