The same process that you apply to generating internal opportunities applies to generating external opportunities. In both cases, you must be careful not to violate any moral or ethical guidelines such that you might be seen as betraying your manager, co-workers, organization, or company. With external opportunities, your most likely source of opportunities will be customers and collaborators. These organizations and individuals may be constrained from hiring within your organization, so you must proceed with great care.
However, there are many other sources of opportunity that can be found indirectly through these same people and organizations. For instance, if you work with a customer, that customer is likely to know others within the same industry or profession. Therefore, while they may be prevented from hiring you or you may be prevented from working for them, they can still refer you to others, based on their experience of you. Remember that everyone you meet and work with is a potential source of opportunity.
As we discussed in the section on Networking, without being mercenary you should consider everyone you meet in context of the question “How might they benefit me?” While this sounds mercenary, it is just realistic. Even with our best friends and family, we are likely to consider how they might help us. In the course of your career networking, you will constantly be reviewing the groups and individuals with whom you spend your time. Here are some questions you should be asking yourself:
- How am I balancing my time between career-oriented networking and networking for pleasure?
- Are there people or groups that I have met or learned of in my present job that would benefit my career?
- Am I visible or lurking? Remember that for these activities to benefit you, people must get to know you. Consider giving presentations that demonstrate your areas of expertise.
Since we are assuming that you are in a new job, in this section, you must review how and where you spend your time and how that time spent contributes to your career goals.
Use Informational Interviews to learn about new industries, positions, companies, and people. And, of course, to connect with the people you interviewed. As a tool to achieve your career goals, informational interviews never go away. In fact, they remain a strong tool for you as you begin generating opportunities.
As you begin to manage your new career (see next section), you will meet people from other organizations and industries. Cultivate these connections as sources of information and possible future opportunities. It is also valuable to cultivate relationships with instructors and seminar leaders, as they are likely tuned in to the professional area or industry in which you work. Maintain periodic contact with the people you meet and get together to share information about what is going on in your company, profession, and industry. After all, it is safe to assume that they, too, have a career strategy!