Hurdle racerChanging jobs at the leadership level is tough territory. Part of the challenge is that new people see the work environment through a different lens than those who have been around a while. Fresh eyes may bring new ideas but they can’t fathom the awards, the wins, and the battle scars that make up the proud past.

That’s the situation I found myself in a year ago. After working with the same company for more than a decade, I was navigating the uncharted waters of a new organization. That may sound a bit overly dramatic… It isn’t. The success rate for people in their first new job after a long stint with the same employer is abysmal. Good thing I’m stubborn.

I’m also thorough. Never one to do things halfway, I jumped right in and enthusiastically made every mistake known to man within the first six months. Fortunately, each of these “opportunities for improvement” were sufficiently packed with learning that they need never be repeated.

What I find most amusing about this transition is the qualities that helped me succeed in the past – namely adaptability and resilience – actually tripped me up and lengthened the painful period I now lovingly refer to as “the gangly teenager days”.  The more I forced myself to adapt and fit in, the stiffer I appeared. I do believe there was a period of three months where the deer-in-headlights expression never left my face. Hopefully, there will be some kind of karmic payoff for those weeks of facial paralysis. After all, my heart was in the right place. I’m thinking that something like less wrinkles around the eyes would be reasonable compensation.

Lest you think I am able to magically rise above every difficulty all on my own, I have to point out there were times my mentor pulled me out of the fire, brushed the ashes off my singed butt, and said ‘never mind’. Don’t underestimate the value of having a mentor. You need a safe place to talk about your screw ups and your successes so that you’re always driving the business forward.

As I round the corner and make my way toward the twelve month mark, what has my attention is alignment and playing a bigger game with the awesome people I get to work with (AC, JT, RA, ST – you know who you are). They say life is a series of finish lines. I can see the next one — it says in big bold letters: This team is a force to be reckoned with.

For readers considering a career change, make sure you’re ready for a hurdle race. I recommend spinach and multivitamins.

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