Roman Philosopher Seneca once said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity” and while I wholeheartedly believe that’s true (and quote it often), I also think there are instances where a person has to go out into the world and create an opportunity for themselves. Whether you’re a recent graduate who just can’t find a job, or someone who’s looking to make a leap and start your own business, there’s no need to sit back and wait for the perfect set of circumstances to present itself to you before you can get started. In fact, there are a few tried and true things you can do to get the ball rolling on your own.
Set a Clear Goal
Ask yourself: “What do I hope to achieve?” It’s important to define a focused goal before you get to work opening doors for yourself, and the more clearly you’re able to articulate what you hope to do, the better. I wasn’t sure where to begin when I started my content and web production business, GoldSquare. Though I had used my writing, design, production and marketing skills in different capacities throughout my career, I wasn’t clear on which of those could help me attract clients and get myself noticed—or exactly how I wanted to be seen.
Since I noticed how popular Squarespace had become, I set my sights on becoming and branding myself as a an expert on the platform. I joined the Squarespace Circle program and talked about myself as a web producer, rather than a marketer or writer. This helped me create opportunity by sticking to a single focus with a clear goal; I had my north star and felt confident about my direction. It also became easy to describe myself and my work in a single sentence, rather than struggling to come up with a concise description that captured what I do. This has been critical when pitching myself and my business to potential clients and partners.
Know What Makes You Valuable
To create opportunity for yourself, you’ll need to pinpoint what your strengths are, along with where you can add value—more often than not, this is where your education and knowledge intersect with your passion or interests. Do you have a special skill set or combination of studies that a person or company can use to achieve their goals? Are you ultra-adaptable or able to work an unusual or flexible schedule? Are you well connected or a specific type of collaborator?
As an exercise, make a list of all of the things that make you unique. Consider places you’ve lived, people and companies you know, education you’ve received, experiences you’ve had, and even the things you’ve taught yourself.
Next, mix in all of the things that light you up, intrigue you or have your interest. Look at both of your lists and see what aligns—then charge in the direction of the intersection of your experience and dreams. Own it all, and be relentless.
Do Your Research—And Be Strategic
Once you’ve set a clear goal and you have a solid idea of what you’re able to offer, you’ll be in a perfect position to start researching areas where you may be able to find opportunity. When I was in the early stages of figuring out how to build my small business, I used social platforms like Facebook and Twitter to monitor page conversations that were relevant to Squarespace websites; I also read reviews for other production companies to understood what delighted and disappointed their customers.
When you’ve finally found have the confidence to put yourself out there, be strategic. For example, if you’re hoping to become a travel writer, you might decide to turn down paying jobs that fall outside of your focus area—and confidently pursue (and create!) opportunities that feel like a perfect fit. See where you can shine when you’re looking to break into something new and forget your fear of taking risks; be the person who makes cold calls, knocks on doors or applies for positions that might seem out of your league. You never know what might happen.
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