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 Effective Engineering e-Newsletter – 1/03/2008

This is your monthly e-Newsletter from
Effective Engineering Consulting Services (www.effectiveeng.com).  If you would like to receive Effective Engineering e-newsletters as they are published, please send an email to e-newsletter@effectiveeng.com, and we will add you to our distribution list.  Comments and suggestions are welcome and encouraged!


A Fresh Start! – Part II

  By Tom Dennis – President, Effective Engineering [tdennis@effectiveeng.com]

The only thing constant in life is change.  Every day things change – in your job, in your professional life, in your personal life, in living your life.  With every change comes “a fresh start” – sometimes a very minor change with little or no impact, and sometimes a very major change with huge impact.  Our ability to adapt to and thrive with the changes and “fresh starts” in our lives is what determines our success or failures and our happiness or despair.  A positive attitude and approach often can make all the difference.

Back in March 2006 I wrote an e-Newsletter on making “a fresh start” when I left my full-time job voluntarily to pursue consulting and a startup opportunity (see eN-060302 – A Fresh Start!).  The main thrust of that article was to make the most of your “fresh start” regardless of what was behind it.  Now it is time for a follow-on to that article, about yet another “fresh start”.

My wife and I recently completed a move from our home of almost 19 years in Andover MA to a smaller home in nearby Methuen MA.  It was time.  Our children are grown and gone, the house was too big, the taxes and utilities and other bills too high.  Finding a new home and selling a current home is an interesting, but trying, process.  The market has changed from a few years ago.  Prices are lower than they were just one to two years ago.  This is good for buying a home, but not for selling.  
[Note: We’re still trying to sell our current home, so if anyone out there is interested in a beautiful home on a quiet cul-de-sac in Andover MA, let me know!
J].  It took a fair amount of time to find our new home, with some mini-disasters along the way (my wife had some health problems, and the owner of a house we thought we had bought backed out after having signed contracts).  Still, the house we finally bought is great and we’re starting to get settled in. 

We found many surprises, opportunities, disappointments, headaches, etc. associated with moving to a new home in a new town.  The move itself can be very trying, with arduous packing, moving, and unpacking.  The new house takes time to give up its secrets and idiosyncrasies, and some of these are pleasant surprises and some unpleasant.  There are new neighbors in a new neighborhood to meet and get familiar with.  This can be exciting and perhaps a bit intimidating.  At the same time, you are leaving old friends and neighbors who you know you will miss.  While our new home is only about ten miles from our prior home, it was still in a new town for us, and while we thought we had some familiarity with it, the reality was that we didn’t really know it at all.  We are now trying to learn the local roads, new shortcuts around town, new local stores and shopping centers, new town facilities, etc.  While this is a modest learning process for us, when people move a longer distance away, the learning process can be a much bigger shock to your system.  Different towns have different characters and cultures, and different states can have even bigger cultural differences to get acquainted with and to adapt to. 

As we moved through this process it brought to mind many parallels with settling into a “new home” in the business world (e.g. moving to a new company or to a new position in your current company).  In my many years in the business world I’ve moved from very large companies, to very small companies (and many companies in between), to a 2-person start-up, to a 1-person consulting firm.  I’ve been involved in product development of products providing data over telephone lines, data over Ethernet, wireless data, land- and satellite-based navigation, telephone headsets, enterprise-based software, consumer-based whole-home audio/video, and more.  In every case, these changes have required “fresh starts” and new learning and adapting to new environments.

Making “a fresh start” in your professional world has many similar challenges, and in today’s world, “fresh starts” have become ever more common, with very few people staying in the same job or with the same company for a long time.  A survey I recently came across shows that these days, on average, people have between 4 and 10 different jobs throughout their careers.  Some involve moving to a new division in a current company.  Many more involve moving to an entirely new company.  Many involve moving to a different physical location in a new state or even a new country.  Many are a continuation of your current profession, but some involve not only starting over in a new company in a new state or country, but also in a new professional discipline.  This can be a lot to get used to and comfortable with.

When you have “a fresh start”, you move from familiar to unfamiliar territory.   While each “fresh start” is unique, there are some overarching themes for how they are best handled.

► You will need to get familiar with an entirely new set of people with greatly differing personalities, areas of knowledge, levels of expertise, capabilities, ways of doing things, etc.  Be open to this and recognize that you are really the new person and not them.  Adapt to them rather than expecting them to adapt to you (although adaptation in both directions will clearly occur).

► You will need to learn the culture of the organization you are joining.  You will also need to learn the politics of the organization you are joining.  While you may wish to avoid issues of culture and politics in your “fresh start”, you really can’t; it comes with the territory and you learn it and adapt, or you will become a fish out of water. 

► You will make new friends, discover new “enemies” (even though you have no desire whatsoever to make enemies with anyone), have new bosses, new subordinates, new departments, new ways of doing things, etc.  Recognize that this is normal, even if somewhat overwhelming.  Recognize also that it will take time for you learn the lay of the land and who are “friends” and who are “foes”.  Develop and further strengthen your friendships, and work to turn “foes” into “friends”, wherever possible.

► You will find yourself in the middle of exciting times, frustrating times, fun times, hard times, successes, failures, etc., many of these occurring at the same time.  You should expect to find new surprises (both bad and good), headaches, opportunities, disappointments, etc.  Recognize that this all part of your “fresh start” and go with the flow, even as you work to direct that flow.  Also recognize that as much of an impact these changes have on you, they will also impact those around you, and have patience with yourself and others.  You will need it.

Your “fresh start” may be everything you want, or a disaster.  Most likely it will be a mix of both good and bad, with the good hopefully outweighing the bad.  In any event, it won’t be dull. 

What will make all the difference is your attitude.  If you go into your “fresh start” with a positive, can-do attitude, you will have the best probability of success.  You will do everything possible to make your “fresh start” all it can be, for you and those around you.  If you dwell on the problems, you can bring down yourself and others.  If you concentrate on making all you do a success, your positive attitude can become contagious, in a very good way.  Recognize that there will be roadblocks and detours along the way, but recognize these as opportunities to learn more and find new ways to succeed.  Lead by example, and you can grow a team that will be all it can be.  “Fresh starts” are great opportunities to evaluate yourself and make adjustments to help make you the better person you really want to be!

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