Do you recognize windows of opportunity in your job search or career? Are you stopping to look and open them? Move through them? Or walking right by?
It may look like something else
The amazing inventor, Thomas A. Edison, once said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” How true! A window of opportunity more often than not does not appear golden. That hiring manager or boss doesn’t come to you and say, “I’ve got the perfect job for you,” or “I thought you’d like a 20% raise; here you go.” In the real world, it will more likely be, “I have a friend whose employer company is growing.” Or “Would you be willing to take on this extra project, John? It would really help us out.” Neither scenario hands you anything on a silver platter. You’ve got to get information and take action to contact that friend. You have to commit, plan and do what you say you will do on that project.
I have been emailing back and forth with a coaching client, Dan. In his last message, Dan remarked that he was amazed by how many professionals—job seekers and those employed as well—don’t have a work ethic. Sadly, I think Dan’s right; particularly if we use this definition or formula:
Preparation + Follow-Up + Opportunity = Success
The lack of work ethic happens when preparation and follow-up are missing from the equation. For the job seeker, self-assessment, research of target companies, marketing materials and pitches, networking strategies and interview practice are examples of preparation. Have your stuff ready. Don’t skip the first word in the formula. What about the follow-up?
Sounds like a no-brainer. But it often is not there—and is the key to lost opportunities. Follow-up is a must in sales. If you have a career—whether in job search mode, employed by someone or working as an entrepreneur—you are selling yourself and your work, and you are in business. If success is what you want, don’t skip the follow-up. You’re prepared with focus and your toolkit; you’ve made contacts with those who can help you. Call people back promptly. Return emails.
Even a partially shut window is there
Sometimes the opportunity is not going to happen immediately. I’ve worked with clients who let the ball drop. Mary lost a job she wanted because the company restructured and delayed hiring. She forgot to check back in a nutshell. Then there’s Millie. Millie was referred to me by another client. Millie wanted to interview me for an article she was writing on baby boomer career tips. She emailed me asking for an interview, preferably within the next few days. At the time, I was snowed under with work, and asked her to get back to me in two weeks. Two weeks later—to the day—she emailed with a cheery statement about follow-up and a reiterated request for the interview. I said “yes” and it was a great conversation! Millie is now one of my contacts and colleagues; we have conversations on a regular basis.
Leave your ego at the door and open the window
A year ago my colleague and friend, Julie Walraven, raved about a marketing coach she was working with, Jim Connolly. After following Jim’s Marketing Blog for a few months, I was thrilled to connect with him on my own journey learning from this insightful, brilliant and engaging man. Although Jim works with many small and medium-sized businesses, he has a phenomenal record of success. His blog is ranked on the mostly highly respected list of marketing sites in the world. He has also worked with giants like Disney and Mitsubishi. He has been featured in and cited by The New York Times, CNN and The BBC. But here’s the deal. If I email Jim, he emails or Skypes back typically within minutes. If I need extra time beyond my scheduled slot, he’s there for me. Here’s this global presence who takes the time to follow up with me and everyone. He gets networking. He gets relationships. He gets follow-up. He gets that opportunities are cyclical and evolving. He gets that giving back can be enough because it’s the right thing to do.
How successful do you want to be? Are you ready with what you want and whatever you need to show what you offer? Great! Then, think of the success you could have if you stayed in touch and followed up with those who can help you or be helped by you? As Thomas Peters said,
If a window of opportunity appears, don’t pull down the shade.”