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In Uncertain Times, Prepare Yourself for New Opportunities

In Uncertain Times, Prepare Yourself for New Opportunities

Prepare Yourself for New Opportunities

    We live in uncertain times. Global financial collapse, rapid relocation of industries, emerging markets, political unrest, and just the fast pace of change in the Information Era in general all mea that things you take for granted today might be completely different tomorrow.

    Now is certainly not a time for rigidity. The career you’re working in this year might not even exist in 2010. And vice versa – the field you call home two years from now might not have even been thought up today. With financial markets so volatile and companies “hunkering down” for a long slog through a recession, there are few indicators of what’s coming up. Even strong companies are looking at cutbacks and layoffs to prepare themselves for whatever comes.

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    It’s a stressful time, and one in which long-term planning is becoming more and more difficult. It’s simply impossible to say whether you’ll have a job next month, whether your company will be able to get credit for expansion or even day-to-day expenses, whether your clientele will be able to afford you come January.

    Since you can’t possibly know what’s coming, it’s important that you keep your eyes open and be ready to grab hold of new opportunities. Or to create your own. And that means focusing on yourself, doubling up your own efforts to improve and promote yourself. Here are some ideas about how to do that.

    1. Take a professional inventory.

    “Know thyself” is always the first step towards improvement. Without adequate understanding of your own strengths (and weaknesses), you’re never going to be able to further your own development, let alone sell others on your positive qualities.

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    So it’s time to take a close look at where – and who – you are as a professional. Take some time to list your skills and talents. Add to that a list of your accomplishments and how each achievement made use of those skills and talents.

    Take your lead from copywriters and other marketing experts and list your “features” – the good things about you – and their “benefits”. For example, if one of your features is “writes well”, a benefit might be “helps minimize conflicts due to miscommunication”. The idea is twofold: one, you’re generating a list of positives you can draw on to describe yourself to potential employers, partners, or investors; two, you’re hopefully learning to see some of the unexplored potential you might be able to make use of as the world changes around you.

    2. Focus on relationship-building.

    Networking is always important, no matter what your field or goals, but now is the time to not only broaden your list of contacts but to deepen it – to strengthen the relationships you’ve established through networking. Start striking up conversations with people you get along with but have, so far, not really connected with. Share some of your specialized knowledge – or ask others to share some of theirs. Give people a chance to know you as a person, and get to know them the same way.

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    3. Level up.

    Make yourself more valuable – to yourself as well as to others – by investing in learning new skills or improving old ones. Look for areas where you have a strong-but-not-expert knowledge already and see how you can build yourself up in that area. Even if it’s not central to your current work, expanding your skill set will give you some flexibility to move beyond the boundaries of your existing field – and may offer a new perspective on the work you’re already doing.

    4. Ask lots of questions.

    Information is your most valuable asset right now, and asking questions, even painfully obvious ones, is the best way to get information. Also, asking questions is perhaps the most powerful tool in your relationship-building toolset – people like to talk about themselves and their work, and asking questions gives them the opportunity to do so. Make a point of asking at least one meaningful question in any interaction – you’d be surprised at what you can learn.

    5. Write your elevator pitch.

    An elevator pitch is a 2-3-minute speech summarizing a product, proposal, or project for a potential buyer or backer. The idea is that if you were in an elevator with someone, you could get the most important information about whatever you’re selling across to them in the couple of minutes before the elevator reaches their floor.

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    Right now, we’re thinking about marketing ourselves, and you should be able to explain to people who you are, what you do, and why you’re so darn good at it in a couple of minutes. So, write an elevator pitch pitching yourself and learn it, at least the tone and general thrust of it. Be ready to explain who you are at a moment’s notice – instead of fumbling for words when the opportunity of a lifetime comes within your grasp.

    6. Be creative.

    Once you have a good picture of who you are, be on the lookout for unusual ways that you can add value where you’d least have expected it. Economic downturns favor innovation – they present new problems, or at least problems that are new to most people, and those problems need solving. At the same time, old problems disappear or cease to seem so pressing – people and organizations left hawking solutions to old problems will rapidly find themselves extinct. Seek out those new problems, and set your mind free in search of new solutions.

    Nobody knows for sure what’s going to happen over the next year or so, but the least that’s going to happen is that things are going to get shaken up but good. At the least, being prepared for anything might put you at the forefront of the coming shakedown; but if the worst comes, it might become a matter of sheer survival. Make sure you’re ready, no matter what happens!

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    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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