5 Simple Suggestions to Help You Identify the Opportunity of a Lifetime

Mary Somers
Mary Somers

Mary Somers is the Associate Director of Coaching and Education at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. She holds an MS degree in counseling from the Johns Hopkins School of Education and is a nationally certified counselor and board certified coach. Mary is also an adjunct faculty member at the JHU School of Education, where she teaches career development and career coaching courses to graduate counseling students. Prior to joining Carey, she managed career services at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and the School of Professional Studies in Business and Education (now Carey Business School and the JHU School of Education). She also worked at Georgetown and Tufts Universities in both student services and administrative roles. Mary is a co-founder of Suited to Succeed, a Baltimore nonprofit that provides clothing and associated resources to women transitioning from training programs to employment.

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Congratulations! Now that the semester has ended and many have graduated, the Career Development staff has time to reflect on the last year, especially the coaching of students and alumni we’ve come to know. We think of you with humility and gratitude as so many of you shared your stories and allowed us to help you move toward your personal and professional goals.

Some of the most powerful coaching conversations have centered around these questions:

  • “Now that I will be graduating soon, how do I successfully sell myself to employers?”
  • “What internship should I choose to develop the skills I want to use post-graduation?”
  • “How do I figure out what opportunities are THE best fit for me?”

In answering these questions, I’m always reminded of Brad Sugar’s quote:

The opportunity of a lifetime happens once a day.”

I love the play on words—and believe it to be true. I don’t think that being single-minded ensures success. Certainly, we want you to be thoughtful in considering opportunities, clear about what you can offer, and consistently moving forward in achieving your goals.

Yet, I’m struck by the thought that many don’t even notice what might be the next best step because they are narrowly focused on a single goal. What’s interesting is that most successful people are doing work they didn’t expect. They have been on another path, then, somehow, saw an unexpected possibility that they couldn’t pass up. It spoke to them and they acted. Consider the following suggestions as you look for those daily opportunities of a lifetime. We need you and this might be the work that only you can do.

  1. Thank others for their advice, but remember that it might not be directed toward you. Family, friends. and classmates may be filled with suggestions about what you should do. Even though they may have your best interests at heart, they will be sharing information only from their perspectives. Maybe your skills prepare you to do work that they would love to do, if only they could. Or they might think that a certain career will provide stability (if only that were true!) and that’s why you should pursue it. Only you can decide what’s best for you. Thank them for their guidance and hold it as information, not a decree.
  2. Try something new, often. Not only will you gain new skills and meet new people, you may have a new take about how to solve a problem.
  3. Think about the work that needs to be done. What is a problem that continues to bother you? Loople started in Baltimore when two friends couldn’t keep track of all the happy hour specials in the area. Of course, it’s not a solution that will change the world, but it does make it easier for friends to get together for less-expensive evenings out. What do you see out there that can be improved?
  4. Be willing to fail. That’s when the learning occurs. In Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience and Finding Joy, by Sheryl Sandberg and Adam Grant, Sheryl discusses the 30-minute FB crash that occurred when a summer intern tried to trigger a failure. The lead engineer suggested that staff should try to trigger failures (without the crash, of course) and labeled the practice “Ben testing,” after the intern, who, by the way, was hired.
  5. Be open. Perhaps most important, see possibility in everything. Everyone you meet—although they may not offer a jobmay have a connection or a suggestion for you that could lead to a job. Go to lectures, read beyond your assignments, and get involved in student and community organizations. At the very least, your horizons will expand.

The world is filled with endless possibilities. Armed with your toolbox of values, interests, skills and competencies, you can have an impact everywhere you go. Doing that will open doors for you that you may not have known existed.

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