When you look out to your career and/or personal horizon, what do you see? Is it a clear vision of where you want to be or do you find it difficult to see past all the obstacles standing between you and the future you are trying to envisage?
When I talk to people about planning and strategising for their future, I’m often met with responses such as “everything is holding me back” or “I can’t visualise my future because I can’t see how my goals might be fulfilled”.
The problem, it seems, is the how is blocking out the what. So, what we need to try to do is bring the what – that is, what you’d like to see on your horizon – back into focus.
Arc of opportunity
I’d suggest starting with creating your own ‘rainbow’ (with or without colours!) on your horizon. Stay with me here …
Get yourself a large, blank sheet of paper and give yourself permission to achieve anything without fear of the ‘how’.
First, draw yourself a straight line. This is your horizon. Everything above the line is playing BIG and everything below the line is playing SAFE.
Next, draw three points on that line – one in the centre of the line, one to the outer left and another to the outer right side. Then draw an arc from the left to the right above the line.
This area under this ‘rainbow’ and above the horizon is your arc of opportunity. This is the space in which you think big, experiment and try new things.
Everything below the line is the safe zone, where it’s business as usual.
Find your niche
Within your arc of opportunity, you can start to finesse and ‘niche’ your ideal work outcomes or product. But you will only be able to do this once you have tried something and found out whether it works for you and others.
Make a start on trying out each idea by leading with a pitch or pricing template, or start to articulate the service you are offering and your value add. Once you get a feel for how it is being received, you can narrow down the arc of opportunity and focus on specific ideas and outcomes.
So, where do you start with narrowing down your options in that 180-degree arc of opportunity? This series of questions will help:
- What lights my fire? What is my passion or what do I enjoy doing most?
- Can I convert that passion to cash? Is there a way for me to earn money out of doing what I enjoy?
- If not, do I need a parallel strategy? Can I find a way to keep earning a living while doing something that makes me happy – eg. continuing in my salaried job while building my ‘passion empire’ on the side?
The next step is to learn from others. Identify three key people in the role, space or industry you’d like to get into and pick their brains. See if they’d be happy for you to buy them a coffee and chat for half an hour. Other people can be amazingly generous with their time and thoughts if they think you will value what they have to say – and if the coffee is good!
You can take this consultation to the next level by organising a networking lunch or dinner in which you can workshop and brainstorm with like-minded people. I did this a couple of years ago, when I was researching for my white paper on the Future of Work 2035. I held a think tank over a sandwich lunch with four people whose ideas I valued.
Such gatherings are all the more attractive for others if they serve a worthwhile research purpose. Doing some research (eg. for a white paper) on your chosen subject can be an effective way to clarify thoughts and ideas, share them with others and, ultimately, refine your goals.
Finding your niche within that arc of opportunity starts with you, but you can’t do it alone.
Paula Kensington is the new LBD CEO and an award-winning CFO and finance, futurist. She is passionate about people, planning and possibilities. Paula is available for keynote presentations and conferences. She also loves talking to employee groups, in town hall style meetings or smaller talent pools, where her experience and passion for the future helps to alleviate anxiety in the workplace, at all levels of an organisation.