Do You Know How To Spot An Opportunity In Disguise?

Many people apply a deadline to their career ambitions. They want to be an Account Director by the time they are 30, or the CEO after a certain number of years in a senior position. Ambition is, of course, a fantastic quality, but administering it to a timeline can be blinding.

Alex Malley, Chief executive at CPA Australia 7th March 2014




I have always been a firm believer that dreams are not only realised from hard work, but also from an ability to identify the right opportunity to help you reach them. More often than not, this is easier said than done. Opportunities are not always obvious. The new dream job or career prospect will not necessarily tap you on the shoulder. So it is important to not blinker yourself with self-imposed deadlines, needless pressure or a propensity to do whatever it takes to reach your dream sooner rather than later. If you do, you run the risk of making misguided decisions, or not recognising an opportunity when it is right there in front of you.

Whenever I set a career dream or goal, something I have done ever since I was young, I never put a timeline on it. And I definitely do not rush it. Instead, I let the objective linger in my mind, keeping my eyes and ears open for the right moment to convert it into something tangible. Sometimes the moment comes quicker than I expect, sometimes the gestation will be longer. But, invariably, the moment comes, and when it does, I grab hold of it and do not let it go.

There are two approaches I would recommend to help you realise your dreams:

1. Make the most of chance encounters

Let me preface this section with: yes, I am one of those people you sit next to on the plane who likes to chat. I will not chew your ear off but I am inherently interested in meeting new people and listening to their stories. I once hired someone after we met and got chatting in an airport.

Those opportunities to build your professional network, to meet people that may help you to actualize your dreams and ambitions, are not just found in a professional environment. Sometimes it is actually better to meet people outside of a professional context; it can be easier to communicate on a human level, minus any professional politicking or other like distractions.

Be curious. Talk to people, ask them questions and, most importantly, listen. You never know what might eventuate.

2. Do not be limited by your job description or title

Many us have been in the situation where a duty is delegated to us, and we are thinking: “Wait a minute, this is not part of my job.” Under the pressure of the day-to-day grind, and everything else you have on your plate, it can be easy to overlook these opportunities.

As a Chief Executive I sometimes delegate a particular responsibility to someone who, on paper, is not the most obvious choice. I usually do this because I have seen a quality I like in that particular individual and want to challenge them – to see if they will rise to it. So next time you might be thinking this is not my job, and instinctively push back, it might be a good idea to take a moment to think about it laterally. It could be an opportunity in disguise.

Maintaining a childish positivity and a border-less mindset will always take you to better places than when you constrain yourself with strict expectations of where you should be in your career and by when. Throw a dream into your mind today and do not put a deadline on it. Leave it there and, believe me, when opportunity knocks you will be primed to open the door and go for it.


Alex Malley FCPA is the chief executive of CPA Australia and the host of the Nine Network television series The Bottom Line. Alex is also a regular contributor to The Huffington Post and he is a regular business commentator on the nationally syndicated programs The Money News on 2GB and Sky News Business.