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Conquering the chaos caused by sudden career change

Updated: Jul 22, 2019

In 2010, I reached a career crossroads. The company and senior leadership that had been investing in my professional development and making big bets on my future leadership potential was purchased and the management team let go. I ended up not staying with the new company and therefore faced quite a bit of uncertainty. At the time, all of my mentors/career sponsors were starting over themselves so could not really help me out.

I had to help myself. But to do that I had to shift my attitude about what had happened.

I'd begun mourning my career since the merger was announced the previous year - going through the 5 phases of grief in rapid succession. Initially, I denied that my career was in jeopardy. As the merger close date grew nearer, I grew angry that our senior leadership had taken the easy way out and bailed on the company vision in order to turn a quick buck. When the new company management came on board, I thought I might be able to bargain my way into maintaining the status I'd gained under the prior leadership, but naturally they gave preference to their own people. My last month in the office, I found myself completely depressed and dejected - wondering why I even bothered coming into work. And by the time I received my exit package, I had finally accepted the fact that life as I knew it would never be the same.

Once I accepted my new fate, however, I quickly saw the opportunities in front of me. I took a 6 week writing workshop to inspire me to finish a novel I'd been working on, jumped industries completely and ended up reinventing (and reinvigorating) my career - even making time to profit off of my pharmaceutical industry relationships and experience via my own consulting firm. I was busier (and happier) than ever and I thanked my lucky stars that the merger happened.

As I look back on it now many years later, it is evident that every career setback I've encountered has ultimately set me up for more success. And the single most important reason why is because I have been lucky enough to take advantage of the opportunities change has provided.

So let me leave you with this concept -

In order to conquer the chaos that comes with sudden career change you must learn to focus on what you can control.

And what you can control ultimately is how you choose to feel about the change. A colleague of mine introduced a brilliant new model to me today that completely aligns with the topic of this article. When you encounter a difficult change you need to apply the ASK model:

A = attitude. How do you feel about the change? What do you need to do to accept what has happened and reframe your attitude from negative to positive?

S = skill. What can you do next? What are your strengths? What are you most passionate about?

K = knowledge. What are you an expert at? What more do you need to learn to be ready for future opportunities?

How have you dealt with difficult career change? What do you think of the ASK model? Let me know in the comments section.

Omar L. Harris is Associate Vice-President and Country Manager for Allergan PLC in Brazil. He is the author of Leader Board: The DNA of High-Performance Teams available for purchase in ebook or print on Please follow him on instagramtwitter, and/or LinkedIn for more information and engagement.

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