If you want to get out of your isolation and find more opportunities than you can handle, the key is always to start taking action. You need to start interacting with your environment to get to your goal.


So far we've talked a lot about thinking, preparing, and adopting certain perspectives in your mind. While it's true that the most important work is done there, it is of no avail until you get into action. As I told one client recently, after he told me that God would send him an opportunity at the right time, God might also expect that he'd be out there doing all he could to catch the opportunity when it is sent. And the way to do that is to get into action, doing all you can each day to uncover opportunities.

There are so many wonderful things about taking action! Probably the best is, action displaces fear! When the World War II hero, Audie Murphy, was asked if he was afraid when he charged enemy trenches with a grenade in his hand, his answer was worth remembering.

He was actually shaking with fear, he said, up to the moment when he pulled the pin on the grenade and started running toward the enemy. At that moment, he explained, as soon as he got into action, there just wasn't any room for fear.

He didn't have to think about or fight the fear. Quite simply, he was preoccupied with taking action, and there was no room in his mind, no time, and no place inside him, that he had left over for fear. In his opinion, you can't be acting and fearing at the same time, even if you wanted to.

Action displaces fear, he said, just as when you put a ship in water, it displaces the water. The ship and the water can't be in the same place at the same time, and so it is with action and fear. Now if you substitute for fear the word anxiety, or doubt, or immobility, or inertia, the same principle applies. If any of those have crowded your mind or clouded your spirits, know that part of the answer to achieving peace of mind and feeling a sense of progress is to get into action.

Another positive is that acting gets you past indecision. It's almost a cliche for people faced with a problem to say, "Let's get past this thing," or "Let's get this behind us." The one sure way to stop worrying about whether you are going to make the right decision, and to get a problem or challenge behind you, is to act on it.

Still another positive ..... action feels good! Think about any time in your life when you were taking action on something you cared about or enjoyed. Maybe it was helping someone else, building something, planting a shrub or garden, learning to ride a bike, taking a stand on a controversial issue, or taking steps in your job that improved efficiency and productivity.

Can you remember how it felt at those moments when you were taking those actions? Maybe you'd thought about them for some time, without much feeling. But when you started acting, it felt good, didn't it?

One of the happiest things about getting into action can be especially significant for anyone with a disability. One of the common problems for my clients, they tell me, is that they gradually become isolated from people, and miss the interaction they used to have with friends and people they met during the course of their work day.

Almost by definition, action means interacting with other people, and as that happens, bit by bit, the isolation grows less rigid, and you begin to feel a greater connectedness with others. Action also creates its own energy force, and you can feel yourself uniting with others in spirit.

You can feel the combined energies of your action and theirs. The math always works out so that 1+1 always equals more than 2, in some cases substantially more. If you want to win a job offer or get a business started, the single most important thing about action is, it's The Key to The Opportunity Collision.

There's a world out there right now, where a lot of things are happening, a lot of businesses growing, new jobs being created, thousands of people realizing they're going to need a good person for something or other ..... but none of that has a chance of touching your life if you're not out there acting.

If it is not one of the universal laws of nature, then it should be classified as a most-of-the-time law of nature, that people who are actively seeking a specific type of opportunity will, in the course of their efforts, be presented with at least one opportunity they never expected and weren't looking for.

I've based that "law" on the experiences of my clients, and I've long since stopped being surprised when it happens. The world becomes a much more exciting place when you're out there in action. Who wants to know exactly how their life will play out for years ahead? That's boring.

Secure maybe, but very boring. When you're out there in the path of opportunity, any day, at any moment, in almost any place, it can seem to come out of nowhere and sideswipe you when you're not looking. How exciting! All you need to do is to stay in action, and keep your mind open to lots of good things happening to you and for you.

For a job search, I recommend to my clients that they use each of the four basic action avenues geared toward uncovering opportunities. For the most part, they apply also to people who want to start or purchase a business. They are reviewed briefly here.

Action Avenue #1 - Me-Directed Contacts

These are actions you can take based on who you are, what your interests and activities are, who you know, and who you can get to know. It is often referred to as networking, and most people don't do it very well. They ask in an informal manner for something that's almost impossible.

Their chances for positive results will increase if instead they ask in a structured manner for something that's very possible. Most people will casually approach a friend, let's call him Joe, and ask, "Joe, do you know of any openings?"

Chances are, Joe doesn't, but he wants to help his friend, and says, "No, but I'll sure keep my eyes and ears open, and let you know if I hear of anything. Be sure to use me as a reference whenever you think it might help."

Joe feels bad that he can't help his friend. It's not pleasant to dwell on what you can't do for your friend, when that friend could really use your help. It's painful. So about 20 seconds after lending verbal encouragement, Joe stops thinking seriously about it.

Far better for you and Joe if the request goes like this: "Joe, I'm looking for a new job. I want to go over my resume with you, and tell you the kinds of positions I'm going after. It's unlikely you'd know of anything, and I don't really expect that you could introduce me to someone who can make a job offer. You can still help me though." "Could you take some time over the next few days to think about who you know? Each of us knows people the other doesn't. You may know some people who get around a lot and hear of things." "One of them might know someone who knows someone who knows the person who could offer me a job. You never know where a series of referrals will lead." "So maybe you can think of someone in sales or real estate, someone who works in a bank, an accountant, a lawyer, or some people who run businesses in the area." "For all I know, you might even know a mechanic out at the airport who services planes for all the business owners who fly out of here." "I'm not sure who you might think of, but I sure appreciate your giving it some thought, and I'll get back in touch early next week. I can't thank you enough, and remember, I'm not expecting that you'll know anyone who can offer a job directly. Talk to you next week."

Joe now feels good that he can help his friend, and he keeps on thinking. Chances are, he'll come up with at least a few names. Now you may think this works only for mid- and entry-level jobs. Not so.

Using this approach, a client in the midwest, a fellow who knows how to turn around manufacturing companies, started with just three personal contacts, and in three months was able to sit down for a meaningful discussion with over 100 people. About 25% of them were in positions where they could make a strong referral to someone in a position to make a hiring decision.

Following up regularly with people, and letting them know about your progress, can often help keep you in the forefront of their thinking, and stimulate them to think about new contacts for you. Remember, the world changes every day, and new opportunities are always arising.

Now if you don't have a lot of personal contacts to start with, if you've recently moved to a new location, for example, that doesn't mean you can't use this avenue effectively. That's because you can also make contacts with people you don't know now, but can get to know. If any of them help you, they become your friends, so I call them future friends.

Who are they? Almost anybody. In almost any area, for example, there will be real estate agents who often know a lot about businesses moving into the area, accountants who handle taxes for many local companies, bankers, local politicians, members of service clubs and the Chamber of Commerce, and someone who's responsible for attracting new businesses into the region.

There are also ministers, priests and rabbis, local college placement offices, building contractors, insurance brokers, and stock brokers. Be sure to think about your interests and talents as well. Are there local clubs or groups formed around an interest or hobby that appeals to you? Is there a local chapter of a national association connected with your industry or profession?

When you contact these people, you have an essential part of human nature working for you. Almost anyone feels good when they are able to help another person, and if someone can help you just by thinking of a few names, they are usually more than happy to do so. You may be surprised at the number of people who are able and willing to provide a name or two.

When they do, you proceed just as you would with people you already know. Ask for names, not job offers, and be sure to follow up with them.

Action Avenue #2 - Event-Directed Contacts

Every day, in almost every organization, events happen. Most of the time, they are not a signal that a job might be created there soon. But sometimes they are. And when they are, those events can make news. A company might sign a lease on office space, or announce the opening of a new branch or location. There might be a promotion or reorganization.

Perhaps someone in a company makes a speech that mentions some of the toughest problems they are facing. Or you might read about a new product being offered, or a division of a company being spun off as an independent operation. You might see ads run by a company staffing up in functions different from your own, indicating they might need to staff up in your function as well.

Whether the news is good, bad, or indifferent, it may be a signal of an emerging opportunity. So it will help you to put a filter in your mind, and ask yourself for every piece of information that comes your way, "Does this perhaps signal some kind of opportunity for me?"

Use "falling domino thinking," and imagine all the potential implications of that event, not just on the company itself, but also on its customers, suppliers and competitors.

But you don't need to limit yourself to just passively screening information that happens to come your way. You can also go out and make events happen, and intentionally be where the action is.

You can take the initiative to attend conferences and shows, develop your own product ideas or advertising campaign on speculation, or write a paper that highlights important industry trends, which you send to decision makers and/or to editors of trade magazines.

For the "passive" mode, where you see an event in the news, your approach is simply that you noticed it, and figured it might be a signal they'd be needing someone with your talents. The method of contact doesn't matter. You can write a letter, phone, or go in person.

Regardless, when you use this avenue you often enjoy substantial advantages. The employer will surely be impressed that you were smart enough to figure out an opportunity might be emerging, and took the initiative to contact them.

You've obviously exhibited a lot of enthusiasm. And if they are thinking about hiring someone, there's a chance for you to get in there and win the job before it "goes public" through an ad or recruiter. Instead of 50 competitors for the job, you may be the only one considered.

For the "active" mode, your approach might be the same as for the "passive" mode, but you have some additional options. You can, for example, enclose a paper you've written that highlights some significant trends you anticipate, mentioning that the reader may find them interesting, and that you would be interested in working for the company.

This is the same approach mentioned earlier for overcoming the problem of not having experience in a particular industry. It can also work, of course, when you do have experience in an industry.

Action Avenue #3 - Position-Directed Contacts

When a position has been advertised or placed in the hands of a recruiter, if your background comes close to fitting, it makes sense to get your resume in there with those of the other contenders.

That's also the problem, of course. When an organization has already gone to the trouble of defining and advertising a position, or is willing to pay a recruiter to find suitable candidates, they will draw up very tight specifications for the job, get a lot of responses, and it's usually a highly competitive situation.

Nevertheless, if your background might fit, you certainly want to be considered, despite the high odds. There are a few things you can do to bring down the odds. With recruiters and agencies, recognize that they are paid by employers, not applicants, and the chances of their having an assignment to get someone like you, at the moment you contact them, are pretty slim.

So you can change the odds in your favor by contacting a number of them. For senior level positions, it's not uncommon to contact 300 or more. (For local mid- or entry-level positions, the number would be much smaller.) There are directories you can refer to, with a lot of helpful general information, as well as contact information for recruiters all over the country.

The best known is published by Kennedy Publishing in Fitzwilliam, New Hampshire. They also supply specialized lists and labels of recruiters.

For answering ads, don't disqualify yourself because you don't have all they are asking for. Employers seldom get the ideal person, and when they do, that person may not want the job for what they are willing to pay.

And sometimes you can persuade an employer to "upgrade" a position for which you are overqualified. You just tell them you can do all they are asking for and more, and would like to discuss the possibility of adding to the job responsibilities. You can point out that if they would be willing to pay just a little more, you'd give them an excellent return on their extra investment.

A lot of people don't follow up on ads, so if you do, whether in writing or by phone, you can sometimes give yourself an extra edge. You're showing enthusiasm, persistence, and getting your resume on top of the pile.

Last, remember, ads are sometimes signals of other emerging opportunities. They are themselves "events" that signal a company may soon be hiring in functions that are not now being advertised.

Action Avenue #4 - Employer-Directed Contacts

In this action avenue, you identify employers who are your most logical targets, those most likely to need someone with your talents. Usually you do this by deciding on the types of employers by line of business or industry, their sizes, and locations.

You then write, call or visit a decision maker in your function, who would probably be the person you report to, or that person's boss. In your letter you briefly get across your "selling proposition," or the reason why they would want to hire you, and promise to follow up by phone within a week.

You normally need to contact a number of employers, sometimes 100 or more, in order to find one or two who might be interested. Your letters or calls are essentially a form of research.

The logic is as follows. Every day new problems arise and new duties are created in many companies. Most of the time they are handled by people already employed, or if a new position is created, it is given to someone with a contact inside the organization.

But not always, and if you reach enough decision makers in enough companies, chances are that you'll reach one or two of them at a time when they anticipate needing someone like you within the next few months.

When that happens, and you meet the decision maker before the position actually opens up, you become the person with the "inside connection" when it is time to hire.

As with any other action avenue, followup helps to turn the odds in your favor. And whenever you can start your letter or conversation by referring to a third party who suggested you contact the company, or who might be known to the decision maker, that can often help as well.

In general, your letter or conversation should not focus so much on your strengths, as on those areas where the employer might need help, and where you can contribute. You can use a "high level of assumption" about your ability to contribute, leaving it for CARE stories and a resume to back up your claims.

(CARE stories are concise stories about challenges you handled effectively, that are similar to the challenges being faced by the prospective employer. CARE is an acronym for Challenge, Actions, Results, Experience Gained. The information-surfacing forms mentioned earlier are helpful in putting such stories together.)

Employers really aren't interested in your experience and achievements, no matter how impressive, until they first know whether and how you can help them.

So first things first, and if you're not sure where an employer might need assistance, point to those areas where you're best equipped to contribute, and state that you'd like to deliver results for them just as you have for past employers.

Embrace a Consistent Action Plan

You'll find that if you are consistently active each day in at least one of the four action avenues, you'll eventually have opportunities coming your way on a regular basis. An outline reviewing the four avenues follows on the next page.

It's important to remember, no matter how well or how poorly you implement an action plan, or whether you even have a plan, for that matter, there is an infinite difference between inaction and action. As soon as you start to act, no matter how effectively, you will begin to enjoy all the advantages mentioned at the beginning of this chapter.

So do it!

The Four Action Avenues For Uncovering Opportunities

1. Me-Directed Contacts

"Present Friends" Family - Professors - Fellow Participants in civic, social, political, religious, or political activities - Neighbors - Classmates - Community - Customers - Suppliers - People you reported to, or who reported to you, or worked with you - Salespeople or professionals you've been a customer for (car, insurance, travel, banker, lawyer, real estate, investments, instructor, boat, clothing, accountant)

"Future Friends" People with similar interests, hobbies, circumstances - People now holding the kind of job you want - People now running the kind of business you're interested in - People whose information, contacts or influence may be helpful - Editors and publishers - Association Officials - Elected Officials - Consultants Bankers, accountants and lawyers - Business Owners - Board members - University Deans - Economic development officials - Local religious leaders - Trustees - Athletic coaches - Real estate agents - Chamber of Commerce

2. Event-Directed Contacts

Active: Attend meetings, join societies, write papers, etc.

Passive: (news) Growth companies, new products, expansion, relocation, promotions, new technologies, excerpts of speeches, etc.

3. Position-Directed Contacts

Ads: Identified by position descriptions

Recruiters: Identified by specialty, income level, location

4. Employer-Directed Contacts

One-Contact: Identified by industry, product line, service, location, size

Multi-Contact: Preferred targets, using the same criteria

Items For Preparation printing and word processing, groundwork with references, interview (CARE stories, handling liabilities, answering questions, selling techniques), lists of friends and "future friends," reading to gain credibility mental conditioning uncompensated service to gain current experience, physical condition and appearance