Career Change

Learn tips on dealing with change in your career.

Tell me about a big change you’ve had to deal with

The Real Question: When the change happened, did you shrink from it or did you lean into it? Do you still have the energy for change? What mark would you give your adaptability, out of ten?

Top-line Tactic: Show that you think of change as a permanent and necessary fixture, not as an occasional obstacle.

Sadly, you can no longer get brownie points for observing that the world changes very quickly these days. Everybody knows about rapid change: they see it everywhere. Besides, this particular question is a competency question. That means the interviewer wants to hear times, places, names and outcomes, not a big-picture sermon about this funny old world we live in.

Fortunately, nobody’s career is without change. You’ll easily be able to go in with several examples, not just one. Your top line in any of these examples is to show that you think of change as an opportunity to grow, not an ordeal to endure.

A good answer begins by acknowledging the specific, positive results of the change and then working backward in time to the bad old days.

When the government introduced health-and-safety exams for construction workers, it was always clear we’d end up with fewer accidents on site, and better workers too. But as the site foreman, I had to tell skilled workers I’d known for twenty years that it was time for them to go back to school, else they’d be off the job. Some of them didn’t like that, and I can understand why. The guy who protested the most turned out to be a technophobe. He’d heard the exam was computer-based, so I showed him that the exam wasn’t really about computers, just a bit of point-and-click software, easy to use. He passed. And nobody on my site left because of the exams, though lots elsewhere did.

You have to work out why people oppose change, and sometimes it’s not the reason they give you. If there were no changes in my job, I’d do something else. And I visit fewer colleagues in hospital these days.

This answer shows you:

  • being open to new experiences;
  • soldiering on through the bad atmosphere change often creates;
  • getting into the minds of those who oppose change, many of whom are often just scared, not lazy or boring.

It helps if you can cite an example of change at the hiring firm, and relate your answer to that. Look in the press release and news section of the firm’s website: there you’ll find examples of change that the firm is probably pleased to talk about.

It also helps to show that change never stopped you from focusing on the ultimate purpose of your job, that the little things don’t matter to you. For example, airline cabin crew used to be a glamorous vocation. It isn’t glamorous anymore, but that’s got nothing to do with getting people off a plane in an emergency, which, despite appearances, has always principally been what cabin crew are paid to do.

For maximum impact, give an example of when you’ve volunteered for change, such as taking a discretionary professional development course.

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