There are times in our career—especially when we’re just starting out—when we get caught up thinking about our dream job more than our current job. We find ourselves simply going through the motions. We wait for someone to give us the next steps.
But the most successful individuals I’ve worked with over the past 20-plus years don’t wait for instruction: they take initiative. And by doing so, they create opportunity.
Here are five steps you can take to create opportunity in the job you have right now.
- Crank up your job’s difficulty level
The people who excel in their jobs—and get noticed for it—are the ones who seek out extra responsibility. They go out of their way to teach and solve problems. They do everything they can to learn and grow. As a result, they get better and better at the job they were hired to do, allowing them to move on—and up—to more challenging roles.
Thomas Edison said it best: “Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.”
- Go out of your way to make your team better
It’s incredible what can happen when you work to improve things for those around you. This starts with asking questions and listening. Don’t just accept things for the way they are, and don’t assume your team knows what they’re doing. “Because we did it that way last year” is never a good reason to stop looking for a better way to get things done.
- Identify the need—and find a way to help
If you listen carefully—whether you’re working with clients or coworkers—you are likely to uncover a need. Think of this need as your golden opportunity: How can you meet this need?
Here’s an example: One of our major client-service initiatives has been to conduct “listening meetings” with our clients. This free call—conducted outside of our standard service—helps us to understand our clients’ biggest challenges while learning more about their business. In many cases we‘re able to uncover a need that we can help with. Many of these needs turn into significant projects.
- Broaden your understanding of the status quo
Making improvements within your team—and your organization—will require some level of change. To create lasting change, you must first understand why things are the way they are. Meet with those who will be affected by the changes you are suggesting. Knowing where they’re coming from will help you to anticipate their concerns and objections—and get their buy-in.
- Realize no one cares about your ideas…as much as you do
This is one of the most important pieces of advice I can give for creating opportunity. No one will have the energy you have for your ideas. Change starts with ideas and only happens with execution. Execution only happens with a passion for making something better. I count myself fortunate to have seen several ideas mature from a wish to a new process. Every time it has taken much more work than I ever anticipated, but the satisfaction of seeing an idea put into place is immeasurable.
These five steps are what I’ve learned through my own experience in a CPA firm; I wish I would have known them when I first started out.
I’ve found the payoff for taking initiative will often be tangible—more money, promotions, etc.—and many times it will be intangible, like when your coworkers come to you for help solving problems, or when you land the best projects. But it will almost always create opportunity—and put you one step closer to making your dream job a reality.