Today, I had lunch with a buddy I haven’t seen in years. I knew he was working on a start-up out in San Francisco. I was curious to learn more. He and I chatted for an hour and a half. By the time we were finished, he told me they could “really use someone like me” to help with their start-up, and the he would talk with his business partners to see if there was something I could do to help out.
Coincidence? Luck? I think not.
At first, I had these grandiose ideas in my mind:
“how could I possibly start a business? I don’t know of any good opportunities.
I’m not good enough”…the usual downtrodden frames of mind that I have devoted this blog to combatting.
Once I got over that silly though process, I could see that there were a huge number of opportunities already around me. All I had to do was reach up and grab the fruit.
A lot of people who want to be entrepreneurs know they want to start a business, but might not know what they want to do. Those who want to go back to school after working for years to get a better job know they want to make more money, but don’t know how to readjust their current life and obligations to find time to go to school. Job seekers want jobs, but feel like they’ve gotten nowhere applying online.
Did it ever occur to you, though, that the answer might actually be right in front of your nose?
Three frames of reference make it clear what needs to be done. I bet you already knew most of these things; you just never tried to do it.
- It’s actually pretty obvious what it takes to find opportunities. It’s just that most people are too afraid to do it, or have negative misgivings about doing so.
I know lots of people who have gone into investment banking. Usually, I-banks recruit from Ivy league schools. All of the people I know in I-banking are from Arizona State University. Do you think UBS recruits I-banking analysts from a state school? Of course not. So, how do you think they competed with someone from Yale?
Their goal was so important to them that they would not take “no” for an answer. They went to New York City, cold-called investment banks, sent hundreds of e-mails to I-bankers on LinkedIn, and did it until they got the coveted Summer Analyst internship or a full time job.
The point here isn’t that they tried hard to make the opportunity work. We all try hard. They “tried smart”. They went way outside of their comfort zones to meet people, build relationships, and ultimately get the job.
Many people will scoff at this point. Maybe you think cold calling is a “salesman’s technique”, and you won’t lower yourself to that level. Or maybe it makes you feel nervous.
To the former, I would say it is sad that you are letting your misgivings and stereotypes keeping you from finding and capitalizing on opportunities. to the latter, I would say, who cares if it makes you nervous? Maybe you just don’t want to succeed badly enough.
Just think of how many more opportunities you would have if you jettisoned your fears and misgivings, and were willing to do what it actually took to accomplish your goal.
- Start with who and what you already know.
At a younger age, I fretted about the connections and knowledge I didn’t have.
A little older and a little wiser, I am grateful for the connections and knowledge I do have, and continually aspire to better myself in both areas.
When I opened my eyes, I realized I actually had tons of connections.
I talked with professors at school to get connections at companies. I looked at LinkedIn and Facebook to see which of my friends or acquaintances were getting involved in the start-up community. I looked at wonderful websites such as NetworkingPhoenix.com, which have lists and lists of networking events in town (usually multiple each day). I cold-called and cold-emailed organizations that were associated with my friends, family and school: many have grown into successful leads.
By applying my efforts consistently and over time, I have garnered deeper and more meaningful professional and friendly connections.
All of this just started with people I already knew.
- Challenge assumptions that things “have” to be done in a certain way.
Some assumptions that people I know make:
- It’s rude to e-mail a recruiter or partner too many times, and they will be mad if you do so (and therefore not help you find information about their company).
- Cold-calling is frowned upon, and should not be done.
- The best way to find a job is to focus mostly on academic credentials, go to career fairs, apply, and hope you are the best of the bunch.
- If you want to start a business, you must work for a company for at least a few years in order to have a chance.
- You should get lots of professional designations in order to ensure job safety (so you should spend a lot of your free time pursuing these rather than other pursuits).
Since you think these things, you will act according to these beliefs.
Did it ever occur to you that there are people out there–who are probably less academically qualified and less “smart” in the traditional sense–are out there, bending all of these rules, and having some level of success nonetheless? If it’s working for others. Hell, it’s worked for me. Why not let it work for you?
The key point of this article is this: your success at finding and using opportunities will be directly proportional to how much of a “go-getter” you are.
If you are willing to go outside of your comfort zone and challenge assumptions like the ones above, I think you could be successful.
Do you really want to not get a job because you assumed making a phone call was bad, but someone else got it because they were willing to do so? Don’t let that happen to you!
Photo Credit: I, Christoph Michels [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons