1. Job interviews, meetings and phone calls.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received came out of a conversation I had with a marketing consultant I once worked with: “There are no wasted meetings.” You never know when or how Opportunity will knock, but you will miss out if you never go to the door.
I want you to try something the next time you hear a boring sales pitch or persuasive argument. Listen intently and try to find something you can learn from the conversation. Was the salesman persuasive? Probably not if he was boring. So, where did he go wrong? How could he have better grabbed your attention? Thinking about these things will help you the next time you try to persuade someone to take action or see your point of view.
If a recruiter reaches out to speak with you about a position that is not what you are looking for, take the call anyway. Turn it into an opportunity to learn about a new business or industry and practice your communication skills. The marketing consultant I mentioned earlier told me that one of the best career decisions she ever made came from a meeting she was dreading, and in an industry that she had never thought about working in.
The information may even help you do your job better. I have learned quite a few valuable marketing tips by simply asking questions during sales pitches. The key is to listen and take what they say seriously.
2. Tasks that involve Upper Management.
People in management are good people to know. The obvious reasons are that they can teach you a lot, they make great references, and they have the power to promote you. They also have access to growth opportunities within the company that you may never know about or think of pursuing if they had not brought the opportunity to your attention. For example, the CEO may want to focus more on landing new clients, so she decides to create an entirely new position that happens to pay more than you currently make. The CEO is planning on hiring outside help until your boss mentions to her one day that he thinks you would be a good fit because of reasons X, Y and Z. Trusting her colleague's judgement, she agrees to interview you for the position. They call you in, you are interested in what they have to offer, the interview goes well, and Voila! You get a new challenge, a raise and your professional reputation gets a bump.
Volunteering for a project is a fantastic way to show initiative, work with new colleagues, diversify your skill set and push yourself. You don't need to wait for an invitation, either. To illustrate, I will share my first experience with a department project.
My former boss used to give me what we called my "missions" in that they were targeted tasks. Actually, I don't know why we started called them "missions" aside from the fun of it, but I digress. When a project came around to the department I was in, he told me that he would like me to plan the day-to-day process and manage it. I was excited for the challenge, but secretly worried that I would cause a disaster and lose the account because of it. There was no process in place for large projects in the department and I did not have any project management experience. If he had not presented the opportunity so matter-of-factly, I may have gotten overwhelmed by the idea and tried to pass the lead on to my more experienced supervisor. As I started to plan and familiarize myself with what needed to be done, the self-doubt went away because my mind was refocused.
Fast forward a few weeks later, and the project was a success. I became much better at my job because of it. My boss was happy. My client was happy. My colleagues got pizza and I felt proud of myself. Your coworkers and bosses can surprise you with what they think you are capable of. The special ones push you toward opportunities to find your own greatness, but you need to do your part and say "yes."
4. Ideas that you only hold back because you are afraid of failing or getting rejected.
There is a reason why sayings such as "Failure is an important part of life" and "You'll never know if you don't try" have become clichés. They are constants throughout life that resonate with people on a daily basis, regardless of the path they take. Not every idea is worth pursuing, but if the only downside you can think of is that it could fall through or that it will get rejected by a colleague or boss, then you should go for it. The idea that eventually does come to fruition will be worth it. This will separate you from those who do not offer any input into the company. Managers take notice of those who make the effort to improve their work and realize that they are an integral part of the bigger picture.
What do you think? Are there any opportunities that you would add to this list?
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