Create Opportunities and Stop Reacting
Create opportunities? As a baby boomer born in the mid-1950’s I was taught by my parents that I should go to work for a father-like-company that would take care of me.
I went to work for IBM. I, therefore, would react when opportunities were presented and make a choice. For the next 15 years, I always reacted when my boss or someone else would present an opportunity. I never created my own opportunities.
I am sure for many of you this sounds very familiar.
Are You a Turkey?
I have been speaking to a lot of turkeys lately.
I wrote about the Turkey analogy in my post Looking at Your Career from a Turkey’s Perspective.
The turkey metaphor comes from the book, End of Jobs by Taylor Pearson. Taylor compares our careers to turkeys. Taylor wrote in his book:
A turkey is fed for a thousand days by a butcher; every day confirms to its staff of analysts that butchers love turkeys ‘with increased statistical confidence.’ The butcher will keep feeding the turkey until a few days before Thanksgiving…[The] Turkey will have a revision of belief—right when its confidence in the statement that the butcher loves turkeys is maximal and ‘it is very quiet’ and soothingly predictable in the life of the turkey.” N.N. Taleb
From the day a Thanksgiving turkey is born, everything about its life indicates that things are only going to get better. It’s hatched in a safe, sterile environment. It’s cared for and fed daily.
Every single day, this pattern happens again. It wakes up to find plenty of food and a place to live.
It is at the moment when the turkey has the most historical data to show that its life is likely to keep improving, on the 4th Thursday of November, that it realizes — It’s not so good to be a turkey.
Turkeys are victims to their own inertia.
They do not create opportunities but they react when opportunities appear. Unfortunately, sometimes while waiting for the opportunities to appear – the 4th Wednesday of November arrives.
Respond and not React
In much of the 2nd half of my career, I can say I have responded and not reacted.
During the holiday season of 1992, I ruptured the L4/L5 disc in my back. I had a choice: get operated on or spend 3 months on disability and let the disc heal. I do not like doctors with sharp implements and chose to let the back heal.
During this time, my employer, IBM, nearly declared bankruptcy. When I returned to work in early April of 1993, chaos broke out. The full employment policy had been eliminated, thousands had been offered early retirement, and others offered exit packages.
My time off was a moment of clarity. I was relaxed and my mind was clear. This could have easily been a “turkey moment.” I could have stayed in my current position as the lead in a technology transfer group. Instead of reacting with a “hunker down attitude,” I responded by asking to be transferred to a sales/marketing role in a customer briefing center. I crossed to the dark side and went into sale sand marketing.
If I had stayed in the technology transfer position, I would have likely had my position eliminated and been laid off in a couple of years.
Create Opportunities – Right-Place, Right-Time
You are probably saying how do I create opportunities?
You have probably worked with colleagues who seem to flow from one opportunity to another. It seems effortless. How do they do it?
It is all about positioning. They strategically establish relationships in areas and companies where future opportunities are likely to appear. They follow a well-established playbook of strategic networking. You can read more about strategic networking in my post, Strategic Networking Playbook – Who, How and When!
By being strategic in their relationship building, they are in the right place at the right time.
Create Opportunities – Create a Job
I have been talking with a variety of individuals who have been busy running around applying to jobs and getting very frustrated. All of these individuals are over 50 and are refusing to see the world has changed.
If you listened to my podcast Very Late in Life Career Decision Questions [Podcast], you would hear me say, “stop looking for a job rather look for a problem to solve.”
Yes, you read that correctly: look for a problem to solve.
In the podcast, I discussed the problem a 70-year old retired technology professional had posed to me. He had been retired for 18 years. He needed income because his retirement nest egg was disappearing. He assumed he needed to go find a J-O-B in the technology world where he retired from 18 years earlier.
His biggest problems were that his professional network was largely gone and his technical skills were completely obsolete.
When I told him to find a problem to solve, he immediately started talking about an issue that he had with his water well pump and the solution he had been working on. He entrepreneurial pump was primed.
This could turn into a business, a product, consulting gig, or a job. He needs to start creating opportunities in completely new places. Like the Thomas Wolfe novel title, You can’t go home again.
He needs to leave his technology roots behind and find something completely new.
Pick Your Direction
Are you a turkey waiting for the 4th Thursday in November?
Will you become opportunistic in your networking and put yourself in the right place at the right time?
Will you decide you want to control your destiny and go find a problem to solve?
Either way, you will be in control and you will not need to react to whatever opportunity that comes your way.
For many of you, this will be a frightening thought but once you start you will find it very empowering.