Approximately five months ago, I said goodbye to friends, colleagues, and students at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. Today, I am writing a blog post from my office in Singapore where I work as the Global Director of the Career Development Centre at INSEAD. In my current role, I lead a team of professionals across three campuses (Fontainebleau, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi) responsible for career coaching, employer engagement, and day-to-day, career-related operations.
The move to a new school, new MBA format (INSEAD’s MBA program is 10 months compared to the two-year programs at most U.S. business schools), and a new country has been amazing. I have been challenged and exposed to new experiences every day. But, it has also been hard. Below are four tips that I have found useful when adapting to change.
- Be grateful. At the end of each day I write down three good things that happened that day. My gratitude journal is on my bedside table and I make sure to journal right before I go to sleep so I can focus on the positive rather than the negative before calling it a day. Thinking about three good things helps me get beyond the frustrations of the day and instead pay attention to lessons learned or the simple kindness I received from strangers.
- Create space between stimulus and response. My move to Singapore initiated a lot of change; so much that sometimes I don’t give myself the time to thoughtfully respond. Rather, I find myself reacting. This is a very difficult piece of advice for me to follow. For example, I rarely have more than a couple of unanswered emails in my inbox. Giving myself permission to process before responding to stimulus has allowed me to not be so reactive in my responses. This is especially important when learning a new culture, environment, and working styles.
- Give people the benefit of the doubt. I know that practicing empathy is important. But, it is easy to forget to practice empathy when you get an email you find annoying or when a process is not clearly defined. Moving to a new country and working with many different cultures, I have found that a lot can get “lost in translation.” Simply giving someone the benefit of the doubt (or alternatively assigning them a good motive rather than a bad one) can easily reduce my stress level and makes communication much more effective.
- Stay in touch with “your people.” The time difference between Singapore and the US East Coast is 12 hours. While I am heading home after a long day at work, my family and friends are just waking up and commuting to work. It can be difficult to connect and have meaningful contact. But, it is imperative to touch base with those people who know you, trust you, and believe in you. WhatsApp has been a lifeline allowing me to text and call my friends back home for free. We share pictures, one-liners, and updates at no cost. Being able to recharge with the familiar makes all the change more bearable.
Stephen Hawking once said, “[i]ntelligence is the ability to adapt to change.” He is right, but even the most intelligent among us can use some help in adapting to change once in a while.