Managing Change, a Valuable Skill for your CV
2019-10-15 | By Deborah Valentine
“Succeeding in Change – Agility and Change Management” was the title of a networking event – Hague Hub – organised by the International Leadership Academy and OPCW in The Hague earlier this year.
ACCESS was invited to respond to this statement as part of a panel, reflecting on the experiences of our community with regards to the statement. The title put smile on my face. Indeed, one needs to be agile in order to successfully confront and manage change. My own personal experience with change management in a work setting, though, was anything but agile. More often than not, the hint of change in organised settings puts backs up and people on the defensive. The challenge for those introducing the change is to find a way of ensuring it will be agile, smooth and free of risk.
One way of doing this, I argued at the event, is to ensure that you have people who are experienced in managing change within your team – with skills and expertise in manoeuvring the expected, but more importantly, the unexpected. This, within any ‘international community of expatriates’, is a golden resource – for there is one constant, in the constantly changing lives of people on the move, and that is change. Even those who move only once, from one country to another – even in some cases, one part of a country to another – have already succeeded in navigating a change process. And, along the way, probably learnt far more than any textbook or classroom is likely to teach.
So, What Are These Skills We Speak of?
My own personal story is this: from birth to the age of 40, I moved on average every four years, making me an ‘expat’ child, student (in many different schools), professional, spouse, (accompanying as well as working), and parent. Sure, these are changes anyone goes through in life – what makes these changes unique though, in the expat world, is that, during these natural phases of change in life, our parameters, goal lines and socio-cultural markers are ALSO changing. Granted, there will be personal attributes – experience, character, resilience – which will play a role, but these too adjust and develop through the very process of dealing with change.
I will go one step further, and say that, within the globally mobile community, it is the spouses/partners of the relocated professional who are the true champions of change. An employee will of course also be dealing with new surroundings, but consider this: with a ‘place to go’ there is at least one goal post – which helps. For the family, and in particular the person who manages the daily aspects of a relocation, there are few, or no goal posts. And it is these people who develop the skills, talents and aptitudes most relevant to managing change. Even the ones who may ‘fail’ – i.e. they return home earlier than expected – will have acquired these. Particularly as, in many cases, this so-called failure is due to circumstances that have nothing to do with their ability to manage change and may, in fact, contribute to the learning process.
Curiously, the same skills and talents required to effectively manage, and be agile in the face of, change, are the skills, talents and aptitudes increasingly spoken of as the ‘skills of the future workforce’ – the soft skills in demand in an increasingly technological world. To name a few:
- Flexibility/adaptability – being open to things being different
- Creativity – finding unique solutions
- Multi-cultural openness – being able to work in multi-cultural and often multi-lingual teams
- Intercultural management/cross-cultural communications skills
- Art of persuasion – negotiating with family members, present and far
- Collaboration – looking for, and working with, others to manage the changes.
Reach for the STARS
So, as an unapologetic champion of the ‘accompanying spouse’ – who I prefer to refer to as STARS (successfully travelled and relocated spouses), I think that employers, especially those managing change, who want to manage change in an agile manner, should be hiring these master change managers and including them in their teams. The gaps which inevitably develop in the CVs of the relocated spouse are the very indicators of change management experience. I would also encourage people to consider this as they ‘update’ their CVs: take the gaps and turn them around, and capitalise on the change management experience, as they can add to your professional development and career. I hope and look forward to the day that employers also look at these ‘gaps’ in this light.
As the authors of The Mobile Life, a book on change management and global mobility, put it: “Change management is the ability to find opportunities and visualise a new future in a new environment. Who better to turn to than the people who ‘live’ this every day?”
About the author
Deborah Valentine is the Executive Director of ACCESS, a not-for-profit volunteer-based organisation which has been helping internationals arrive and settle in the Netherlands since 1986. To find out more about how ACCESS can help you, visit our website.