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CAGE-FREE: Why It’s Good for Communicators to Spread Wings and Fly

March 20th, 2017 · No Comments

By David Beigie

For me, the last twelve months have been about change. Late last year, I wrapped up my time as the Chief Communications Officer at a major insurance company – a company where I thought I would finish my career. But circumstances change and so do leaders and teams – and so it was with me.

That first morning at home not suiting up and heading into work was awkward. I remember I was helping my boys with breakfast. When they flew out the door for school, I was surrounded by empty plates and an emptier house. Thoughts rushed in. Where to begin? What to do next? Should I focus my search here or look somewhere else – far away from my family? How long would this uncertainty last?  It was both intimidating and at the same time exciting.

Just then, I looked down at the kitchen counter. There, staring me in the face, was an empty egg carton from breakfast. Across the front in huge letters was the following: CAGE-FREE. The universe was speaking to me – or at least I thought so.

Cage Free carton

As communications professionals, our nature is to be creative. Beyond understanding how to craft a powerful story, many of us are also curious. We want to know what’s beyond that next hill then report back to the world what we alone found out.

But somewhere along the way, many of us settle in and settle down. It’s nice to plant roots. It feels good to develop long-lasting relationships and build institutional knowledge. It’s comforting to think we don’t have to manage change and uncertainty all the time.

Today, even Millennial workers are drawn to the appeal of stability. I’ve heard from many talent managers about how perplexed they are when strong candidates pass on what might otherwise be a great opportunity in another part of the country – chiefly to avoid a move.

While commitment is a good thing, I would encourage communicators – both new and seasoned – to be open to the unexpected upsides that come with movement and change. Here’s what I mean:

  • Opportunity – By being open to an unexpected move to another place, a person greatly increases their chances of seizing on new opportunities. This can be with a new company or your current one. In your talent profile, if you’ve marked yourself as “not mobile,” take a moment to ask yourself why. Companies change and by being open to going with the flow, professionals increase the likelihood their talents can be fully utilized.
  • Experience – If something isn’t broken, I say go ahead and break it. Leaders are looking for professionals who thrive during disruption. Moving to another situation shakes things up. New challenges are confronted. Fresh relationships form. The learnings that come from this kind of change further builds out the tools any communicator has to offer.
  • Growth – When a person moves out of their comfort zone, they’re forced to look at things in new ways. Conventional approaches are swapped out for new ones. Skills expand. Like the bonsai tree, clipping and cutting may be painful to the shrub at first, but this pruning ultimately reshapes and helps stimulate new growth.

So, instead of tossing my “Cage-Free” carton into recycling, I kept it out in plain sight to remind me that change is ultimately good. We all create our own cages because they’re safe, warm and predictable. But when we limit ourselves to one reliable setting with one collection of circumstances, we ultimately shortchange ourselves and the contributions we might make.

On my last day with my former employer, I tweeted a Beatle lyric from the song “All You Need Is Love.” In it, John Lennon sings there isn’t anywhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be. Now, many months later, I find myself completely removed from Illinois cornfields and smack in the middle New York City – the epicenter of all things communications. I’m meeting great people and we’re teaming to make new and innovative things happen. I’ve got my smile back. Cage-free is wonderful.

David Beigie  David Beigie is Vice President for Global Digital Communications at Chubb Inc. in New York City. His Twitter is @davidbeigie

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