Expert Resources

When Opportunity Knocks

Are you missing out on your next career opportunity because you don’t know what it looks like?

Carol Yang

When Opportunity Knocks

‘What I do know is that if one wants to get a boat ride, one must be near the river’

-Anchee Min, Becoming Madame Mao

We all love that feeling of being ‘in the right place at the right time’, especially when it comes to career opportunities. Invariably though as we get older and assume more senior positions these so called lucky moments seem to become less frequent.

With recent economic and market challenges, it is no secret that many organisations have ‘bunkered down’ and adopted a more conservative approach to recruitment and internal hiring. Furthermore with only a few businesses being really adept at succession planning and career development our ability to spot the next move can also be less obvious. Overlay that with a loss of direction, passion or energy for what it is that we do and suddenly our ability to not only spot opportunities but also to execute them becomes significantly compromised.

But is it a matter of not being opportunity focussed that is underpinning where we are today? Have we forgotten what opportunity looks like or sounds like?

All too often when we think of opportunity we think of something BIG, shiny, new and exciting! But this is not always the case. Spotting opportunities requires us to see gaps and come up with solutions. They come in different shapes, forms, colours and sizes. Sometimes they are a bit insignificant and dirty. No doubt if we all took a moment to think of our current role or team there would be numerous gaps relating to efficiencies, capability, or experiences that whilst not big items in their own right, with the right solution could have big impacts. Of course you also need to be able to act on those solutions but you can’t do that if you haven’t spotted them in the first place.

Heidi Grant Halvorson and Tory Higgins, authors of the book Focus, suggest that we need to be promotion focused to get ahead. In doing so you view your career as being about the potential for advancement, achievement and rewards. Put simply you think about what you might gain if you are successful and you do everything possible to avoid missing out. Alternatively if you approach your career focused on minimising loss, avoiding too much risk or danger and keeping things moving along smoothly you have what they call a prevention focus. Typically you put your head down, keep quiet and keep yourself small.

Whilst being prevention focused can be good for some things it doesn’t naturally open the doors to growth, change and confidence to take chances the way promotion focus does. In short it doesn’t naturally enable you to identify opportunities, which is the doorway to our future success.

Spotting opportunities that position us for growth is no quick activity. It’s the result of considered effort to get clear about what we want and the potential it offers us and then doing everything possible to avoid being overlooked or missing out.  AND it means finding the courage and confidence to pursue options that invariably require us opening up to new ways of thinking, doing and acting.

I would encourage you to consider the following seven tips to strengthen your focus for spotting opportunities and how they might be best applied to your career:

  • Get clear about what you want and why: What do you want in five, ten, fifteen years from here? What will it bring to your career and life? To do this you need to design a road map that reflects a full understanding of your own skills, behaviours, motivations and preferences.
  • Make it known: Start telling people. All too often our leaders and/ or networks want to help us achieve our goals but they can’t do this if they don’t know what they are. Learn how to position yourself with your leaders and key influencers in the business; and your personal and professional networks. Learning how to do this with confidence, clarity and conviction is essential if they are to help you spot the opportunities right for you.
  • Understand how you are regarded: An accurate assessment of how you are regarded in your current workplace or market can help you with the opportunity spotting process. It can also assist you understand what you need to do to leverage or overcome known perceptions.
  • Seek candid feedback: Ask others how they perceive your success, what areas they naturally see it aligned to, what markets, companies and roles. Often these fresh insights can spark a new idea or thought that you had not yet previously considered.
  • Build a network of trusted confidantes: Creating a circle of influence with people who can champion our efforts, offer business and market insights and who really know us can also help spot relevant and timely opportunities on our behalf.
  • Deliver on the one you’ve got! Maximising your current opportunity can have an enormous impact on new and or emerging options. People are attracted to success and if you have delivered on your role and opportunity, people talk, want to engage, want to refer and be associated with you and your efforts.

Success is no coincidence. It is a deliberate determination to step out of the ordinary and commit to growth. To do this we need to master the art of spotting the opportunities that are right for us.

As always I would love to hear your thoughts below.

Margot – The Career Diplomat

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