8Sep2016

4 things you must know before pursuing your next opportunity

 

There’s nothing worse than missing the boat when you want to pursue opportunities at work. Once they’re gone, they’re gone…but you can prevent this.

When pursuing your next tempting career advancement opportunity, the most important thing to remember to get ahead in your career is that you should take charge of properly preparing yourself. No one else is going to do it for you – not your boss, not your subordinates…and especially not those competing for the same opportunity.

Preparation for seizing a new opportunity requires research. Just as a product or service manager conducts thorough market research, an ambitious employee looking for career advancement diligently researches in anticipation of that next opportunity. This is one of the biggest factors affecting career development.

Below are the 4 things you must find out before pursuing your next opportunity. This is baseline information. Obviously, you’ll need to find out more according to the actual opportunity. (In my next three posts, I’ll be addressing some specific opportunities.)

Like in market research, some of the research will be secondary – also known as “desk research” – and will be done by looking, for example, at your company’s website. Other research will be primary – or “field research” and will require you to reach out to other employees to get their take on different issues.

But before going on, it is critical that you record all of your findings. This way, you’ll be sure to cover all of the groundwork and use the information to the fullest. (See my first post about Rob, who realized the importance of self-discovery.)

1.    What are the qualifications and experience needed for that next opportunity? How would you measure the gap between what’s needed and what you can offer?

2.    What are the formal and informal expectations of the position? What would be the difference between what’s expected and what you can bring to the table? To answer this second question, fostering your relationship with your manager could help.

3.    What was positive about the performance of the last person who held this job? What should have been improved? What then should you emphasize with regard to the advantages that you can bring to the job?

4.    How are you perceived by others? How do they see your strengths and weaknesses? In what ways can you use this information to “position” yourself strategically for that next opportunity?

If we had to summarize the most important thing from all of these four points, it would be to identify the gaps between what would seem ideal for the new opportunity and what you have in you already and then to do two things: (1) minimize and (2) capitalize. I’ll explain.

Minimize the gaps. While you might not completely fit one of the ideal qualifications, perhaps you have something similar to offer that could fit the bill just the same. For example, an opportunity might require sales experience with large retailers, whereas you have mostly worked with small mom and pops. You could highlight that though the sizes are different, you’re well versed at helping retailers manage their shelf space, which is actually a huge issue with large retailers as well. Here, you minimize the gap by showing how your existing expertise is transferable and can be of benefit to the new opportunity.

Capitalize on the gaps. Here, you want to position what might seem like a shortcoming as an advantage. For example, if a job requires eight years of experience and you only have two, perhaps you could emphasize that you’d be bringing a more open mind to the job than someone with more experience.

Remember that the more serious you are about your information gathering and “gap analysis,” the better positioned you’ll be for your interview. Don’t sell yourself short by taking shortcuts.

In my next three posts, I’ll be providing guidance on competing for opportunities with internal and external candidates as well as what to do when you’re the external candidate.

And always remember:

Great managers are made. Not born.

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