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Adapt or Die!
By Tom Dennis –
President, Effective Engineering [email@example.com]
recently left a prior position of your own accord, because you didn’t find
it a fit, or the work environment was unacceptable, or for whatever reason
Know When to Fold ‘Em, and
When It’s Time to ‘Walk Away’, Don’t Turn Back!). Prior to
leaving, you looked around for a good opportunity that would be a good match
to your background and interests, and that would provide good opportunities
for growth. You’ve just accepted a position in what you believe to be a
promising company. You’ve been told what your job will be by your hiring
manager, by the folks you interviewed with, and by Human Resources. You
believe that job description to be a perfect match to your experience and
interests, and you’re really looking forward to getting started. But when
you start, your first assignment is actually fairly far removed from what
you were told. But you do it well anyway. Then your second job builds upon
your first, and is also far removed from what you had been told. As you move
forward in your new job you find that, while there may be a passing
resemblance to what you were told you would be doing, the reality is
actually pretty far removed from that job description. What’s going on, and
what does this mean for you going forward?
The mismatch of actual job assignment to what you were told it was going to
be is typically not due to any ill intent on the part of anybody involved,
but more due to the concept of ‘sh!t happens’, and what has happened,
totally outside of your control, requires you to get deeply involved in
these job assignments somewhat outside of what you expected (see
The Best Laid Plans … and Then Life Happens!). You need to
decide whether you want to adapt, or find something elsewhere that is more
in keeping with what you expected (see
Take the Time to Think!).
A reality of life, at least for knowledge workers at almost every level of a
company, is that the job you expect to be doing often bears fairly little
resemblance to the job you’ll actually be doing. This can be true for a wide
variety of reasons.
• Your company hits a rough patch, and needs all hands on deck to get
through it. This means that everyone needs to work on what is most critical
to company survival, whether that is related to your ‘job description’
or not (see
Like Trying to Change Tires on a Fast Moving Car! and
The Sky is Falling!). Far from being a distraction from what you
thought you’d be doing, this can actually be a great opportunity to
demonstrate what you can really offer when the chips are down, and to stand
out among the crowd and show people what you’re made of. Be grateful you’re
not one of the people with the potential of being laid off and show your
potential. Seize the opportunity!
• Your company hits the jackpot and sales rocket through the roof. It’s
all hands on deck for an entirely different reason, where higher production
needs must be supported, where new projects must quickly be launched, where
hiring new people to fill new positions is critical, where product and/or
service changes to support new features or changes are critical, and
everyone needs to work overtime to build on the company’s success. In
situations like this, your ‘job description’ is likely to go out the
window, and you have an opportunity to chart your own course, to success if
you respond positively, or to failure if you don’t. Seize the
• Other actions, even some totally unrelated to your job, cause
directions in the company to change, and alter what you were told you would
be doing (see
The Butterfly Effect in the Workplace). Again, you may not be
driving the train, but its far better to enjoy the ride than to cause it to
derail. Show people what you can do! Seize the opportunity!
Even in a relatively stable environment, the job is seldom what you were
told. Problems arise that must be quickly addressed, pulling you and others
off the work you were planning to do. A crucial trade show is coming up and
special needs must be addressed in order to meet commitments made, or to
counteract competitors features (see
Showing Progress vs. Making Progress Syndrome). Performance
problems among your group or peers may necessarily pull you away from your
expected path (see
Learn from Good Role Models; Learn More from Bad!). Some of
these may be hard to accept; some may be
Serendipity Can Change Your Life!). You may well not be certain
which case it is at the time, but you still need to adapt, and quickly!
What can you do
about it? Probably not much. Sh!t happens, and everyone must deal with it.
To the extent you can, you should keep your antenna up to try to anticipate
unexpected direction changes, people or group or organizational problems,
competitive problems, etc. Get ahead of the situation, if you can, and
volunteer to take the lead. Demonstrating leadership and initiative in most
circumstances will be recognized and valued, but only if such leadership and
initiative is real and properly motivated (see
Say What Your Mean, Mean What You Say, and Do What You Say You’ll Do!).
Knowledge workers are hired for their brainpower and their ability to think
on their feet and adapt to changing situations (see
Knowledge Is Power!). Seize the opportunity!
Life is full of surprises, where twists and turns abound. And every
twist causes a new assessment, and every turn takes you further away from
your ‘job description’ or what you were told you’d be doing. But
every twist and turn is the reality of life at that time, and you need to
adapt and excel, or you will fail and fall by the wayside. Life is what you
make of it. These changes are part of your job, and you need to own you job,
whatever that entails (see
Own Your Job! All of It!). Adapt or die!
2011 Effective Engineering Consulting Services, All Rights Reserved