PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE: Tried And True Tips for Weathering Change in Your Career

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” -Socrates 

As much as things stay the same, they change – it’s one of the few guarantees in this world.

Sometimes they are as subtle as the shift of the sunrise and all of a sudden you need sunglasses during your 6:30 a.m. walk with Fido. Other times change can be dramatic and emotional – like your boss leaving your firm or getting a new CMO.

And, sometimes, a global pandemic like COVID-19 hits throwing our lives into disarray. “Normal” routines have gone out the window and work lives have been upended in a major way. I know working remotely has taken on a completely new meaning to me. (More to come on the impact of COVID-19 on our industry, and lessons and strategies learned in our Q2 newsletter. Stay tuned.)

When these big changes happen it can feel jarring, upsetting and sometimes even hard to accept. That’s totally normal. But there are tips you can use to acknowledge these feeling and move forward.

And I can promise you these changes will occur not once, but several times during your career. So what can you do to be better prepared when the next change happens? Here are a few of my tried and true tips for weathering challenging transitions.

Recognize Change

It’s everywhere all the time. The changes in your organization are not just happening to you, everyone is impacted in some way. So be conscious of how you show up when changes come.

Help Others

Take your mind off your worries. You can help your colleagues by being kind and remembering they are experiencing it, too. Give people the benefit of the doubt or try to meet them more than half way. Ask your new boss if there is something you can do to ease the team’s transition.

Learn New Things

Times of change in your company are a great opportunity to learn new skills. Maybe you can learn how to plan and execute an event or learn how to send out a client update. These are great opportunities to stretch and try new things that might not have been part of your old role. What a great time to show your continued added value to your firm.

Build Your Network

As people leave or change roles, keep in contact with them. Just because they might not be your coworker any more doesn’t mean you won’t be coworkers again in the future. If you know people at the company they are headed to, offer to introduce them to your contacts. Look for ways you can help them transition out of their role, including offering to help manage a project while your company looks for a replacement.

Be Optimistic

Remember that change is temporary but people will remember how you approached it. Try to find the silver lining – maybe it’s learning a new skill, or at minimum, it’s an adventure.

Ask Questions

If you don’t understand, ask questions to seek further clarification. How can I help? What can I do to make this easier? Why are we making these changes? Make sure your questions are forward-looking and focused on how the new changes will impact and help your company. My personal best practice is to write down all my questions and sit with them for a day, then review them and see if there is a larger theme that I could address. I want to make sure my questions are positive and constructive.

Assume Positive Intent

People are tired of hearing me say this, but I firmly believe in this. This isn’t about you. These changes are business decisions and impact a lot of people. We can either assume positive intent related to the changes at our company or assume more sinister motives. Either way it’s your choice, but I can promise you assuming positive intent is a much more pleasant way to think about things.

Be Flexible

Things will not go as planned. Period. So be flexible when these changes happen, see how you can help or adjust to go with the flow. Or as I like to say, “be a grain of sand in the ocean.”


If you are losing sleep or the changes are negatively impacting your ability to do your day to day job, speak up! Tell your boss what’s going on. Use “I” statements when describing how you’re feeling and work together to find a balance before there is a crisis.

When you learn about changes coming your way, my best advice is to plan for the worst, hope for the best and remember this too shall pass.

By Rachel Shields Williams, Senior Manager, Experience Management at Sidley Austin LLP

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