Webster’s dictionary defines opportunity as “a favorable juncture of circumstances and a good chance for advancement or progress.” There are steps you can take to maximize your abilities, taking your value to the project team—and career—to the next level. Best-selling author Shakti Gawain advises, “Create opportunities by asking for them.” The following seven tips will show you how to:
- Envision new opportunities.
- Ask for them.
- Be ready to take them on.
1. Assess yourself
When it comes to opening doors to new opportunities, self-knowledge is a powerful tool. Identifying your strengths (and being aware of your weaknesses) will help you recognize areas where you can excel, and will prepare you to articulate those strengths when the time comes. Start by focusing on what you already know, such as: what comes easily to you, what you care about or are passionate about, and what part of the workday excites you. Write it all down. A clear-eyed assessment will help you focus on growing your abilities, and strategize about improving the things you need to work on. If you have passions or skills underutilized in your current position, find a way to use them—don’t lose them. Demonstrating such skills will broaden your exposure, help you stand out and make the workday more enjoyable.
2. Stay flexible
Opportunity is everywhere. The more open you are to what life offers you, the more likely you are to recognize it. Streamlined workplaces, shifts in technology and a more agile, global workforce make flexibility critical. Be open to changing priorities, learn to compromise and look at change as a positive. Meeting cancelled? Use the time to catch up on email. Transferred to a different project? Look forward to networking with new colleagues and the potential to learn new skills. The more open you are to changing circumstances, project schedules and teams, the more opportunities you create for yourself. Plus, you’ll develop a reputation as a great team player, and people will want to work with you.
3. Forge healthy relationships
New opportunities commonly arise through co-workers and team members. The best work relationships thrive on communication, collaboration, and mutual respect. Work on building solid relationships with colleagues. Listen before responding. Do what you say you will. Be a team player. Set boundaries, and when you have a concern work it out with the source whenever possible. Treat everyone with respect. Say thank you. Your value to your project team, manager, and company is enhanced by great working relationships.
4. Learn. Learn. Learn.
Learning new skills (and strengthening those you already have) is critical to professional development. Improved skills make you a stronger team member, increase self-confidence and make you more adaptable to change. Use that strengths and weaknesses list of yours to strategize what you want to learn and why.
Many corporations offer a variety of training opportunities—from continuing education and professional development to a full-on graduate degree. Talk to your manager about the skills that could add value to your role and to your career path. Find out if professional development is part of your benefits package. And don’t rule out the value of informal training. Ask a colleague to walk you through a new software or project management tool or take an online course to hone your skills.
5. Be proactive—seize the day!
In behavior systems, proactivity refers to self-initiated, change-oriented, anticipatory actions. In other words, seeing what needs to be done and digging in. You’re more likely to find a new opportunity when taking on a new challenge. If you’re looking for new opportunities, volunteer to represent your current project team externally or on committees. Set up meetings with new colleagues in anticipation of changing teams. Think outside the box—what can I add to this project? What will be needed down the road? The more you can anticipate situations and solutions; the more you’re willing to take on additional responsibilities and stay ahead of the curve, the more value you’ll bring to the workplace. And this practically lays down the red carpet for opportunities to present themselves.
6. Set goals
Goal setting is used by Olympic athletes, industry leaders and high achievers across the board. Are you feeling unchallenged in your current role? Draft a list of goals and the steps needed to achieve them. Goal setting is a powerful process for thinking about a better future and for turning this vision into reality. When you set clearly defined goals and meet them, you’ll increase your level of motivation and self-confidence. Setting goals focuses your acquisition of knowledge, helps organize time and resources and can open doors to new opportunities by adding skills and successes to your current framework.
7. Keep trying
Thomas Edison said, “The most certain way to succeed is always to try just one more time.” Perseverance is critical to recognizing and seizing opportunity. Determination and a positive attitude will keep you in the game. Making the decision to find and achieve new work opportunities is only half the battle. Practice being the most collaborative team member you can be, remain excited about your goals and practice reaching them systematically. Hard work, diligence and a positive outlook will pay handsome dividends when the right opportunity knocks. Go get ‘em! What’s one way you increased an opportunity for yourself at work?