When you went to college, did you have an idea what you wanted to do for a career? This is one of the more frequently asked questions of business leaders, creative gurus, entrepreneurs, politicians—just about any professional. The answer, not surprisingly, is not really. Like you, their hope when they started out was to just get a good job and do meaningful work.
I read a lot about how people got their start to help college students launch their careers and because it interests me. I read for ideas, patterns, and models, anything I can use as examples on how to transition from college to a career. Rarely do people use the word luck. Sometimes these leaders talk about being in the right place at the right time but most often, they say they achieved success because of a purposeful action. Taking action can be as simple as accepting an offer for a job you don’t know exactly what it might be but know that if you take it, other possibilities will appear. They often do.
This is the take-away. There will always be opportunities for those who recognize and pursue them. The so-called lucky people are simply those who have taken more chances than average.
Action that creates opportunity is not random. You need a strategy for taking action and seizing opportunities that consistently demonstrate your talent, and as you progress, your passion for and commitment to your career. Stick with your plan, and you’ll reap rewards in your job search and career.
Creating action begins with learning where to find opportunities.
You need to push yourself beyond your comfort zone to seize on an opportunity, and opportunities are everywhere. You might have to move to Bentonville, Arkansas for a year or two, away from family and friends because the opportunity is ripe with future possibilities that will not be available to you if you don’t. So what if you take a less-than-ideal position for less money than your friends are making, but you do it with a company that’s a good fit and in less than a year move out of the position into one you created because you saw a niche and made the pitch. It’s even possible that where you live, full-time teaching positions are not available.
Substitute teaching for a school district that has no near-term plans to hire might seem ill advised but that’s not true. As a sub, you’re gaining experience, developing skills and a reputation (references) that you leverage to secure a full-time position in a fast-growing, culturally diverse community.
When you start out, it’s essential for your growth to be adaptable. Be curious. Be hungry to experience and learn skills. In each of the above real-life examples, these new professionals took charge of their actions and careers.
Succeed with the right mindset.
These three clients all started their job search with the right mindset. It was not an easy decision for an east coast guy to move to Bentonville, Arkansas right out of college. Ultimately, the decision was based on self-knowledge. He understood his values, skills, strengths, weaknesses and passion—his job is with Walmart in its e-commerce group; this guy lives and breathes supply chain.
I really admire my client who, in just a year, created her own position within the company she’s working for. She was under a lot pressure not take a job her peers viewed beneath her skills.
She went into it saying I’m going take initiative and show the company what I have to offer. She surprised everyone when she created her ideal position and the company said, you bet. Good things happen when you stay open and flexible.
Throughout her five years as a substitute teacher, this client remained resilient. Never did she abandon her resolve and take-action spirit. She developed her skills earning a fantastic reputation among her teaching peers and school administrators, “…we know we don’t have to worry, when Eve is subbing because learning happens in the classroom.” She also showed a lot of courage and spirit of adventure. For her new full-time teaching position, she is moving 2,200 miles from family and friends to work in an exciting culturally diverse school. And because it does get better, she’s move closer to the thing she loves to do most when not teaching, skiing.
There’s another important lesson in her story: success is rarely immediate.
Make a commitment to self-educate.
Another learning to take away, is that at the heart of taking action to create opportunities is a desire to learn—a mindset that stays fluid and facilitates personal growth. Those who are willing to open their minds and augment their skill set are those who will be poised to succeed in the future.
As you start your first professional job or internship, make a commitment to yourself to learn.
Your boss is responsible for your training and to some extent your development, not educating you. That’s your job. It’s easy once you have a job to enter a sort of tunnel vision that can lead to stagnation. Complacency does not lead to success. Learn every aspect of the company—ask questions, attend meetings and conferences, build your professional network. Get to know people in and out of your department, division and/or office, in the various roles that keep the company operational. Read books, articles anything that challenges you to think deeply about what you do and who you are.
Not knowing what you want to do is more than okay. Stay open, flexible, curious, and resilient. Bet on yourself—take chances. You will find ways to create action and find your opportunities.
Image Credit: Shutterstock