Career & Work Life Matters, ISSN 2150-6299, Vol 5, no. 17
You’re driving along in the winter. The weather is getting worse.
And then it happens. Your car gets stuck in the snow.
What do you do?
Your first instinct will be to accelerate. But if you’re an experienced winter driver, you know that accelerating often causes the wheels to spin. Before long you are deeper into the snow. You are more stuck than ever.
In the same way, if you feel stuck in your career change or job search, your instinct will be to try to do more. To push harder. But sometimes there is an easier way. Pushing harder doesn’t always get you where you want to go.
So what can you do instead?
You can use a different approach using force field analysis.
Try out this tool to make change easier.
Let’s begin with a short explanation of the tool. Then you can follow 3 simple steps to apply it to your personal situation.
What is Force Field Analysis?
Traditionally applied in the context of planned organizational change, force field analysis is a powerful tool that you can use to manage your career change more effectively.
Change may be complex, but the principles of force field analysis are simple.
You can apply them any planned change. Including career chagne.
Force field analysis is based on the idea that to understand change, you need to consider all the forces that influence the specific change.
In every change situation there are factors that drive the change forward, and factors that get in the way of the change. There are both helping and hindering forces. Once you understand both sides, you will have more options.
So how can you apply force field analysis to your personal career change situation?
Begin with a blank sheet of paper or new document on your computer.
Divide it into three columns.
Now you are ready to follow the three steps of the process.
Step 1: Name the change
The first step is the quickest.
Write down the change you want to make in the center column.
Make it as specific as you can for now.
Don’t worry you still feel a bit unfocused. Don’t let that prevent you getting started.
Simply write it down.
You can come back and refine your change goal as you get clearer.
Step 2: Identify the “helping forces”
Now in the left hand column, list all the “helping forces” that you can think of.
Your list will be personal to you and your situation.
Use the questions below to help you brainstorm. What are all the things that will support you to achieve the change you want?
*Include both internal and external factors.
*What makes this important for you? Which of your values is it aligned with?
*What relevant skills do you have that will contribute to your success?
*Identify a time you have successfully made a change before. What made that work for you?
How can you apply these experiences to your current situation?
*Who can help you? How can you build in both support and accountability?
Step 3: Identify the “hindering forces”
The third step is to list the factors that may get in the way of making the change you want to achieve.
Again think of both internal and external factors.
Write down as many potential obstacles as you can think of and add them to right hand column.
Here are some questions to get you started.
*On a scale of 1-10, how important is this change to you personally?
If you assign a low importance score, it may be time to go back to the drawing board.
How much effort are you willing to invest in something that is not personally important?
If you decide the change is important enough to pursue, continue with your inventory.
*Do you already have the skills you need, or is there something new you need to learn?
*What information, resources, and support do you need that you don’t yet have?
*Which individuals or groups might be (implicitly or explicitly) opposed to the change you want to make?
*What about you? What misgivings do you have? Even positive changes involve losses as well as gains.
*How confident do you feel about your ability to reach this particular goal? Maybe you feel less confident because similar changes went badly in the past.
Now that you have completed this inventory, you have more options for when you feel stuck.
You have identified the helping and hindering factors that are most relevant for you.
But you may also be asking why this matters.
It matters because this deeper understanding can help you to manage the change process more effectively.
Let’s consider an example.
Say you’re planning a career change. You’ve been thinking about it for a while. You begin to gather information. Talk to a few people. But then you get busy. Getting to the next step of your career is sill at the back of your mind, but you’re not really doing much to move it forward. You resolve to spend more time in the coming month, but it just doesn’t happen.
After a while, your motivation dips. Instead of an interesting challenge that you feel energized to pursue, now it feels like a burden. This is the point that most people give up. Often we give up too soon. One reason is that we don’t know how to rekindle our motivation or what to do when we feel stuck.
Fortunately force field analysis can help.
If you’ve taken the time to really understand you planned change, your expectations are more likely to be realistic.
You also have more options. When you get off track, focusing on the problems and obstacles can add to stuckness. But now you have a different choice. You can revisit the “helping forces” side of the equation.
Sometimes, a step as simple as reminding yourself of why this change is important will be enough to re-energize you. Remembering that you have overcome similar obstacles in the past might be just what you need to boost you confidence that you can address the obstacles you need to overcome. Or maybe you need to call in some support. With your inventory of helping and hindering forces handy, you can quickly review your options. You have a tool to help you get back on track.
When you’re making change in your career, it can feel like your wheels are spinning. Like driving in the snow, applying force to spinning wheels can dig you in deeper.
If your car gets stuck in the snow, switching between drive and reverse a few times may give you traction you need to get unstuck and move forward. If you get stuck in your career, force field field analysis is a tool that you can use to get unstuck. By really understanding your change situation you have more options. Boosting the “helping forces” may just give you the traction you need.
|Jennifer Bradley helps professionals lead their own careers, empowered with the information, tools, and resources that they need. She offers individual coaching and consulting, teaches classes, and publishes articles on career development and career transition. If you’re new to the Career & Work Life Matters Blog, and would like to discover more about your personal career management skills, request a Free copy of the Career Scorecard.|