Growth and advancement opportunities happen for people in the right place, right time. Right?
Actually, good fortune comes to those who are fortunately good enough at attracting opportunity. If that’s not you, don’t despair. Here are five ways you can create your own opportunities for personal growth and career advancement at work.
1. Carve out a niche and become a guru.
I ran several multi-billion dollar businesses at Procter and Gamble and undoubtedly, success in these opportunities led to more opportunities for growth and advancement. But opportunities really came along (of the sort I treasured most) when I carved out a niche for being the go-to guy in the company for inspirational leadership talks.
I started with one talk to a small group and soon I was doing 25-30 talks annually to larger and larger audiences within (and outside) the walls of P&G as word-of-mouth spread. It allowed me to serve employees, hone my areas of expertise and practice for when I’d eventually leave to speak and write full-time.
I invested to become an absolute expert at the leadership topics I covered and to deliver the material with zeal, which served as a launch pad for my second career. Opportunities have been abundant ever since.
2. Mine the downers for some uppers.
Problems, frustrations, and adversity are a gold mine of opportunity.
And if you’re willing to be a miner, the opportunities are major.
When you uncover problems no one knew they had and develop solutions for them, it leads to tremendous personal growth and catches the eye of leadership.
Our frustrations become fodder for growth and advancement as well–they’re essentially unrealized potential for which you can create valued solutions. Richard Branson started his own airline because he was so pissed at his own travel experience. Eric Betzing got so frustrated with the limitations of the microscope that he invented his own and took home a Nobel Prize for the effort (as well as the floral arrangement from the banquet table that night).
Adversity yields growth and advancement by revealing our character when it counts and is remembered most.
3. Have a one-up attitude and a two-up ask.
In having a one-up attitude, I don’t mean in a better than thou way, but a better than before way. View your job with curiosity; how could you make things better? My electric tea kettle worked just fine until some inquisitive soul created the Keurig machine (and a massive new category).
While one-upping current practices, you can two-up what you ask for, i.e. ask for stretch assignments, resources, and support that are so aggressive they require your bosses boss (your two-up) to approve. It’s like rocket fuel for career advancement if you then deliver the goods.
4. Breathe in the O2 .
Here I mean breathe in Open-mindedness and Optimism–two common antecedents to the third O, Opportunity.
It just makes sense that being open-minded and optimistic would yield more personal growth and career advancement opportunities.
But let me sweeten the pot for you.
Psychologist Dr. Richard Wiseman, author of the book The Luck Factor, indicates open-mindedness also simply attracts good fortune. In one Wiseman study, subjects were given a newspaper and asked to count the number of photographs within. Most quickly completed the task and dutifully reported there were 43 photos, which there were.
However, they were all so locked-in on the task that nobody noticed two important prompts: large type on the second page that read “Stop counting–there are 43 photographs in this newspaper”, or even better, “Stop counting, tell the experimenter you’ve seen this and win $250”.
The fact that no one noticed either prompt supports the notion that being more open-minded (versus having tunnel-vision) opens up opportunity.
Another experiment by Wiseman showed the power of optimism to attract good fortune. In this experiment, two opportunities were presented to two individuals–money placed on a sidewalk and the potential for an encounter with a well-connected businessman planted in a coffee shop.
The first respondent, a fellow with an optimistic outlook, spotted and picked up the money and struck up a conversation with the businessman, leading to more positive outcomes.
The second respondent, self-described as “unlucky”, stepped right over the money without seeing it and kept to herself in the coffee shop.
Holy self-fulfilling prophecy.
5. Add value always.
Simply put, always add value in your interactions with others. People love to help others who add value–that help can take the form of new projects or new connections that ultimately lead to personal growth or career advancement.
And the broader the network of people you serve, the more opportunities that will arise. I get many new clients now in my speaking business just because I work hard to add value to as many lives as I can (without expecting anything in return).