We all know that the only constant is change. With today’s fast-paced world, things are changing around you all the time. Change is scary for most people, but change allows for growth. By finding ways to control the extent and direction of the changes, you can take control of your career and move it in the direction of your choosing.
Do the same thing in a new way. Small changes are the easiest to make, but they can be the hardest to identify. Often, we develop a habit and then convince ourselves that there is no other way that task can be done. But as technology and corporate needs change, new and better methods may arise. Can you pick a procedure or task that has become routine and pretend you are doing it for the first time? How would you do it if you just started today? Taking what you know now, can you design a better process?
Do the same thing in the same place. In addition to doing the same thing differently, you can also do new things. You should always be on the lookout for things that need to be done that fall outside of your traditional duties and see if you can give them a try. By taking on additional responsibilities, you not only make yourself more valuable to your current employer, but you also learn what you really like to do and what you are good at. If you are enjoying what you’re doing, those initially peripheral activities may become your main focus.
Do the same thing in a new place. Maybe you love what you do and have gotten very good at it, but you’re dissatisfied with certain aspects of it, such as the location, specific coworkers, or the corporate culture. If that’s the case, you could consider changing not what you are doing, but where you are doing it. Sell your expertise to a new employer, and bring both your knowledge and a fresh set of eyes to a new workplace.
Change everything. Sometimes small changes aren’t enough. Maybe you’re getting ready to retire as a chemist and start a second career as a woodworker. If you’re doing it more for the activity and socialization than for income, then a second career might be a great way to remain useful, active, and engaged. Starting this business on the side while still employed elsewhere can be a great way to test it out before committing too many resources.
You make the change, or change may be thrust upon you. Change is going to happen, whether you want it or not. By looking for opportunities, and making the changes you want, you can put your energy to good use. Learning what you enjoy and what you are good at—and growing your skills—is always better than worrying about what is going to happen. Your career is a marathon, not a sprint, and as long as you’re moving, you will get there eventually.
Get involved in the discussion. The ACS Career Tips column is published the first week of every month in C&EN. Post your comments, follow the discussion, and suggest topics for future columns in the Career Development section of the ACS Network (www.acs.org/network-careers).