By Simon Olenick

Organizational restructuring has become as regular a phenomenon as “project creep” for IT consultants. Dealing with this type of large scope change can be devastating to one’s livelihood.

The question IT consultants should be asking themselves when faced with a corporate reorganization isn’t, “How can I survive this restructuring?” but rather, “How can I benefit from it?” After all, change is a necessary element of progress, and progress is by definition good.

Now that we have established that restructuring can be seen in a positive light, let’s set some ground rules for achieving the most desirable results from this unstable situation. Following the five steps outlined below will help position you for change and at the same time aid you in evaluating your company’s viability, your place in the market, and your individual livelihood.

Assess your value to your company and clients during the “pre-reorg” phase
Answering this series of questions will help in this evaluation:

  • Do you have a positive working relationship with your peers?
  • As a consultant to company X, have you acted in the best interests of your clients? Are you a hardworking, proactive spokesperson for your company?
  • Do you take pride in delivering innovative solutions to complex problems?

You should be able to answer in the affirmative to at least two of these questions. If you can, then you should be considering your value to your company in its post-restructuring state rather than concerning yourself with “where the chips will fall.” On the other hand, if you have answered “no” to more than one of these questions, you should give serious consideration to exploring employment opportunities outside of your company.

Once you’ve assessed your value to your current organization, the second step in your decision process is to draw out the full range of options available to you. IT consultants (especially those with hybrid skills) are aware of the demand for their skills in the marketplace, and should always evaluate and compare the concrete benefits of remaining at their current job against the potential benefits of working elsewhere when making career-oriented decisions.

Evaluate your risk tolerance
Are you comfortable with the prospect of change? Many employees remain in jobs that allow only mediocre opportunity for growth in exchange for a steady income and dependable work environment. (The work environment is obviously unpredictable in the middle of a restructuring period.)

How high is your risk tolerance? In deciding whether to persevere while your company changes its direction, you should ask yourself these two questions:

  • Will I be missing out on guaranteed external opportunities by patiently waiting for my company to discover its new structure?
  • If I remain on board, will I fit into the new structure?

Your mind may be influenced by the duration of uncertainty—the time it takes management to reorganize itself. If you’re comfortable with the prospect of short-term instability and the likelihood of remaining gainfully employed with your current organization, then clearly you’re willing to stick it out while the situation becomes more concrete. On the other hand, if you’re of the opinion that the grass is always greener, you have a moderate amount of risk tolerance, and you are hungry for a new project, then it’s time to start circulating resumes and contacting your headhunter.

Decide what’s most important to you in a job
Analyze your ”buy points.” Just as potential employers evaluate your “selling points” while perusing stacks of resumes and portfolios and interviewing candidates, you should be itemizing and sorting your ”buy points” when experiencing organizational turmoil or while conducting a job search.

Your ”buy points” are what you look for in an employer. Make a list like this one:

  • What does an employer need to provide to garner my interest in joining its organization? Excusing the current state of flux, does my current organization meet these criteria as well as satisfy my financial and social requirements?
  • What about benefits such as health insurance and retirement plans?
  • If I am a contract consultant, am I eligible to receive the same benefits as my permanently employed office peers?
  • How critical is upward mobility to my livelihood?

If the opportunity for growth is more important to you than a high base salary, you should give consideration to joining an established start-up, which will raise your potential for mobility.

Do your research and make an informed decision
How accessible are the decision-makers in your firm? Do what you can to speak with management you trust in your current organization. Go as high up as you possibly can without ruffling feathers. After all, during a restructuring, the voluntary attrition rate is normally quite high. Therefore, management ”in the know” can be a valuable asset in helping you make your next career decision. If they consider you a precious resource, they’ll help you determine where you fit in the “new” organization and do whatever they can to convince you to persist through the discomfort of a restructuring.

In times of organizational uncertainty, it’s critical that you conduct comparative research. At the very least, you should participate in informational interviews outside your company. It never hurts to learn about other consulting businesses, even if you’re not quite ready to make a move.

Will I fit in the “new” organization? Will the new organization be a fit for me?
Lastly, before you jump ship—even if it seems to be sinking—you should build realistic expectations of your new organization to maximize the likelihood you’ll land on your feet. One of the often-overlooked factors to consider when joining a new organization is the length of the transition phase or the “honeymoon period” into this foreign environment. Prepare yourself for a moderate transition period, similar in duration to that of your former organization’s restructuring phase.

Keep in mind that it may take a while to acclimate to the new business culture and social climate, as well as to have a chance to get at that wireless data warehousing integration project you’ve been dying to sink your teeth into. During this adjustment phase, seemingly small issues—such as dress code—may weigh heavily on your comfort level, and desirable project work may not be readily available. Ask yourself if you can withstand this short-term sacrifice in comfort and productivity in pursuit of long-term financial and intellectual profit potential.

Think in broad terms
There’s an abundance of opportunity waiting for IT consultants in today’s marketplace. If your company is undergoing an organizational restructuring, recognize this as an opportunity to evaluate your current level of job satisfaction and determine whether it’s time to take advantage of the healthy job market. Itemize your core skills, determine your weaknesses, and assess the growth potential of your current role as well as that of your organization as a whole. Measure your risk tolerance and your desire for change. This is the time to take a step back and systematically examine the universe of possibilities open to you.

While following the steps listed above will prepare you to make a job decision, it will also encourage you to think in broader terms. This larger mental scope, when applied to a client-business partnership or client-vendor relationship, will increase the magnitude of your contribution. Being able to view scenarios from a top-down perspective will enable you to provide full life cycle solutions to your clients and constituents.
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