Opportunity knocks. What do you do?

Sign this contractPeople faced with an opportunity usually figure they have simply a decision of yes or no, take it or don’t. The challenge here is to come up with a richer list of alternatives, built around the opportunity and variations of it. As with all decisions, there may be even better options out there if you open your mind to them. Before you try to choose, give yourself a rich list of choices. Here are some ideas to get you started when you have an opportunity.

—Run with it

Taking the opportunity exactly as offered is clearly always an option. Here’s an example. You’re an independent consultant and you enjoy the flexibility and the chance to work in a variety of industries. Susan has just offered you a full-time, permanent job with a financial institution. You have one clear alternative:

  • —  Accept the job offer as is.

—Use part of it

Are there pieces of the opportunity that are attractive, without committing to the whole thing? Perhaps you see a little nugget in the larger opportunity. Perhaps there are parts of the opportunity that you’d prefer not to pursue.

In our example, maybe you’d like to pursue the job, but maintain your independent status and the chance to work in other areas.

  • —  Accept a part-time, temporary or on-call position

—Negotiate a variation

Is the opportunity all you want? If anything is lacking, can it be added? See if the opportunity can be enhanced to meet all your needs.

In our example, you may seek more money to compensate for giving up your consulting practice, or you may wish to maintain the amount of vacation you have been giving yourself.

  • —  Accept the job if Susan meets your salary demands.
  • —  Accept the job if Susan gives you five weeks a year of vacation.

—Pass it on

If you decide that you have no interest in pursuing the opportunity, would it be of interest to someone else? Someone else might find it the perfect opportunity and you would be doing her a favor to tell her about it.

  • —  Tell one of your colleagues about the job opening

—Do something related

Does this opportunity suggest other opportunities that might be even better? If this opportunity comes from a surprising direction or an unexpected area, what else is out there? You may want to do some exploring before you commit. In our example, you may never have considered financial work.

  • —  Seek out consulting in the financial field

Do something with a similar payoff

What is it that you find attractive about the opportunity? Are there other ways you can get it? Think about each attractive aspect in turn.

In the example, you may not have considered full-time work before. It’s attractive because of the steady paycheck and administrative and marketing support.

  • —  Investigate other full-time, permanent positions

— Use it as a springboard to other opportunities

Even if you don’t take the opportunity, it may lead to further opportunities. In our example, Susan has contacts who may be interested in hiring a consultant. She clearly respects your work and so could put in a good word for you.

  • —  Thank Susan and ask her to let you know if she hears about any consulting opportunities

— Do nothing

Ignoring the opportunity is always an option. Make it a conscious choice. There’s a huge difference between failing to seize an opportunity and actively choosing to let it go. The first case indicates laziness, cowardice or obliviousness. The second shows that you’ve taken charge of the decision and determined that the drawbacks outweigh the benefits. In the first case you may feel regret or helplessness or that the world is passing you by. In the second you feel empowered.

There is an important reason to include the do-nothing option as an alternative in any decision. Every choice has drawbacks and that often makes people afraid to make a choice. Considering doing nothing as a choice forces you to examine the drawbacks of the current status and pushes you toward action.

  • —  Turn down the job offer

What else?

What other options can you think of for taking advantage of an opportunity?

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