Career lessons from The Walking Dead: be adaptable
Rick, Morgan and the other characters who have lasted share in common an ability to adjust to change; to understand that the important thing is to work with the world as it is now not as it used to be or as they wish it could be again. Rick gets into the swing of the new world very quickly, from waking up, dazed, in the hospital to battling his way out of Atlanta in only a few days. Morgan too was quick to adapt. While his wife was looking to the past – grabbing the photo albums – he was preparing himself for the apparent present and the likely future. He had already worked out what the world was like at that time and was doing what was needed to cope with it, whereas she was just thinking of what she would miss from the past, or need when the current situation reverted to ‘normal’.
Many fields, such as law, accountancy and medicine require that practitioners keep up to date with changing processes, legislation or methodology. It should be a requirement for you, too, if you want to get ahead. Change is inevitable: once you have accepted that you can begin to move forward.
Ask what is changing
In The Walking Dead the changes are both catastrophic and sudden. Nobody really had time to prepare for the new reality or take steps to avoid it. As we see in the back story show, Fear The Walking Dead, a problem that started small rapidly escalated as the authorities misunderstood both the problem itself and its potential lasting impact. In a huge city like Los Angeles the virus quickly spread among the population.
In your working life changes can be sudden and catastrophic, but more commonly change is gradual. Is your industry changing – have you read articles about new technologies, routes to market, operating systems? What are your organization’s competitors doing and what might the implications be for you if your business follows the same route? How is the economy faring? You need to keep your eyes and ears open – you stand a better chance of surviving change if you are well informed.
Work out what you need to do to be part of the change
Having accepted that the world is changing Rick and Morgan both work out what they need to do to be part of the new world.
Seeing the changes is only the first step; understanding what you need to do requires greater thought. So Tara and her family noticed a change and realized the need to survive, but they thought the safest thing to do was hole up in their flat with all the food and water that was available. Not only was this a short-term plan but it also meant they weren’t out in the world learning more about the changes taking place. If it had not been for the presence of The Governor when their father died Tara, her niece and sister may also have been turned. Not everybody is able to make the creative leap from observation to a plan of action, so if you can do it you will have a distinct advantage over your contemporaries. As Henry Ford famously said, ‘If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.’ While others thought change meant more of the same but better, Ford approached the advancing world from a more creative angle. .
Perhaps you work in a business that sells two different products or services. You note from reading the industry press that a new technology has been developed, and you realize that said technology could revolutionize one side of the business, the side you are not currently involved in. So what do you need to do to arm yourself with the know-how and credentials to switch to the side of the business that is shortly to be in the ascendancy?
Take steps to achieve that
When Rick decides he needs to survive and works out he needs weapons to help him he goes to the logical place – King County Sheriff ’s Department, where he used to work – and stocks up on what guns and ammunition remain. Having heard that there is a refugee centre in Atlanta, where the Center for Disease Control is also located, he sets off in that direction, calculating that his best chance for survival lies there.
It is no good knowing what you need to do in order to be part of the change if you do not act on that information. Is there a course you can attend that will give you the background or qualifications you need in order to be part of the new world? Perhaps you need to read round the subject – could you do this as part of your daily commute? Ambitious and committed people use every opportunity they have to further their careers – time on the train spent reading a blockbuster novel, no matter how entertaining, is time wasted if you could be immersing yourself in future-facing thinking. And don’t forget the N word – networking – maintain good connections with others in the industry or other parts of your organization. They can be both mines of useful information and routes to the next phase of your career.