It’s like having pulled the rug from underneath me. 

The most challenging part when I switched from science to change management was this: When you study in a field and you do a PhD in your field, and you spend the first years of your career in a field, you really, really are an expert. 

And then as scientists, it’s indoctrinated into our heads that we are the experts and we have the answers. And losing that, from one day to the other, where I don’t have years of experience in change management, I have no clue about how a supply chain works. 

And now I have to figure out how to add value and find my ways here without knowing anything. 

(Maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration. I knew some things, obviously.)

But I would really have to build all of the new skills or rely on all those other transferable skills, coaching and facilitation skills, on having a quick mind to be able to understand enough and to just know who I have to ask and who I have to bring to the table to have the more detailed expert discussions. 

For the first one and a half years, I was just kind of trying to figure it out. 

And then, I had enough mistakes and errors and the first few successes under my belt, where I could say, ‘Okay, now it looks like I’m having some experience.’ Because you can take all the courses that you want, and you can read all the books that you want, but you can’t Google experience. And that only comes with time and with just doing a number of things. And so, sitting in that uncomfortable feeling for long enough was really challenging.

When starting in a new role your own internal measure might be completely distorted.

Imagine you’re a soccer player and then you start as a ballerina: you can’t use the same measure of standard that you used for yourself as a soccer player to be as good as a ballerina. 

That is where probably the expectations that I had towards myself versus that my employer had towards myself were way off. (And why they were still satisfied with my work even though I felt like I’m failing big time!)

Plus, I really tried to have as many “learning and improving on the fly” moments as possible. This means constantly checking in with my project manager, with our sponsor, with my boss:

“Okay, what’s working? What are we still missing?”

… and tapping into the collective wisdom of the team to figure out what is working, what is not working 

… and either looking up what I didn’t know in the literature, finding best practices online and seeing if I can exchange with other experts in my new field.

That way, even though we couldn’t see all the way through the next three years, we would – month by month, add something new to our toolkit or drop what wasn’t working.

Listen to my conversation with Jeremy Cline on the Change Work Life podcast to hear the full story (including my favourite book on finding purpose in our lives).

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