Life rarely goes according to plan, does it? This is especially true in our careers. As we move up the ladder, we gain more influence but our widening scope includes more variables that can steer our ship in unforeseen and unwanted directions — away from our intended targets. The position we dreamed of doesn’t materialize. The project we heralded gets bogged down in politics and bureaucracy.
There’s an old adage — don’t waste a good crisis — that encourages us to take those moments of chaos to usher in change faster than we could during more stable periods. I’d argue that we don’t have to wait for crisis to find our opportunities. We just have to effectively see the opportunity in our reality, even when that reality isn’t what we envisioned.
Recently, a friend shared that a positive career change he’d been anticipating was put on hold. I instantly felt his angst. I flashed back to similar circumstances in my own career where I was so focused on the certainty of my next step, only to have it quashed by lack of institutional courage, shifting organizational priorities, or even my own miscalculation.
I asked him two simple questions.
How do you position yourself to succeed in this reality? When reality shifts, we have to read the landscape anew. Who are the players? What are their needs and motivations? How can you meet those needs?
What do you need to do right now to make sure you’re a valuable part of where this might end up? Landing in a good spot professionally rarely is determined by talent alone. Who do you need stronger relationships with? What do you need to learn to understand the changing organization better? Where are the need gaps in this new future and how can you help close them?
These are questions that don’t require a crisis — or even a challenge. Answering them, however, is critical to finding opportunity in our reality.