Day 3 – Wednesday: Inopportune Opportunity

joe —  Tue 17-Aug-10 — 10 Comments
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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.

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  • http://user-assistance.blogspot.com/ Mike Hughes

    Being in the right place at the right time requires being in a lot of places a lot of times.

    • http://www.TheStrandedStarfish.com joe

      But no matter where you go – there you are.

  • http://www.andrewfuqua.com Andrew Fuqua

    Didn’t need the BBQ lunch today. It stayed with me all day. But I did appreciate the inopportune opportunity. It was fruitful. It was scheduled a few days ago, but I’m trying hard to eat better than before, which made it inopportune. At least I got in a swim and a healthy dinner this evening.

    I’ve always enjoyed luncheons with assorted friends, preferably one at a time. Hard to do that with my ATL friends while traveling. But I do the same thing while traveling to make new friends.

    • http://www.andrewfuqua.com Andrew Fuqua

      Didn’t need the inopportune Chinese buffet today, but it afforded an opportunity to influence someone higher up in my client’s organization.

      Tomorrow’s lunch is a Community of Practice session on open space / collaborative space facilities. A great opportunity to help a large number of people. Luckily, it’s a bring your own lunch. We’ll see if I can bring something healthy.

      • http://www.TheStrandedStarfish.com joe

        Or work it off on the bike 😉
        Is this a regular part of your habits, Andrew? If so, have you found it helpful and worth the time or has the time invested not been worth it?

        • http://www.andrewfuqua.com Andrew Fuqua

          Yes, it’s a regular habit. I never pass on meeting over a meal and look for or initiate opportunities.

          It’s absolutely worth the effort to me and hopefully to the others I meet with as well. It’s helped forge partnerships, grease the skids, reach understanding and agreement, get and give feedback (mentoring?), build friendships, learn things, share my testimony, and give encouragement during a trying time. We’ve had great discussions and memorable meals.

          The secret to getting something out of it though, is to sup with just one or two others. Big group lunches do little for me.

  • Divinevibe

    Joe, hiya…

    I’m really enjoying your 5-day higher ground practice (even if my busy week didn’t allow me to connect until this weekend.)

    In the Day 3 story, you make valid points and heartfelt connections with others is always a worthy practice. I am perplexed however with all the “connecting with others” that more people don’t also put into practice a daily ritual to “connect with their inner world.” Awakening to who I truly am has allowed me to share those best parts with others. Guess this idea also somewhat connects to your Day 1 story of listening. Not only to others, but to ourselves.

    In the world of FB, LinkedIn, etc. where everyone is saying “look at me” — how bout we try to find a little “I’m looking at me” instead?

    • http://www.TheStrandedStarfish.com joe

      I always love your view, DV. Such great advice in this very noisy world.
      I remember my New Years resolution was to ask more questions. Maybe the questions should be turned inward more often?

      Sure wish you would get a blog on your practices. I think a lot of people would be very interested!

  • Kaleb Walton

    I’d like to say that historically this hasn’t been my M.O., but in reality it has. I remember how many folks I reconnected with the last time I was in the market for a job (before LinkedIn was so popular). That connection was through email and phone calls, so it wasn’t quite so transparent, but it still matches what you’re talking about…

    What about ‘quality vs. quantity’? It’s tough to go deep in your relationships when you’re busy going broad, and vice versa. Maybe striking a ‘T-shaped’ balance is the most optimal – broad with keeping up a large network that’s not filled with shallow relationships, deep on the few that you really care about (both personally and professionally).

    Great insights :)

    • http://www.TheStrandedStarfish.com joe

      Kaleb, I think you hit it on the head – you need to have a strategy as time is a very valuable resource.

      My personal strategy is to purposefully keep my closer relationships going by taking the time to initiate the connection points and then to not turn down any opportunities from someone else that may not be in my closer circle. I have not fully succeeded in this, but am a heck of a lot better than I was this time two years ago.

      Your strategy could vary quite differently and it probably should. The key is to have and live the strategy, whatever you feel fits your current point in life.