I was jogging in the park the other day and noticed a number of professional dog walkers. They had many dogs under their care and the necessary tools of their trade. Nothing remarkable about that.
What struck me was a) the number of providers I saw on this one visit, b) their marketing efforts, and c) the range of services offered. Parked on the streets around the park were various types of mini-van and SUV, emblazoned with each dog walking entrepreneur's web site address, phone number, slogan, and featured services. So, what does this have to do with your career?
It illustrates an important career development theme:
When I was growing up, my Mom and Dad's core career advice was to “get my foot in the door. " Still sound, but my core career advice to you is **to make your own future. **
These dog walking entrepreneurs have taken a relatively simple personal service and have scaled it to attract more customers and higher fees from their customers. They have taken what traditionally was a marginal service job to the level of a bona fide business. They made their own opportunity. They shaped it they way they wanted. And, their customers pay handsomely for it. Cool.
So, my first point is this. . . you too can make your own opportunities, even out of the most seemingly mundane task, niche, need, service, etc. This may involve you moving into a new area or it may simply mean elevating the work you currently do to a whole new level.
Back to the dogs. In Vancouver, where I live, people take good care of their dogs. You can purchase dog medical insurance. There are dog hikes and adventure day trips. And, there are a number of gourmet dog food stores.
So, we see a small, premium industry sprouting up around the basic service needs of “who can walk our dog while we are at work/school" and “how can I take better care of my dog. " All of these entrepreneurs recognized the same themes and have capitalized on it in different ways. Undoubtedly, the larger corporations in the pet industry are capitalizing on this trend too. Double cool.
So, the second point is this. . . there is rarely only one possible opportunity in a specific market. If you recognize a need, look at it objectively from all angles and get creative about how you could serve that need. Of course, this strategy applies to current and aspiring entrepreneurs.
It also applies to those working for other people. Intrapreneurialism (being entrepreneurial within an organization) is a great and necessary thing. You may have an idea how to do something better, or faster, or cheaper, or at higher quality. You may have a new service idea. You may have spotted a tiny or huge niche that needs filling.
Whatever it is, occupying a specific job does not necessarily mean that you work in a pre-defined box. If you truly find yourself boxed in, then that's where it is time to make some important career decisions. If you find yourself on the job market, think about what you can do to create your own opportunities.
In the current economic environment, I know that things are uncertain, and difficult. But, here is one of those basic laws of life: there will always be opportunities for those who both recognize and pursue them. There will always be opportunities for those with initiative, determination and common sense. The “lucky" are simply those who have taken more chances than average. Within organizations and without.
Never think that you do not have options.
Ian Christie is a career coach, entrepreneur, former Monster.com Sr. Director & former executive recruiter. Ian is a career expert with many published articles and media interviews. Visit BoldCareer.com for free career resources & personalized career services.