Change–Key Word in Your Future Corporate Job


Bruce Harrison

For the student in communication- or business-related studies: So you want a job in corporate America? What’s that going to be like?

Let’s start with a little instructive history. This is from a column by Geoff Colvin in Fortune magazine in 2006, and it’s worth reading now, some six years later, because it underscores what amounts to an eternal truth in corporate behavior and leadership: It’s all about change and transformative leadership.

Here is the quote I cut from Colvin’s column:

“Time was when a company could turn the crank on a good business model for decades; think of Kodak, Sears, Xerox, or any other icon of 20th-century commerce. No more. Former Xerox CEO Paul Allaire spoke for millions of managers in 2000 when he famously told a conference call of Wall Street analysts: ‘We have an unsustainable business model.’

“That’s a sentence every CEO should put on a laminated card and carry in his pocket. In an information-based economy, untethered to physical assets, business models can and will change continually. Yet for most companies, changing them is almost unbearably difficult — think again of Kodak, Sears, and Xerox.

“Arguably the champ at adaptation is Intel. Its recent shift away from PC chips is at least its fifth major change in business model. Those kinds of changes terrify most executives, but if Intel hadn’t made them, CEO Paul Otellini would today be in one of our 10 toughest jobs — or more likely, the company would be dead…”

My point for you, job-seeker, backed up by evidenced like this (and added proofs since it was written) is that if you get the chance to be interviewed for a job in a business organization, you will need to release any fear of change.  Sure, it may seem logical to ask, “Is it safe?  Would I have job security?”   But leave room for the counterintuitive, to know that change determines success or, if you like the comfort of the word, safety.  Yes, change is the handmaiden of risk, but its absence is the route to loss.  To use the the Fortune writer’s “laminated card” reminder, no business model is sustainable–safe or inevitable, going forward. 

In our leadership communication class at Georgetown University, we understand the warp speed of change spurred by influences of media, social engagement and competition among companies, both venerable and upstart.  We study and think:  transformational leadership communication. 

 As potential communicator or business contributor in a potential future corporate job, you need to be one with the true “sustainable business” idea.  You need to anticipate and prepare to take advantage of that one inevitability that gives you opportunity as well as pain: Change.  Your best move is to try to hook up with a leadership that is expecting and is driving change.

Bruce Harrison is a former journalist, chief communication officer for a Fortune 500 company and head of a Washington-based consulting firm. He teaches leadership communication in the graduate school, Georgetown University.

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