In my growing career, I often reflect on opportunities that were right at my doorstep, yet I didn’t capture them. The self-reflection used to be cause for discontent, but over the years, I’ve come to realize that hindsight is almost always 20/20. We would all agree that it’s difficult to predict the future.
Was it that position I didn’t apply for? Was it the email I didn’t respond to? Was it the networking opportunity I failed to take advantage of? Was it that project I didn’t volunteer for? Was it the review I didn’t complete? Was it that moment I didn’t speak up for myself?
These are all begging questions you may have asked in your career thus far. How our careers have progressed or regrettably regressed is likely associated with your response to one of the aforementioned questions. This is particularly when the window of opportunity presented itself. Windows of opportunity come and go. Some are open for ages, yet some only for a moment and sometimes we are unprepared to take advantage of them for the benefit of our careers. I decided to focus on this topic as I have been in this predicament more than most would admit. Here are two anecdotes.
As a youthful and enthusiastic business analyst, I attended an audit engagement in Atlanta, GA. On my return home, I had an hour or two to kill between my arrival at the dining lounge and connecting flight home. While waiting for a bite to eat, I struck a conversation with a gentleman from Sioux City, SD. We discussed a couple of soft topics including current affairs, my recent travel experiences and the recent Super Bowl between my cherished Carolina Panthers and the Denver Broncos. The discussion meandered into our interests and critically our professions. I shared my appetite of the audit profession and low and behold, he was actually a recently promoted Audit Executive. While our general conversation made me comfortable, I paused when I learned about his extensive audit background and I was somewhat terrified. I froze. I felt inexperienced to add value to the exchange. Was it my lack of confidence in my young career at the time? I really don’t know. Overall, it was stimulating to absorb some of the intricacies of non-profit accounting and governmental audits he was involved in daily. He shared experiences from the major non-profit organization he worked for in the humanitarian aid sector. I couldn’t even share my interest in the non-profit world at the time given my father’s background in the same arena. Long story short, he finished his dinner, bid me farewell and offered genuine best wishes for my career. This was all without me asking for a business card, an email or telephone number. It’s only when I realized this oversight that the window of opportunity expired and likely to never be opened again. Just like that – window of opportunity closed.
While serving as the Social Media chair for my local chapter of the Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) my role was solely to manage our organization’s online presence and growing our social media footprint. Annually, the institute hosted an all-expenses-paid conference for two leadership members from the various chapters across the United States and the Americas. My role as the Social Media chair was to keep the membership abreast of upcoming events, post pictures, updates and publicize notable awards we were nominated for at the conference. In preparation for this responsibility, I learned that our vice president would be unable to attend due to family commitments. I immediately told our president that should this vacancy be open, I was willing to represent our chapter at the annual conference. We had two other senior officers and seven board members so consequently, the chances were slim, and specifically 10%. I had a one in ten chance of being able to attend. After two of the longest and exhilarating days in the office, I got the email and just as you guessed it, I was tenth in line and eligible to attend. This was based on nine declined or ignored invitations. Nine. As the story goes, I got to spend three days at one of the world’s largest resorts in Orlando, FL learning from the brightest audit minds in the US and the Americas. It was awe-inspiring and humbling to network with some of the most gifted and talented educators, leaders and mentors in my profession – some of which I am still in touch with today. Just like that – window of opportunity opened.
The difference between the two encounters I shared above is simple. Two windows of opportunity were offered – one was capitalized upon and one wasn’t. In my encounter with the audit executive, I had a 100% chance of making the most of the opportunity to network, while on the other hand, I had a 10% chance of going to the IIA conference. We all have similar encounters or opportunities. Don’t we? Without going into the psychology of it all,
I’d conclude it’s to do with the battle within. Windows of opportunity come and go, so make every effort to pounce on them no matter the probability. You just never know where it will lead. Take the leap and take the measured approach towards each opportunity because you owe it to yourself. You’ve worked hard enough to be where you are and as I was once taught, fortune favors the bold.
Next time, take a deep breath, seize and open the window of opportunity before you.
Sonofguruve is a member of the the Institute on Internal Auditors (IIA). He likes to audit, watch soccer and write blogposts every now and again. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.