Saying “Yes” to Professional Success
Achieving career success entails saying ‘yes’ to all kinds of opportunities — especially the unexpected ones.
Success has no set formula, but three components are critical: talent, skill, and opportunity. Talent is crucial because it acts as a compass, guiding you towards industries and roles that suit your abilities. Within that niche, you develop the necessary skillsets to keep progressing and thriving in your career.
Sure, you can work on yourself all you want, but if the right opportunity doesn’t come your way, all that will be left is unrealized potential.
Opportunity is the only factor in the formula out of your control — directly, that is. Your past actions, networks, and even timing all play a role in how perfectly an opportunity presents itself. You could get your big break because of how well you’ve been performing in your company, having the right mentors to vouch for you, or simply being at the right place at the right time.
Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work out as perfectly. Opportunities are dynamic and complex — and can sometimes be hidden right under your nose. Shrouded in sacrifices and fears of the unknown, a wonderful opportunity for success can slip through your fingers just because you didn’t expect it.
If you’re in that moment of doubt, just say yes. Even when the situation’s not 100% perfect, you never know the opportunities that yes can open up for you.
Becoming a ‘Yes’ Man
From trivial matters like where to eat to significant questions such as where to live or whom to spend my time with, I tend to be more discerning than the average person. You can then only imagine how much more selective I am when it comes to my career.
This level of discernment didn’t always serve me well. While I was working at a large consumer goods company, I had made it clear to my managers early on that there were certain brands within the company I wouldn’t want to work on. Either the product had some unhealthy ingredients, or I wouldn’t be inclined to purchase the product myself. I’m certain this made it difficult for the higher-ups to find appropriate roles for me as I was working toward getting promoted. These lines I drew may even have negatively affected my internal marketability within the company.
After I left corporate to start my own career consultancy, I changed my approach to one more in line with what Polly had suggested. I erred on the side of saying yes — agreeing to the vast majority of opportunities that came my way, both because I didn’t have the luxury of being excessively selective and also because I wanted to explore which opportunities would resonate with me as I was crafting my path forward as a solo business owner.
From Wide To Sharp Focus
I opened myself to doing a lot of different things as I built my business. If something was remotely related to career coaching — life coaching, career transition coaching, career mentorship coaching — I did it. I reviewed CVs in resumes and cover letters, coached people on interviewing skills, and took on speaking engagements that were somehow related to my background or expertise. These opportunities may not have been 100% on target with the work that I wanted to be doing, but these helped me discover how I wanted to spend my time.
Now, jump forward to the present day, and I’m a lot more selective and focused. The vast majority of my workshops now relate to either marketing your personal brand or changing career paths. Likewise, my limited amount of individual coaching is strictly focused on relaunching the personal brands of professionals in a career transition and business owners.
However, the phase when I said yes to everything — even those imperfect, random opportunities — helped me gain this eventual focus. This phase not only enabled me to organically establish and expand my business, but also connected me to different types of clients, enabling me to clarify the kind of work I enjoyed doing most.
Saying ‘Yes’ To The Possibilities
I’m sharing this story because while I think there is a lot of power in being selective and focused, there are times in our lives — especially when navigating a transition or making a pivot — when being more indiscriminately open can serve you well.
My challenge to you is to pursue that career opportunity or side project that doesn’t feel 100% perfect but could be interesting to explore. What’s one idea you’ve been saying no to because of what it doesn’t offer, which you could instead say yes to because of what it does?
You don’t have to go all-in right away. Instead of diving headfirst into an opportunity, start putting in the work and browse around with an open mindset — as if you were casually window shopping or browsing through a bookstore. You don’t have to buy anything, but you might just stumble upon something you didn’t even know you wanted in the process.
This makes me think of a quote from Issac Asimov:
“Your assumptions are your windows on the world. Scrub them off every once in a while, or the light won’t come in.”
Being open to new things can get messy at times, but who knows — the next opportunity you say yes to may be just what you need to take your career to new heights.
Listen in as I discuss “Being Open to Opportunities” in more detail on Career Relaunch® podcast episode 4 with account manager turned set designer Polly Aspinall.
This article was originally published on my blog.
About Joseph Liu
Joseph Liu is dedicated to helping professionals relaunch their careers by more effectively marketing their personal brands. His work is informed by 10 years of global marketing experience in the US and UK, managing brands including Glad, Liquid-Plumr, Gü Pads and Häagen-Dazs, his involvement with four major brand relaunches, and his professional career coaching for thousands of professionals around the world. He now applies principles used to build and relaunch consumer brands to help aspiring business owners build and relaunch their personal brands. Joseph‘s spoken at TEDx and hosts the global Career Relaunch®podcast, which features inspiring stories of career change and has been ranked as a top 10 career podcast in the US and UK, with listeners in 169 countries.