The news is filled with pleas to the public to be better “prepared” following a terrible event. Disaster. Emergency. Storm. Flood. Earthquake. Recession. Unfortunately, these events occur pretty frequently, so it is reasonable to believe that being prepared means setting ourselves up for the worst to happen. That might seem obvious, but on the flip side, how prepared are you for the best to happen? If the opportunity you have been dreaming about and waiting for were to suddenly materialize, are you prepared to grab that brass ring? What are you doing right now to be ready when opportunity knocks?
Recognizing you want something to be different is the first step. Getting ready to seize an opportunity requires having an awareness of what has to change to allow something different to happen. To ensure your “dreams come true,” it is necessary to connect the dots between your desired goal and the things you can do to get there. Sometimes the gap between where you are and where you want to be might seem insurmountable and that only a miracle can change things. But just as people are able to overcome the odds against surviving a catastrophic event, you can shorten the distance between where you are and where you want to be by changing the things that are in your control. That means changing your own behaviors and habits so that you are ready to respond when opportunity strikes.
One of the single most glaring reasons I see people stay unemployed or remain in less than their desired role is that they “assume” they have time to get around to things or that some sort of miracle is going to take place. I hear a lot of grousing or wishing for a change while observing behavior that contradicts what people say they want. Some people:
Don’t acknowledge info while they are “thinking” of what to say
Assume people will do what they say
Don’t follow up when information has been promised but not received
Aren’t prepared for introductions or interviews
Believe “it won’t happen to me” (layoff, termination, plant move)
Don’t believe “it will happen to me” (opportunity)
If you have previously missed opportunity, then it may be time to enlist some new behaviors. There are some very basic habits anyone can develop to help overcome complacency.
Manage communications. If you have sent a message to the universe, you’ve got to find ways to access your communications to acknowledge the response you receive in a timely way. It may mean checking email in the morning, lunchtime and evening or investing in a smartphone if matters are more urgent. It may mean visiting Starbucks to find a hot spot or going to the library. In today’s market, it’s critical to use technology to stay in touch, or make sure someone else can respond on your behalf if you are out of reach for 12+ hours and awaiting important news.
Respond within 24 hours. Even if you need time to think about the information you have received, it is critical to acknowledge your receipt. Show courtesy by thanking the sender and letting them know when they can hear back from you. Not responding until you have the “best” answer can appear unappreciative or downright rude to someone who has responded to what may have seemed an urgent request.
Manage your expectations and guide other people’s intentions. Most people are sincere when they offer to help. Unfortunately, even the best intentions get forgotten when someone’s focus is elsewhere. When someone offers to do something for you, follow up immediately with a confirmation of what and when. Make sure to provide them with any information they need to facilitate the offer to take action on your behalf. This could include a written introduction, a list of bullet points regarding the information you need or dates of important/relevant events.
Own the communication process. If someone has offered to send you information or make an introduction, set touch-back times to check in and gently remind them of the request. Don’t expect others to manage your needs. People get busy and things slip through the cracks. It is up to you to guide the conversations to ensure your needs are met.
Be careful what you ask for. Expect people to respond to your requests and be ready to follow up.
If you have been communicating a specific request to your network or the universe in general, you must believe it will happen. Keep your resume updated and make sure you are prepared for an interview or introduction to a key contact at any time.
Nurture your network. Make sure you are connecting with people on a regular basis. Ask questions about their circumstances or their interests. Find out what they are working on, worried about or challenged by. If you are able to assist them, by all means do so. If you can’t help, then prepare yourself in case you, too, may find yourself with similar issues.
Stay awake and aware. Pay attention to what is going on with your company. Take note of any indicators of a potential status change. If an important account is on the line, it could change the company’s financial picture. If there have been talks of a merger, be aware of what your value would be if roles are duplicated or the company were to close your location. If there is a drastic change in the market, be aware of how it impacts your business.
Take control of what you can, while you can. Following these suggestions will help you be prepared to make the most of that golden opportunity when it knocks at your door. It isn’t a mystery that opportunities always seem to come more readily to those who are prepared for them.