Don't Depend on a Miracle

Sure, some careers are made by miracles--but they shouldn't be part of your plans.

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Michael Wade

Miracles do happen. The young woman with a dream of acting is preparing milkshakes and bantering with customers in a Hollywood drugstore when a film director walks in and … you know the rest. The hidden genius with a briefcase full of ideas catches a key executive at just the right moment. Fletcher can’t make the meeting in New York so Barnes is sent, wows the company founder, and snares a special post at company headquarters.

It’s all right to believe in these moments of good fortune, but a huge mistake to rely upon them. The fact is there are legions of brilliant people whose merit is not automatically (or magically) recognized. That line about the world beating a path to your door if you build a better mousetrap never was true. If you want others to discover your talent, you have to make yourself easily discoverable.

So what can you do?

1. Play the odds. Apply for more jobs. Let the numbers operate in your favor. Mathematically speaking, the job seeker who has submitted 30 applications has made a good start, but--all things being equal--has less of a chance of getting an interview than the person who has applied for 130 jobs.

2. Get a higher profile. Join professional groups. Get on Twitter and similar networking sites. Volunteer at community events.

3. Check out your image. What is the “look” for your field? Do you appear to be what you claim to be? Is there anything in your image that needs to be changed?

4. Develop your skills. Go to Toastmasters and improve your public speaking. Take language classes or attend workshops in your subject area. Not only will you pick up information, you’ll meet other people with similar interests and be better prepared when opportunity arrives.

5. Know your strengths and especially that one particular strength that distinguishes you from your competition. Seek assignments where that strength can be applied. Spend more time on that than on eliminating weaknesses.

6. Expand access to you. The more avenues through which people can find out about you, the better. Analyze the ones you have and the ones you can create.

7. Look for opportunities. These are often hidden beneath an array of projects in which you help other people. When you genuinely extend help to others, you’ll be surprised at what comes your way. It’s almost miraculous.

Michael Wade writes Execupundit.com, an eclectic combination of management advice, observations, and links. A partner with the Phoenix firm of Sanders Wade Rodarte Consulting Inc., he has advised private and public-sector organizations for more than 30 years.

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