Controlling What You Can’t Control
Clock in at 9:30am, receive an assignment, execute what’s been asked of you, clock out.
Certainty. Or in other words, my life before AlphaSights. After college I took a job at one of the largest, most established corporate law firms in the country and, despite what you’ve heard about legal professions, very much enjoyed my job. Maybe it was that I enjoyed the security around my job, but when I decided to leave and pursue my role here, I was stepping away from 65 years of precedent and into a world with little to no guarantees. While most of my life has been navigated with laser-sharp focus and an absolute knowing of what my next step was going to be, for the first time I was not only accepting uncertainty, I was actively pursuing it.
When you operate in an environment of “do this,” “don’t do that” or “that’s just the way it is,” it’s easy to doubt your capabilities because you’ve never had the opportunity to test them real time. Building self-worth in the workforce means doing so by exercising confidence in your ability to respond to what you can’t control. Routines become automatic and change jolts us into action. But how do you know what to do when you have no idea how to do it? It’s easy to bet on proofreading an agreement or editing an index. It’s much harder to bet on, what was at the time, a 30-person office at a three year old company in an industry you’ve never heard of before. What I’ve never had trouble with, however, was betting on myself, and I was itching to see what I was capable of.
We all know change isn’t easy. Maybe I’m a bit of a perfectionist, but I’d like to think that like most of us, I want to best set myself up for success. I think most people resist change because it interferes with this autonomy. An Advisor told me recently that “underperformance is multifactorial,” and that when dealing with a mixed bag of things you can and cannot control, all you can do is be prepared. Naturally, I want to control everything, but I can’t. What I can do is cope by taking ownership over what I can plan for, creating certainty in process and setting up clear, simple steps and timetables so that I never feel like I’m walking off a cliff blindfolded. Maybe we’ll ultimately have to execute Plan B, or even Plan C, or come up with Plan XYZ on the fly, but thinking in terms of control empowers you to focus on the actions you can take to minimize risk.
Naturally, I want to control everything, but I can’t. What I can do is cope by taking ownership over what I can plan for, creating certainty in process and setting up clear, simple steps and timetables so that I never feel like I’m walking off a cliff blindfolded.
It may feel unnatural or uncomfortable at times, not knowing all the answers or being able to plan for every single nuance of what’s to come, but when you really think about it, certainty is a fool’s paradise. Job security is subject to industry and company shifts. Relationships transform as people grow and change how they see the world and what they want out of it. What makes AlphaSights exciting is the constant ebb and flow. Uncertainty is the fog in which we navigate growth and with curveballs constantly looming, the only way to stay open to change is to think in terms of control, not in terms of uncertainty, and remain confident that we have what it takes to “make it happen.”
When we accept that things are unknown, that we don’t have all of the answers, we quickly see that there’s always something to learn if we’re paying attention. This job is variable. There are 500 potential outcomes for everything we do, but we don’t yell “Fire!” when things don’t go the way they’ve gone before, or if they turn out differently than we expected them to. We embrace the chaos and use uncertainty to our advantage, seeing it as an opportunity to do something better, try something new, or capitalize on an absolute failure. Did I like my first job? Definitely.
Did I love it? Probably not. Traditional, linear career paths are a thing of the past. The more ambiguity, the more fun we get to have.
Dominique joined AlphaSights in November of 2012 and serves as an Associate on our Consulting segment.