As with any career there are lots of hidden things that degree, that “intro to _” class and those templated CM “certifications” will not tell you or show you.
- Leave your ego at the door.
This is not a career to run into with your feathers fluffed looking to be seen.
The best of us do our work behind the scenes. When we take the limelight it is with strategic (and tactical) intent. Our egos are best transferred to others. Asserting your ego (especially if you are an external) can be a fast way to the door. There is no food on the table on the other side of that door. Asserting your ego as an internal does not make for good change management.
- Think about your own end state.
What will you be and what will your environment look like close to retirement?
Will you be a thought leader, transformational or huge engagement consultant? Or will you have perfected the tactics and tactical implementation of small to medium-sized projects/programs. The first means you should be external the second internal.
- Never get locked in to one environment.
Move, either to different companies, different places or at least different jobs within a company.
I snicker (and, yes, cringe) when I look at profiles on LinkedIn of people who call themselves change management consultants (or some similar term) who have only worked at one or two places. As a comparison I personally have worked inside 70+ companies (add some numbers for different environments since some of those were Fortune 100). Any chance I might understand a ton of things about change and corporate change compared to a one trick pony “CM”?
- Don’t stay too long.
Politics and protecting your own interest will sand down your change capability and motivation. Two years will make you an employee- legally and figuratively. This tip is different from the last one, because this one says at two years leave, “no matter what”(I can smell the smoke from potential blogging flames…).
Not so much the latest fad (“brain research” will run its course as did all the other OD and CM fads).
Learn the things and learn to use the tools that facilitate this role. Become a wiz at the full Adobe Suite, brush up on Excel (please do not become a wiz unless you plan on switching to the PM role), grab a grammar book, start a blog to practice, volunteer somewhere and do change management in a safer environment, grab a mentor (before the un-“certified” ones retire), learn about business structure/org design, find an executive or two to have coffee with and field CM questions and do the same with sample stakeholders for the full length of your career.