Day 3 – Wednesday: Inopportune Opportunity

joe —  Tue 17-Aug-10

I’m a big fan of LinkedIn if for nothing more than the same interest that draws me to watch people at Wal-Mart – it’s a sociologist’s playground. My favorite part is when people start performing “job nesting” – you know that flurry of activity that happens when one has decided to begin a job search.

Person of WalMart.pngFirst you start to see their sudden interest in connecting with others. For the last three years they had around 15 connections and suddenly this week they have 150. The other tell-tale sign is a new found interest in getting others to recommend them. Sometimes this is preceded by a willingness on their part to write you a recommendation and hope that you would return the favor. The final step is when you see their LinkedIn page plastered with 37 pieces of flair from special interest groups related to their field.

Job nesting is so transparent. I was talking to a number of my friends that are in senior positions in the tech field and they are all very aware of this, so much in fact that they actually developed a strong negative position on people that do this. The common thought is “They clearly didn’t think these relationships were important until they needed to use them. Therefore I feel used.” Not a good way to start a job search.

Job nesting is only one aspect of a bigger life question – how do I want to connect to the world? Do I see my relationships as discussed in yesterday’s blog as utilitarian or do I take the other extreme and view every single connection as an opportunity at the time it is presented rather than when I need it?

Take a job recruiter, for instance. If a recruiter were to call you up today and say “Hey Kelly, I’d love to take you to lunch to learn more about your company.” Is your first reaction “ugh, what excuse can i find to get out of this” or is it more “kind of bad timing but it is a good investment”?

What about networking groups? Do you maintain your networks when you don’t need them or only when you might be looking for a job? If everyone only went to group meetings when they needed a job the only people at the meetings would be people looking for jobs. Not much of a healthy network. To get the 10% out that that will someday be critically important you have to invest 90% in to others so that they can get their 10%.

Louis Pasteur.pngI have a lot of friends that think that I am very lucky. Opportunities seem to fall my way when I least expect them. They are right. But it isn’t by accident. Louis Pasteur said it best.

“Chance favors the prepared mind.”

To create opportunity you must cultivate opportunity. Just like maintaining a garden, you have to constantly tend it despite the severity of the weather, your state of mind, or simply convenience. Opportunities are most often inopportune. The key is you have to be willing to say yes a lot more than no. No is easy and comfortable. Yes is not. Yes may not have any value in the now but could someday be a great opportunity in the future. Most of your yeses won’t pay off directly for you, but all it takes is just one at the right time. Chance favors the prepared mind.

If you want to make opportunity more opportune create it yourself. Take Tom Peters’ advice: every lunch hour you have is an opportunity to sit down with someone and connect with them. Every commute in to and from work is a chance to call someone. Constantly seek to keep your connections alive. Like the neurons in our brains we were born to connect.

One last time, look at your outward connection rate. Does it spike when you need something or does it maintain a pretty regular beat? If it’s the former then you are likely one of those that my friends said earlier make them “feel used.”

Today’s Challenge

Good: Starting today and for the next month play the role of Jim Carrey in Yes Man. Resist every urge to say no to an invitation to connect.

Better: Create opportunity now! Find three people that you have never taken to lunch and invite them – no purpose, no reason, just to connect and see what happens. Face to face – no phone calls). Better yet, help them with an opportunity by asking “Is there anything I can do that might help you?” Imagine their response since you are the one that called this meeting.

Best: Develop a plan on how you are going to stay connected. It might be as simple as “dedicate two lunches every week to connecting with one person inside the company and one person outside the company” The key here is to actually spend time to budget the time and then commit to it. No excuses. Then for every committment you make record if you actually followed through or not and why not.