Lesson Learned: Learn to Chameleon

In life, as in business, what we dream for our future seldom works out the way we expect, so we need to Learn To Chameleon.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary notes that a person who is a chameleon is defined as being:

a: a person who often changes his or her beliefs or behavior in order to please others or to succeed

b: one that is subject to quick or frequent change especially in appearance

However, for the purposes of this article, it is someone who is adaptable, who is quickly able to change jobs and learn new skillsets, in order to evolve and survive in a changing business / work environment.

According to Bloomberg: Most U.S. College Grads Don’t Work in the Field They Studied (2022), whilst The Sun noted that Less than half of uni (University) graduates are working in a career that relates to their degree (2023).

A Goldman Sachs article: Generative AI could raise global GDP by 7% 2023 cited a David Autor report which noted that 60% of today’s workers are employed in occupations that didn’t exist in 1940.’

That is certainly true for me, as when I started work in the early 1990’s I was given just 3 career options (in a school career guidance session): Teacher; Nurse; or Secretary, which is why I trained as a high school teacher. Though I loved it, after just 2 short years teaching in a high school, life would ‘compel’ me to move cities at short notice. The result was that I was not able to secure a teaching position in time to start the new school year and needing to make ends meet, I turned to the business world and never made it back to teaching in a school. I also never ‘used’ my BA in Psychology in any formal career path, though it provided a most valuable informal context for understanding how things work in business.

Instead, I ‘chameleoned’ / adapted to ‘new’ jobs that either did not exist or that I was not even made aware of during my career guidance session in the 90’s. I have had many careers for which I had no ‘traditional’ formal training, only short courses where possible. Despite that, I still managed to train adult staff in nearly every position I’d hold from then onwards, as I simply love imparting knowledge (hence this blog :-)).

But, in order to do so, I first needed to learn / teach myself to perform different jobs (see my LinkedIn profile for the full list of different careers).

In order to move into a new position we need to master the following skills:

  1. Embrace the change / new challenge, as a good, positive thing
  2. Manage the stress of not knowing what you are doing for a period. It can feel like going back to school again, which can be disconcerting, disorienting and frustrating
  3. Quickly find good quality information (books, papers, legislative requirements, websites, etc.) and do your homework
  4. Consult stakeholders and ask for help should you need it but don’t become a bother / pest, as you cannot ask others to do your new job for you (ask the boss and clients what they would need / expect) (consult colleagues: what they would need from you, what the previous person did wrong that you could improve on, humbly ask them what they could provide / offer you to help you to be a success) (research industry experts for a best practice / shining example of what that job, done correctly, would look like)
  5. Take copious notes – if you find relevant information make a note of it, so that you can reference it when you are stuck and don’t ask a colleague the same thing over and over again
  6. Be humble and prepared to appear ‘stupid’ for a short while: Know that you won’t yet know what you are talking about, so be prepared to ask simple questions to learn, accepting that that may result in your being looked down upon for a while, until you can get the hang of things. Don’t try to be a ‘know it all’ on day one
  7. Rather listen until you can speak with authority. When you know all you need to know, you can express an opinion
  8. Learn all relevant theory, as quickly as possible
  9. Understand a problem from every possible angle (why it is a problem for the boss, why it is a problem for a client, why it is a problem for the company, why it is a problem for a colleague, etc.) that way your solution can fix the entire problem all at once, without having to go back and fix it again. Be the solution by fixing it all at once and not be part of the problem by making it worse for everyone
  10. Do as much on your own, as possible. Don’t burden others, instead try to lighten their load
  11. Interpret information to filter out what’s most important to use
  12. Find / create the fastest, most efficient way to do the job, even if you need to create new processes to get it done, with the approval of your management team where necessary
  13. Find the tools you will need and acquire them
  14. Plan to quickly implement what is needed, who will be impacted and who will be needed to assist, before obtaining their buy-in
  15. Fail forward (learn from your mistakes first time) and request honest feedback (to know where you messed up, so that you can quickly get ahead)
  16. Move on to the next challenge and don’t rest on your laurels. Keep changing and evolving

Adapt to each new business environment you find yourself in, as careers are moving from permanent fixtures (just one job for life where you had the time to become highly specialised) to short ‘fix-a-problem’ projects, where you become a ‘jack-of-all-trades’ who is highly adaptable and are able to evolve optimally.

Particularly as today also has the added complication of AI, which could potentially replace around 800 million jobs worldwide by 2030, according to SEO AI…AI Replacing jobs statistics , with over 120 million workers needing to be retrained in the next 3 years as AI reshapes industry demands and projecting that approximately 45 million American jobs alone could be overtaken by AI by 2030.

Embracing the AI Revolution, (2023 Forbes article) ‘Mollick notes, Ignoring AI is like ignoring the internet in the early 2000s. It’s here, and it’s changing the way we work.’

The AI revolution is only just getting started. So, it stands to reason that AI is likely to create even more ‘new’ jobs that don’t exist today AND at a much faster pace. It is therefore vital that everyone adapt and embrace the AI change, with all the other changes impacting business, as the future will undoubtedly not be as we envision it today, even in our wildest dreams.

In the immortal words of the Culture Club and the Boy George song Karma Chameleon, ‘Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dream‘ but life seldom colours the same as we dream or plan for, and ‘Every day is like survival‘, particularly in business.

If you cannot Chameleon, evolve and survive, extinction is a very real possibility. This is not fear-mongering, this is a harsh fact of life today, and so the most important takeaway is that everyone needs to learn how to adapt, get used to learning new things quickly, to manage the stress and frustration that comes with starting over, and to be open to constant change.

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Posted by optimumbusines

Lyn has worked in various business areas of large, internationally-recognised, multinational telecommunication corporate organisations since 2004, gaining significant expertise in the business language of each. Her role regularly combined the functions of internal communications, training and change management on large projects and other strategic initiatives. She also has specific experience in: – Creating HR policies and procedures – Talent recruitment lead creation procedures – Process creation, optimisation and re-engineering in AP, sourcing and HR – Migrating and managing SOX and EWC compliance, and implementations – Global and regional Shared Service Centre management and implementations – Bid Management – EcoMetric assessment training and certification procedures – Internship creation and management – Full SAP, IFRS15, Concur and S4 Hana implementations QUALIFICATIONS She has a four-year Higher Diploma in Education from the University of Natal, in secondary (high school) second language teaching. She also has a Bachelor of Arts degree, from the University of South Africa (UNISA), majoring in Psychology. She is a certified EcoMetrist and has an Advanced 120 Hour TEFL certificate. Her combination of international business experience provides practical, professional know-how, combined with excellent qualifications, ensures an effective all-round, expert approach to training.

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