Setting Yourself Up for Success
Take full advantage of your opportunities.
“There is no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love; there’s only scarcity of resolve to make it happen.”
â€“ Wayne Dyer, author and motivational speaker
How does this quote sound to you?
If you’ve ever struggled to find a job, or have missed out on an opportunity to advance your career, this may not quite “ring true.”
However, while opportunities can be hard to spot, you can find them if you use a thoughtful and deliberate approach. We’ll look at how you can do this in this article.
If you want to change roles or get ahead in your career, it’s important that you know how to identify and pursue opportunities that are a good match for your interests, skills, and circumstances.
This takes time. You can think of the process of finding opportunities as a journey that will eventually lead you to an exciting but unknown destination. You need to be patient, and persist in your efforts.
That said, focused work that you put in now will pay off in the future. Not only will you end up in a role that’s right for you, but you’ll have a good understanding of your options. What’s more, people will think of you when new openings come up, and you won’t waste time pursuing the wrong opportunities.
You’ll also have a better understanding of where you need to build new skills, and develop existing ones, to be successful in your career.
Let’s look at a process for identifying career opportunities, and for choosing the best opportunities to pursue.
1. Have the Right Mindset
Opportunities are all around you, all of the time. (We’ll look at where they are later!) So it’s important to acknowledge that identifying career opportunities is an ongoing process.
Get into the habit of looking for possible opportunities every day. Keep a notebook with you, or use a smartphone app like Evernote or Microsoft OneNote to note down opportunities when you think of them.
Write down as many possible opportunities as you can â€“ you can trim your list back to the most relevant opportunities later.
2. Seek Opportunities
You also need to make an effort to seek out “hidden” opportunities. These are opportunities like job openings that aren’t advertised, and projects that you can initiate because you have spotted an unfulfilled need within your organization or industry.
Begin with your organization. Keep an eye on current internal or upcoming vacancies, and on any plans for the organization to expand. Also, think about how you could progress in the organization from your current position â€“ what paths are available to you?
You’ll also want to network with other people within your organization, and people within your industry, to keep on top of the latest news and events. If any of your friends, colleagues, or connections are working for a department or organization that you’re interested in, ask if they’ll make an introduction to other influential people on your behalf.
Make sure that you stay up-to-date on your industry, so that you’re aware of relevant trends and new technologies, from which you can spot great opportunities.
For instance, you can often find statistics and data for your industry in trade journals or trade groups. Social networking services like Twitter and LinkedIn are also useful for identifying trends and opportunities, and for networking with influential, well-informed people.
PEST Analysis is also useful for uncovering opportunities. PEST is great for exploring the Political, Environmental, Socio-Cultural, and Technological factors that create opportunities. Using this approach helps you brainstorm potential opportunities in each of these areas.
When you’re looking for opportunities, you can also ask questions like:
- Is there a labor shortage in your organization or industry? If so, in which fields?
- Which parts of your organization or industry are growing? Are you interested in any of these areas?
- What new technologies are there? How might these impact how you, your organization, or your industry works?
- Is there a need in your organization or industry that no one is filling?
- Are any of your customers, vendors, or suppliers experiencing problems in your organization or industry? (Problems often point towards great opportunities.)
You may want to consider volunteering for an organization, cause, or committee that you really believe in. Pro bono work is not only rewarding, but it can help you widen your network and spot new opportunities. It’s also a great way to add to your knowledge and skills in a particular industry or field.
3. Identify Your Strengths and Weaknesses
As you seek out opportunities, you need to understand what your strengths and weaknesses are, so that you can identify the opportunities that are most relevant for you, and understand which skills you need to work on.
To discover your strengths, consider these questions:
- What tasks or projects do you most enjoy in your current role? Keep in mind that these tasks probably rely on your strengths.
- What do you do better than anyone else?
- What values do you believe in that you don’t often see exhibited in others?
- What resources do you have available that other people don’t have?
- What influential people do you have in your network who could help you?
- What do others see as your strengths? (If you’re not sure, ask them!)
You can also use tools like the Your Reflected Best Self technique and theStrengthsFinder assessment to uncover your strengths.
Next, look at your weaknesses. To identify these, ask yourself these questions:
- What tasks do you often avoid, because you don’t feel confident doing them?
- What do other people see as your weaknesses? (Again, ask them if you’re unsure.)
- Are you confident in your education and skills training? Where are you weakest?
- Do you have personality traits that hold you back in your career? (For instance, do you have low self-confidence, or do you procrastinate?)
Once you’ve identified your strengths and weaknesses, think about whether you could turn any of these into opportunities. You can do this by taking advantage of your strengths, or by eliminating your weaknesses.
4. Identify Other Factors Important to You
It’s also important to understand other factors that are important to you in your life and career. This helps you identify the opportunities that will be a good fit for you.
Start by using tools like Holland’s Codes, Schein’s Career Anchors, and the MPS Process to discover what work is best suited to you. Then use the PERMA Model to understand what needs to be in place for you to experience happiness and well-being.
You’ll also want to think of other factors that are important when choosing opportunities to pursue. This will help you narrow your choices down in the next step. Factors to consider might include:
- Fit with current lifestyle.