Letting Go Of The Past And Embracing Change

When I left my ESPN analyst role to go join Viacom as a manager, I was aware that I’d feel the sting of change. I was excited about my new role, about the possibility and the promise for growth. Still, I was comfortable where I was and the idea of transitioning into something new and different made me panic unexpectedly.

The day I finally accepted the Viacom offer, I had to give notice to my boss, who I respected a lot and had been instrumental in my success and happiness at work. I was lucky at ESPN. I had coworkers who truly were friends and I cared about them. Even though I had a great new role in my hands, with a substantial financial increase, I was scared of what I didn’t know. Would I be as successful somewhere else? Will I enjoy the people I work with? Will the work be too hard? Can I thrive there?

I knew it was time to move forward but I struggled all morning to get the words out. Finally, after lunch, I forced myself to talk to my boss and tell him my time was up. He was both disappointed and proud of me. He shared his vision of how he could see me continuing to grow at ESPN and how he would coach me to run things there one day. He was a brilliant leader and I believed he would help me advance. Still, my mind was made and we both accepted that I’d be leaving.

We went through the formalities with HR and learned that because my new role was considered competitive to my role at ESPN, I had to be out by the end of the day. I had less than 4 hours to pack, say good-bye to people I grew to love, and process that it was really over. That chapter in my life would be closed for now and a new chapter was beginning.

I celebrated over champagne with my friends that night, but I still felt so uncomfortable about the change that I teared up. I spent the first week of my paid two weeks off back at my old office, meeting my old coworkers for coffee, workouts and lunches. I wasn’t ready to move forward at all. It felt crazy to be at the brink of something new and great and yet feel an overwhelming sense of sadness. I realized that while I was excited about what was ahead, I was terrified of everything that was unknown.

I decided to take a week vacation alone and do some reflecting and planning. I interned at ESPN, spent years working there, developing relationships and growing my skills. It was my first job after grad school and in many ways I felt I had come to be defined by my role there. In order to move forward, I had to push myself to realize that that experience, although meaningful didn’t define me.

I made a list of what I learned from the experience: how to build meaningful relationships at work, hard skills like forecasting and creating killer strategy decks, managing difficult people and conversations, the value of giving 110%. I realized that everything I gained from the experience was what would define me, not the experience itself. I decided to shift my perspective and accept my new identity. Angelina the ESPN business analyst was in the past and Angelina the business development manager at Viacom was my new reality.

Change, transition, newness can be terrifying, even when the outlook seems super positive. It can be even harder when you feel like you are moving on from something that was wonderful to something you don’t know will be as great. We get used to our comfort zone and can cling to our past realities.

While we don’t always have the luxury of week long vacations to reflect on the struggle that change presents, take some time, 15 minutes, an hour, or as long as you can afford, to define what the experience you are moving on from means for you.

  • What did you learn?

  • What have you gained?

  • How can you bring that into your new reality?

Even if what you are leaving behind seemed like a good situation, what’s ahead has the promise to be better if you allow it to be. Get comfortable with the unknown and start to accept that your identity is shifting.

C-Suite Swag tip: "Today women wear many hats and take on several roles, and well you have to the perfect outfit with each hat! When at work, I opt for dresses with simple clean lines and playful shoes. It’s the perfect balance that says, 'I mean business, yet I’m very approachable.'" -- Shimere Ballou, CDC Public Health Analyst

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