Changing Jobs?

Almost everyone you speak with nowadays mentions some major change and related initiative happening within the industry or organisation.

Individuals are moving through different jobs with increasing frequency. The median number of years that wage and salary workers had been with their current employer in the U.S. was 4.1 years in January 2008.(1)

It therefore becomes critical that an individual understands the key elements for quick and effective transition across jobs and organisations, and develops the ability to learn and unlearn in shorter cycles.

Studies have repeatedly shown that the ability to learn from experience is what differentiates successful executives from unsuccessful ones. Successful executives have strong and active learning patterns from key job assignments. They learn faster, not because they are more intelligent, but because they have more effective learning skills and strategies.(2)

Peter Drucker wrote, “Knowledge becomes obsolete incredibly fast.”

Almost all jobs have the following core learning components that are critical for effective delivery. I believe that strong awareness and mastery over these elements provide us with the agility to transition and succeed across jobs and organisations quickly.

Every job involves some specific and core subject matter areas. These could most effectively be acquired and applied through a combination of on-the-job experiences and academic learnings.

Every organisation has a set of processes for most functional areas. Most of the work nowadays is defined through process flows. Building a good understanding of the organisational process flows allow us to determine what we need to do and how it impacts stakeholders.

All organisations and jobs have specific tools and technologies that support work. Having a good understanding of how they work and are applied could substantially increase overall efficiency.

In my opinion, this is one of the most important elements. It includes both internal and external networks of personal relationships that allows us to function with a high degree of effectiveness. In many instances, the personal networks are critical for achieving the ‘extra mile’ of success and to managing crises. In most instances, people go beyond the specified requirements of a process if there is a strong existing relationship with the specific individual. These relationships are also critical links to tacit knowledge that’re often unavailable on formal knowledge management systems or databases. Treating people with respect and empathy normally will get you valuable help and inputs on the organisational culture, especially during the tough transition phase. It also helps us to build our network quicker.

This is gained through the application of knowledge in a variety of situations and learning/adjusting from successes and failures (what has worked/not worked?) over time. This is very relevant and important for managers and leaders as a lot of judgment is involved in making important decisions. Many of those decisions would not have defined or single answers.

Understanding and focusing on the core elements of work transitions have a big impact on our effectiveness.

The elements mentioned above clearly relate to the concept of ‘Learning Agility’ (Eichinger & Lombardo), measured through four key facets: (a) Mental Agility (b) People Agility (c) Change Agility and (d) Results Agility.(3)

Please share your experiences and observations. This is a very useful and relevant topic for many individuals.

(1) Bureau of Labor Statistics, Friday, September 26, 2008, EMPLOYEE TENURE IN 2008

(2)(3) The Korn/Ferry Insititute: Using Learning Agility to Identify High Potentials around the World by Kenneth P. De Meuse, Guangrong Dai, George S. Hallenbeck, King Yii Tang


  1. Ashok

    Excellent post. Distilled. In India, I see ‘wise’ managers relying on personal networks to overcome the ‘rigidities’ of workflow processes. Yes, colleagues go an ‘extra mile’; just that it is a deviation from the pucca road.

    I think they are able to do this repeatedly because of weak monitoring (by higher-ups) and other reasons. To somebody who is new in that company, would it make sense to play along with the new boss — cultivate networks and deviate from processes? Or better to stick to processes? Maybe you can’t generalise. But would love to hear your thoughts, in general.

  2. Tojo Eapen

    Thank you, Ashok!

    Good point regarding rigidities of processes. It sometimes defeats the purpose of having them. There may also be technology/tool related limitations, especially when organisations try to automate on a wide scale. This can itself be a separate topic for discussion.

    When someone transitions to a new job, understanding and experiencing the existing processes in the new environment is a necessity. I think this stage is too early to question or deviate. An individual needs a better understanding and social capital to propose, influence and implement core org. process changes. Networks are important during the transition stage not to deviate from processes, rather for support in learning the new environment and settling down quickly in the new job.

    There is also the important organisational culture (which would have local cultural influences) and environmental aspects to keep in mind.

  3. Kurur


    I work for a “process-obsessed” organization and often find most new joinees helplessly stuck midway through an inflexible process or completely lost in a deluge of process documentation, acronyms and terminology that they have been asked to assimilate within an unreasonable span of time. And by the time he/she gathers a basic understanding of how the process works (or how to beat it), an altogether new process replaces it. So much for process maturity!

  4. Tojo Eapen

    Thanks for sharing, Sandeep. Very relevant points. This seems to be a common challenge nowadays.


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