Opportunity Lost

Career Opportunities podcast logoOpportunity Lost
By Douglas E. Welch



In good times or bad, opportunities that come knocking should never be ignored. Certainly, every opportunity will not be right for you, but too often we reject, or simply ignore opportunities. There are many reasons why this might happen — inattention, lack of confidence and even fear — but if you want to keep your career moving forward, you must tackle each opportunity as it is presented. You never know which one will be the next, important step in your career.

Opportunities can be found anywhere and sometimes present themselves at the oddest moments. Perhaps you are having a discussion with the owner of your local coffee shop, who mentions off-hand that their computer is crashing or that they know another customer with a similar problem. You might find opportunities at a friend’s party, picking up your dry cleaning or hanging out with friends at the local pub. The ubiquitous nature of opportunity means that you must constantly be on the watch for it as it appears. This almost guarantees that you will find more opportunities, but then you need to work on the next step — taking advantage of them when and where they appear.

It may seem odd, but I regularly see situations where people have opportunities practically walk up and kiss them on the mouth and then they do nothing about them. They simply walk away as if nothing has happened. There is no exchange of phone numbers, no promise to call later, no attempt to continue the connection. Nothing. To be fair, I think we can all look back on moments when we did the same thing, but that doesn’t excuse the problem. I am sure you do much the same as I do and firmly plant your palm to your forehead when you realize what you have done. Unfortunately, opportunity is fleeting and, when missed, is often gone forever. While you can’t beat yourself up over every missed connection, hopefully you can learn from your mistakes and be more aware in the future.

There are times when you need to be even more sensitive to opportunities — when they are presented by friends, co-workers or clients. Failing to follow up on an opportunity presented by this group reflects badly not only on you, but also on the person who is connecting you with the opportunity. While I don’t have the world’s largest network, I regularly try to share opportunities with my friends.

I hope that they can find some good in each opportunity, but also understand that only a handful of connections will ever work out entirely. I typically present the opportunity to my friend first to see if they are interested before passing off their name to the potential client. In this way, they can decide whether the project or job is interesting to them before taking the next step. You don’t have to accept every opportunity, but being open to the opportunities is very important.

One frustrating aspect of opportunities, though, is when I offer an opportunity only to be met with indifference and inaction. Sometimes it seems that I see more in people than they can see in themselves. I can understand the reluctance to pursue an opportunity in some ways. I know I have faced these same fears myself. You start to “futuretrip” and the “What ifs?” begin to pile up until to you are too afraid to do anything. Still, I am sure you have felt this same frustration when your friends fail to grab onto the opportunities you present. This doesn’t mean you stop trying, of course, but it can make you less inclined to share future opportunities. Remember this, too, when you are on the receiving end of an opportunity. Ignore them enough times and they might stop appearing.

Sharing your opportunities with those around you, and accepting them when they are presented, is one important way the career world turns. Whether you decide to accept an opportunity or not is much less important than simply being open to them when they arrive. Ignoring the equation on either side can limit your career opportunities and leave you wondering why the next step in your career is so hard to find.

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