“Those who don`t move don`t notice their chains.” ~ Rosa Luxemburg
In 2004, before I started Inspirion, I interviewed more than 150 professionals in and around the greater D.C. area. I wanted to understand what they did so I could figure out how to use my education and experience in the workforce.
I really clicked with Lisa, a successful entrepreneur and renowned executive coach. After our interview, she sent me an application and suggested I apply for The Femtor Award – an honor bestowed on “women who have proven themselves to be exemplary role models in the world of business” by the eWomen’s Network.
I clicked on the link, read what was required and responded, “I really don’t think I’m right for this award.”
Two minutes later, my phone rang. “Apply,” she said, and then hung up. Lisa had already inspired me, and I trusted her instincts. So, I applied … and won!
Afterwards, I vowed to always take opportunities, even if they don’t make sense at the time. After all, if I’m not gaining new experiences, I won’t continue learning about my passions – and where I excel.
So, how do you get new opportunities?
1. Believe in yourself. Stop telling yourself and others that you’re “unqualified.” I would never have won the Femtor Award – or started my business – if I had continued to believe that about myself. Michael Jordan was cut from his high-school basketball team, and Thomas Edison’s teachers called him stupid. What if they had believed those things about themselves?
2. Get uncomfortable. During a recent vacation, I met a gentleman hell-bent on starting a charter school in his town. I was inspired by his passion for the project, so when he asked me to join the board, I agreed. Now, I have no earthly idea what it means to join this board. I don’t even live in the same state. But I’m passionate about education and know I could learn a lot from this experience, so while this commitment is certainly outside of my comfort zone, I’m in.
3. Say “yes” to fun. Hobbies can be more than a way to pass the time or relieve stress. They can also help us tap into passions and opportunities we never imagined. Before becoming Manager of Zappos Insights, Robert Richman lost everything in business, went into massive debt and became a spinning instructor. “It didn’t pay a lot of money,” he told me. “But I just knew it would bring me joy. It totally changed my outlook.” It also allowed him make contacts who would eventually help him land a top spot at a major company.
4. Be of service to others. Several months ago, I met a graduate student, Lindsay, at a local coffee shop. She was on winter break, preparing to head back to Texas for her final semester. She was getting her degree in organizational development and wanted experience in the field. When she asked about interning with me, I agreed … hesitantly. She would be living on the other side of the country and already had a part time job. But by the time Lindsay completed her masters degree, she had done such great work for me – without pay and often without being asked – that I offered her a job. Fortunately for her, and not the least bit surprising to me, she landed her dream job, working for the Baltimore Ravens.
5. Ask. If you want to experience something new at work (i.e., a new type of assignment or training, or to attend certain meetings), stop waiting for your boss to suggest it. Ask for what you want! But also be prepared to explain how it would help develop your career and boost the company’s bottom line.
What opportunity is right in front of you? Take it!
Keeping it simple,
Misti Burmeister, best-selling author of From Boomers to Bloggers: Success Strategies Across Generations and Hidden Heroes