More years ago than I care to mention, I was fresh out of University and full of hope for an amazing career in, well actually, I wasn’t sure what, but I was still hopeful that it would be amazing. Only it didn’t quite happen like that. Despite my shiny new degree, I struggled to find a job let alone a career.
I eventually started work as an office administrator for a snack food company. It was low paid but it was also office experience, something that counts for a lot apparently. Around that time, okay, time to confess my age, it was around the late 1990s, the worldwide web was becoming a thing in a big way. I began reading a magazine called .Net in my spare time to learn about building websites. I also found myself tasked with being the liaison to a web design agency that was commissioned to build our company’s website. So that is where my interest in web design and development grew and I wanted to be in on it.
My big break came when I applied for a role that was to grow into a web developer’s role. I knew that I didn’t have the experience, but I knew that I had the capability to do this role. Lucky for me, the Managing Director who interviewed me could tell from my enthusiasm that I would be good for the job. And that became the start of my career as a web developer. All it took was looking out for opportunities to get my foot in the door and acting on one that I found.
Fast forward after five years of learning on the job, I landed a new job with a different company and was quite happy. However, I hadn’t switched off email notifications for new job alerts and after I had been in this role for six months, I just so happened to look at one and saw a job on there for more money and within my skill set. No harm in applying right?
Surprisingly, I landed an interview, and even more surprisingly, I found myself walking out of that interview with a start date! I then had to have an awkward conversation with my current boss explaining that I was leaving for a better job after such a short time. Even more awkward considering when I originally applied for this job, they gave it to someone else but as they liked me so much, they created a new role just for me. Yeah, that sucked, but I wasn’t going to pass up an opportunity.
Fast forward another seven years, and one day at work, I randomly came across the name of a person I had worked with in my first web developer job. I got in touch to say hello and it transpired that he now ran a web design agency and I ended up leaving my job to go and work for him! This was an opportunity that presented itself when again, I hadn’t been looking for it, and it just so happened to fall into my lap. I also didn’t pass it by and acted on it.
That job turned out to be my last employed role as I ended up being made redundant for the first time in my life. That set me on the road to going freelance as a web developer. That lasted about a year until I inherited some money and decided to take a break and process things.
That break made me reassess my life and I decided to turn my back on web development and instead turn to my lifelong passion for writing. It was my big opportunity to do something I’d always wanted to do and it has led me to the post that I’m now writing as well as lots of new opportunities.
I have been lucky to have had some opportunities fall in my lap and I had the sense to act on them, but usually, you need to generate those opportunities for yourself. Sometimes you may need to be a bit cheeky and oversell yourself a little, but if you don’t ask, you don’t get.
If you’re wanting to change your career then you need to start looking for opportunities to get your foot in the door. If the worse that can happen if you apply for a job is that they say no, then why not give it a go? And if you keep applying for jobs, then eventually something will stick. It’s how it works in the freelancing world, you keep pitching to clients or applying for work on freelancing sites, and eventually, something sticks. You are making the opportunity for it to happen. And then you build on that success.
Spotting and acting on opportunities is how successful business people build their businesses. It is how Richard Branson built Virgin into the hugely successful company it is today. To quote from his blog:
“Opportunity favours the bold — this is a lesson that I learned early on, and have used to guide the Virgin story. If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes — then learn how to do it later!”
Wise words from a remarkably successful businessman. And if you know someone who is enjoying success in their life and it seems they got lucky to be where they are, have a really good look at their journey. You’ll probably start to notice the opportunities they acted on and realise that it probably wasn’t just good luck after all but that they made it happen.
Yes, you can get lucky with opportunities coming your way but regardless of how you come by the opportunities, the real trick is recognising them and acting on them. And even better, is by acting on them, you open up the doors for more opportunities. Building on the opportunities is how you build success.
Now don’t get me wrong, not all opportunities will lead to success but the ones that fail are an opportunity to learn from that failure and come back stronger. To quote Henry Ford, “Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”