Opportunity Knocks. Or Does It?!

A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds

Francis Bacon

Opportunity knocks. How many times have we heard those 2 little words which promise so much?! Unlike most popular sayings which now seem to be plastered all over social media, there is actually some truth to this. BUT it does require some explanation and clarification.

If you do nothing other than sit back and wait for opportunity to come knocking and good things to happen, you will waste precious minutes, hours, days, weeks and months only for nothing to happen. All this leads to is pain and frustration. Unless, of course, you come from a wealthy family who can provide you with a comfortable lifestyle and finance your business ventures, or can provide the networking opportunities which will open the right doors for you. If you’re not this lucky, then there is always the chance that you might win the lottery, and end up with a huge amount of cash for which you haven’t had to do anything other than buy a ticket. If you already have the resources you need to succeed, or the will to wait for a lottery win, I wish you the very best of luck. However, if that was the case, you wouldn’t be reading this right now. My guess is that you are here because you are interested in challenging yourself to become the best you can be in whatever you desire.

Education. Knowledge. Strategies and plans. On their own, these are all useless. That is until you combine them with action, and the self belief to keep going when things get tough. If you can manage to do this, you will see a world of opportunities open up before you. The truth is that opportunity isn’t magic. It doesn’t present itself to a chosen few. It’s something open to anyone willing to work for it. Opportunity is actually the result of consistent hard work combined with action and optimism. Of this, action is the key ingredient, though. If you don’t use your knowledge and skills, you will find yourself stuck and going nowhere fast.

If you want to succeed in your chosen arena, you must be proactive. It really is that simple. Opportunity is rather like luck, because the harder you work, the more you seem to have of both. Simply put, luck and opportunity are created by our actions. So how do we go about getting lucky and creating opportunities?

The best way to create opportunities is to showcase your talents. This is the bit which stops a lot of people in their tracks, though, because the showcasing of your talents in the early days must be done for free. After all, before you can charge for your work, you must find an audience for it. So, if you are a musician, create music and share it on Youtube, Instagram, Facebook and whatever other outlet you like. Same goes for dancers, painters or anybody else whose art is creative or aesthetic. If you are an aspiring writer, start your own blog and collaborate with others. A budding entrepreneur? Use LinkedIn to network and share ideas with like-minded individuals. Or, if you fall into none of these categories and are focused on a specific career such as a teacher, use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or a personal blog to share best practice with, and learn from, others in the same profession.

Share your talents while asking for nothing in return, and as your audience grows, engage with them. Over time, as you continue to provide value to others, opportunities will present themselves in the form of career progression, publishing deals or being contacted by parties interested in investing in your business idea. This list is far from exhaustive, but I hope you get the idea.

Work hard on your goals. Showcase your talents and engage with others. Do this consistently, and doors will open for you. Doors that lead to opportunities and Lady Luck herself.

Dear students..

For students with a place at one of the countless universities in the UK, this week is arguably the most exciting. It’s Fresher’s Week, and after the formality of the enrolment process to get through, the fun starts. Not only do you get to meet your tutors and classmates but you then get bombarded with free stuff before making new friends at one of the many social events and parties.

Having studied at undergraduate and postgraduate level at university, as well as working in one for several years, I have experienced and observed the student journey from both sides. Today, I would like to share some of my observations, experiences and advice in the hope that it might provide some value to those embarking on, or continuing, this exciting chapter in their lives.

University, for many, is a first real taste of independence. You have the freedom to express yourself and be whatever you want to be. Moreover, you have the freedom and responsibility to manage your time and workload. Turning up to lectures, seminars and workshops on time is your responsibility. Completing any reading or assignments is again your responsibility. Universities have plenty of support and guidance available to help students with any challenges which they may face, but each student’s journey is ultimately their own responsibility. It really is up to you what you make of it.

University is not for everyone, and a lot of people will opt instead for a job or an apprenticeship. Degree courses are not free, either, with a year of undergraduate study in the UK costing a little over £9000. With that in mind, I would recommend that you strive to find balance in your student life. Enjoy the social and recreational aspects of university life, but please do not neglect your studies or overlook any opportunities which may present themselves for personal development.

While at university, you have the perfect opportunity to hustle for a headstart on your peers. There is no guarantee of a job after graduation, and the job market is very competitive, so it stands to reason that you should look for and take advantage of any opportunities to develop your knowledge, skills, abilities and network. This will place you in a stronger position than many other job applicants later.

Aside from the standard libraries and online resources which all universities have in common, the resources and opportunities available to you will vary depending on your faculty and course of study. As an example, I will share what was available to myself while studying for a Master’s in Human Resource Management at Middlesex University in London.

  • Membership of professional organisations. As a student, I was supplied with memberships to the CIPD (Chartered Institute fo Personnel and Development) and the CMI (Chartered Management Institute). The membership fees were paid by the university, and I gained access to countless online resources and support.
  • Journals. As with other subject areas, mine gave me access to the latest professional journals which offered the opportunity to stay up to date with the latest research and developments within the industry.
  • Visiting lecturers and networking. Throughout the course, there were a number of lectures and workshops led by experienced professionals within the field of Human Resources. Alongside this, there were countless opportunities to network with people working in the industry as well as fellow students.

The above is just a glimpse of what was made available to myself and my fellow students on this course. There were ample opportunities to gain knowledge and, even though the course was largely based in theory and research, there were plenty of opportunities to develop skills and abilities. As with other courses of study, all the ingredients for success were provided. This then raises the question as to why, if every student has the same access to the same help and support, why are some more successful than others? The answer comes down to how much work they are prepared to put into their studies, how many opportunities they take advantage of and how hard they hustle.

While it may, at first glance, appear counter-intuitive to advise hustling while studying it actually makes perfect sense. The biggest challenges that you will face in this are in managing your time and being organised, but if you can master both, you will be able to work on your personal development while giving your all to your studies. As well as a small income from any work which you do on the side, you will gain valuable experience, and experience is essential.

When you graduate, and start looking for your first role, experience is a brick wall which you will continually come up against. This is a challenge because alongside strong educational backgrounds, an increasing number of employers also want at least 2 years’ experience. It is here that your extra work while studying will pay off. This is because you will be able to describe to an interview panel how, while studying, you also launched a side business (for example, reselling items on Ebay). With many other students working part-time to fund their studies, this is potentially nothing new. That is, until you are able to highlight the time management and marketing skills which you learned, stressing too the ability to prioritise tasks, organise your workload effectively and meet tight deadlines.

If you don’t feel that the entrepreneurial route is right for you, there are other ways in which you can help yourself. Take advantage of the professional networks which you are exposed to as a student. Offer your services for free in exchange for experience in your field of interest and study. This could take the form of an internship over the summer months, or volunteering. Whatever it is, if you are prepared to give up some of your time, you will gain experience and knowledge of your potential future career path. Furthermore ,you will discover bigger and better opportunities for networking which could be a great help at a later date.

Whether you choose to attempt a side business, an internship or perhaps a part-time job relevant to your studies, your time and effort will pay off massively when you graduate as you will likely have a strong network from which to draw advice and support, a good knowledge of the industry and plenty of relevant experience.

Good luck with your studies, and please don’t waste the opportunity which you have been given.

Work hard consistently and with integrity

“There is something you can do better than anyone else”

Rumi

Find out what you are good at. Do it. Do more of it. Do it to the very best of your ability. Consistently. It could be your programming skills or ability to craft a good story. Seek out opportunities to showcase your talent daily. This will help you to stand out from the crowd and could be the key to your lasting success.

That is the idea anyway. We all want to find the one thing which we are better at than most, and become successful by doing just that. There is nothing wrong with this. In fact, making a career or a business our of what you love is a wonderful thing. However, life often doesn’t work that way, and until you are in a position to follow your passion, you may find yourself in a career or job which is unrelated and may not inspire you. This could be a blessing in disguise.

Everyone has at some point, been in a job which they did not like and was unrelated to the course they wanted their life to take. From there, they split into two camps; those who found themselves stuck in those jobs  and unable to move on, and those who were able to go on to something better fitting and more appropriate for their goals and aspirations.

Why can some move on and thrive while others find themselves stuck in a rut? The reasons are many, and vary from one person to the next, but having long studied the lives and careers of successful businessmen and women, there was a common theme. Integrity. Those who were able to improve their circumstances and achieve some level of success, tended to be those with the strongest work ethic. Even if they were not enthused or challenged by their job, and craved more, these were the people who gave their all in everything they did at work. This consistent hard work , and the integrity to maintain their efforts even when they felt unmotivated was the key. In giving their all to their current employer, these people gained new skills and knowledge  while also gaining recognition for the quality of their work. This created the opportunities which they took advantage of, and set them off on their journey towards success and accomplishment.

“The quality of your work, in the long run, is the deciding factor on how much your services are valued by the world”

Orison Swett Marden

So, even if you are not happy in your current job or course of study and view it merely as a stepping stone to bigger and better things, don’t take it lightly. Look for opportunities to learn and develop, and showcase you talents. Do this consistently over time, and you will be surprised at how many doors will open for you. Who knows, in shifting your focus away from the job itself you might fall in love with the process and find contentment as well as success.

“I find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success”

Thomas A Edison

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Keep Up The Good Work

“Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming”

Richard Branson

 

Having written yesterday about not giving up, I stumbled across the above quote from Richard Branson and had to share it.

As in all areas of life, it is inevitable that you will, at some time or other, miss out on the job you want or a business development opportunity. When this happens it is important to remember that there will potentially be plenty more opportunities coming your way. You must be driven and willing enough continue to work for them though, despite your disappointment.

The truth is that there are countless people applying for the same jobs as you, or chasing the same business opportunities as you. Some of these may be better qualified, more experienced or put forward a stronger case on the day. That does not mean that you should become disheartened and give up. It is easy to feel helpless and that the odds are stacked against you, and just accept that it will not happen for you. This is a lie, and the easy way out.

Every missed opportunity requires reflection, because when you reflect honestly on what happened, you learn. You learn how to better answer questions in future meetings and interviews as well as better control of your nerves and body language. When you reflect, learn and apply that new knowledge, you bounce back stronger and better able to give a more confident performance in your next interview or business pitch.

After the disappointment of one bad outcome sinks in, it is easy to believe that you won’t get another opportunity. The fact of the matter is very different. If you fight to remain positive, you will notice plenty more opportunities arising, and if you have reflected and learned form the last experience, you will be in a strong position to meet these head on.

The opportunity which you miss out on may not even be the right one for you. With plenty coming along all the time if you look for them, it could be the next one which offers you all that you want and more.

Happy hunting!!