How to Avoid Missed Opportunities in Your Career
One of the easiest ways to miss an opportunity is to not see it in the first place.
Some are obvious and signposted, like your boss asking you to take on a stretch assignment or getting invited to speak at a big event. You’re not likely to miss those.
I’m talking about the opportunities that are right under your nose but they’re so much a part of the norm that you no longer notice them. Like the way you approach regular meetings, handle interruptions, talk to your colleagues, or even your morning routine. They blend into the background of your busy day and it’s natural to take them for granted.
The problem is those missed opportunities can come back to bite you. (I’ll share a few examples in a moment.)
But once you stop taking them for granted and start seeing them as opportunities, your career can really take off. And you’ll prevent problems that can hold you back.
So how do you figure out what those potential opportunities are so you don’t miss them?
It starts with doing an audit. In other words, step back and look at your daily experiences with fresh eyes.
As you search for your hidden opportunities, here are three areas to consider. In my experience, this is where you’ll find the “usual suspects”.
- Your relationships
- Work situations
- Your self
Let’s start with the first area.
The relationships you take for granted can land you in trouble
That’s because your colleagues, clients and team members have the very human need to be seen, heard and valued. We all do. And when people feel overlooked or if their needs aren’t met, you might well be the last to know.
That’s what happened to me six months after transferring to London to lead a new client effort.
I could tell it was bad news when my boss called me into his office. Our sales and trading stakeholders were grumbling about my lack of progress and wondering whether I was right for the job. It was up to me to “make it right” and build bridges with my counterparts in sales and trading.
Once the shock wore off, I realized what had happened. In the sales and trading world, you were in trouble if you hadn’t done a transaction by lunchtime. But in my world, it took months if not years to build a relationship. And even then, our clients might not do a deal right away.
I’d been so focused on working with the relationship bankers to bring in deals that I neglected to spend time with sales and trading, who would sell the deals we brought in.
By missing the opportunity to explain how my business worked and bring these important stakeholders along, my reputation suffered. And I had created problems for my boss. Neither were good for my career.
Which stakeholder relationships are you taking for granted and what can you do to improve them?
Which brings us to the next area.
The business settings you take for granted can be golden opportunities
The thing about work is it’s there every day. And when something happens regularly, it’s easy for it to become rote. As in doing the same thing the same way and operating on autopilot.
For example, the daily team meeting. When I was promoted to head the group, I got to run the morning meeting which the entire team joined. With a much larger team to lead, I soon realized this was the only way I got to see everyone “in action”.
My team members’ behavior in the regular morning meeting became my proxy for how they handled themselves in meetings with clients, colleagues and competitors. So every day, they had an opportunity to make an impression.
In Joan’s case, this was a positive. She always strode into the conference room with confidence, carrying just a small notebook and her phone. She made strategic points and commanded the room.
On the other hand, Ben tended to shuffle in with a stack of papers and sat hunched in the back corner. He spoke softly and mumbled. I could hardly hear him from the other end of the room, and certainly couldn’t imagine him representing our interests in an external meeting.
At the end of the year, Joan got promoted and Ben didn’t.
Which takes us to the third area.
Selflessly focusing on your work and ignoring your own career needs is a mistake
I know this because it’s a trap I’ve fallen into along with many other dedicated achievers. Maybe you have too?
Alongside this trap comes taking for granted that your work will speak for itself.
For example, I took for granted that my boss knew what I was doing. I thought it was his job as my manager to know, so no need to do any of that dreaded “self-promotion”. And no need to take up his time and clutter his inbox with updates, which seemed like self-promotion in disguise.
It turned out that far from wasting his time and mine, those regular updates would have gone a long way to helping my boss build a stronger case for my promotion. And they would have given me a chance to get timely feedback on what I could be doing more of versus less of to enhance my chances of getting promoted.
I didn’t get promoted that year but my colleague who was regularly in contact with our boss did. That was a painful lesson, but it motivated me to change my ways.
But what if you’ve done the audit and don’t see any missed opportunities?
It could be that you’re living consciously each and every day at work and taking advantage of all opportunities. In which case, congratulations! Now it’s time to share the wisdom and mentor others so they can make the most of their opportunities too.
It could also be that those opportunities are harder to spot than usual. That’s where it’s helpful to notice how other people behave as you interact with them or even talk to them about how they take advantage of everyday situations. It’s often easier to see missed opportunities for others than to see them in yourself. And this can give you clues for your own situation.
Just don’t make the mistake of feeling bad about opportunities you’ve missed
Doing your audit might turn up some realizations of mistakes you’ve made in the past. But be kind to yourself. This isn’t about judging and blaming yourself or anyone else.
It’s about illuminating your path forward from here and focusing on what comes next. And as my father says, “that’s why the eyes are in the front of the head”.
In fact, the more blind spots you can uncover, the more you can learn and grow and reach your full potential.
So go ahead and reflect on what you’re taking for granted and how that might lead to missed opportunities
As you do so, remember to consider these three areas:
- Your relationships – whether it’s the relationships you haven’t made time to build or the people you’re closest to, think about where investing just a little energy would make an impact.
- Business settings – the things you do or attend regularly can become rote but going through the motions without being “in the moment” can lead to missed opportunities.
- Your self – be mindful of taking the time to focus on your own career needs, and don’t fall into the trap of letting your work speak for itself.
So, where are you most at risk of missing opportunities because you’ve taken something for granted? And what’s one step you can take to improve?
Leave a comment and let me know.
If you want to know how to find golden opportunities in your regular meetings, then be sure to check out the workshop below to master this essential skill.
Whether they’re virtual or in-person, your regular meetings are valuable opportunities to advance in your career. But they also represent a significant source of risk if you’re not aware of how to handle them well.
This training will help you take full advantage of the meetings you attend regularly so you can make them work for you and not against you. It’s filled with actionable tips and strategies, so you’ll want to go through it before your next regular meeting and apply what you learn right away!
In this exclusive workshop, you’ll discover:
- The 3 career advancing opportunities you have in every meeting that most people overlook
- The 4 common meeting mistakes that high achievers don’t make
- The 4-step approach that changes the way you feel about meetings and showcases you as high potential