There is an old saying, “Opportunity knocks but once.” In today’s business climate, many opportunities are available for career seekers, and they knock repeatedly. However, fortune still favors the bold. The person willing to work hard and learn new skills has many options. A few years ago, college graduates were struggling to find employment. That has changed. Today, even someone who doesn’t have the education previously required, may still find they are being considered for certain jobs. My favorite quote about opportunity is from Richard Branson. “If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity, but you are not sure you can do it, say yes and learn how to do it later.”
I love that sentiment. Don’t shrink away from a fantastic opportunity because it is a little scary. Our greatest lessons often come out of necessity. Even as opportunities abound, it is still essential to take action. Branson, quoting William Arthur Ward said, “Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss it.”
Throughout my career, I have done what a friend calls “custom crafting.” While working a job, I would identify what the organization needed that I thought I would enjoy doing. I would design a job to do that thing and sell them on the idea of letting me take care of that problem or task. This often resulted in me working as an internal consultant. Looking back, I did what we now call coaching before it was even a thing.
It has been a long time since the workplace offered opportunities like those we are seeing today. If ever there was a time for people to pursue a non-traditional career path, this is it. We are experiencing a grave shortage of qualified workers for critical positions. Companies are interviewing candidates who, three years ago, would not have been considered. Companies with fewer candidates to choose from are more willing than ever to hire for character and train for skill. On a recent vacation trip, every place we went displayed signs proclaiming: Now Hiring, No Experience Necessary. I have more and more employment ads hitting my inbox and LinkedIn account. These are not entry-level positions, but strong mid-level and even some C-Suite positions. Here are some tips for those interested in moving forward in their career.
Be a learner. Today’s market is hungry for talent. Assess what you as an employee are currently offering an employer. Suppose your skills are dusty; polish and sharpen them. Spend time making yourself even more valuable than you already are. Among the skills most in demand are tech skills. These include cloud computing, data mining, and web and mobile development. Online classes abound. My favorite online courses are at UDEMY and Coursera. These classes are great starting points if you don’t know how to use word processing software and spreadsheets. For people over fifty, OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) offers many inexpensive classes through LSU. More on learning later in this article.
Develop yourself. Learning job skills and developing yourself are both important. Developing yourself will help you reach your full potential. Your best is essential for your growth, maturity, success, and happiness. Read or listen to podcasts, books, and Ted Talks. I have many favorite personal development books. The top six are Atomic Habits by James Clear, No More Excuses by Brian Tracy, Take the Stairs by Rory Vaden, Mindset by Carole Dweck, The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, and The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. These may be available at the public library. You may also find these titles on audiobooks from the public library or Audible.
Don’t be afraid to change. The days of retiring from the same company after 30 years of service and getting a gold watch are gone. There was a time when changing jobs could raise a flag when reviewing a resume. Today it is more the norm. The average American has twelve jobs in their lifetime. About 91% of millennials expect to change jobs every three years. It may be time to consider changing your job or where you work as well. Often companies are willing to consider internal candidates for leadership positions. Applying for a job where you currently work is where our friend Karma can help or hurt you. Chances are your bosses already know about your work ethic and skills. If you have applied yourself, chances are they have noticed. If you have not, it’s not too late to start. Volunteering for high-visibility work that is valued by your boss or the company’s owner is a smart career move. The best jobs come from people we already know. The best candidates are people with whom we already have connections. Strengthen your connections with your network. Make sure people know you are looking for a change. Think about what you most want to do. Years ago, I was driving to work and realized that my job did not support my values. I talked to my boss about what I thought would be valuable, and we agreed to modify my responsibilities. The resulting changes helped me launch my business when the time came.
Career ladders still exist, but career leaps are possible in today’s job market. More and more employers are paying for training and advanced degrees. When thinking about a career move, there is much to consider. Most important is choosing a company that invests in growing its people. Some companies will fund your education if you can show how educating you will benefit them. If you have been at your company long, think about what you have done to make yourself worth more to them. I once worked for a company where our top producer was an electrician named Leon. We had talked about adding basic air conditioning services to our menu. He took it upon himself to work weekends with a friend and learn how to do HVAC work. He applied himself without saying anything to anyone until he needed a day off to take the exam. He passed the exam making our most valuable employee even more valuable. If your company doesn’t reward your initiative, you will still be worth more to your next employer. Benjamin Franklin said, “Your best investment is to pour your purse into your head, and no one can take it away from you.”
If the best time to become a better you was years ago, the next best time is today. Have you always regretted not getting a degree? Figure out how to get one now. If you have knowledge gaps you need to fill, tackle them one class at a time. Explore programs that will give you credit for your years of experience. Most libraries have career centers that will advise you on how to become more valuable. When considering your options, get advice from an independent advisor. Counsellors attached to a college or trade school will be more loyal to the school they represent than to you. When exploring changes, be sure to examine opportunity cost. I have seen people pay $20,000 for a certification that would only earn them $10-12/hr. If considering a new field, try to get an internship or temporary job in that industry. I know many people who completed their training and discovered they didn’t like their new job as much as they had hoped. Considering opening your own business? Get with a coach, mentor, or advisor who can help you prevent expensive mistakes.
Even without going back to school, the opportunity to get a great job has never been better. If you need help polishing up your resume and improving your interviewing skills, check out the career center at the library. It requires effort but is an investment in your future.
Cami Miller is a business coach and partners with leaders on all levels to develop strategies for success. Contact her at [email protected].