Opportunity Overload + 3 Things I Learnt About Opportunities

Today, as I pondered yet another exciting opportunity that came my way just recently, I was amazed. The last three months had been filled with so many possibilities that I ended up asking myself: "Is there such a thing as 'Opportunity Overload'?"

I never had to make so many decisions in such a short amount of time. In fact, I think I am fast becoming an expert in making Pros/Cons lists and mind maps.

20120811-011234.jpgYou see, it has been almost 3 months since I left my old job and started my own company, Vervely.

Even when I registered Vervely's business name, then set up the website, applied for a PO Box, and began creating some collateral, I wasn't sure if I was really going to go ahead with it. I wasn't too convinced I wanted to be my own boss again.

It has been a few years since I was CEO of my own professional life. And, it felt odd to have the opportunity to dictate my own work schedule, choose my own projects, and build something new from scratch again. Heck, it even felt weird building my own website and hacking WordPress codes again. And, strange to be wearing all the different hats that entrepreneurs must wear once more.

I wasn't sure I was up for any of it, truth be told.

In fact, I was even interviewing for jobs again. And, amidst all the craziness of potential client queries, project ideas, and more... I ended up with two great job opportunities.

One of them, I ended up deciding that it wasn't the best fit for me. And, strangely enough, when I told my good friends about it, they all were relieved that I decided it wasn't the best fit. Even they knew that that job would've driven me mad. I would've been well paid and secure, but most likely miserable before the year ended.

The other one was much more challenging to weigh. Nearly everyone I talked to was flabbergasted that I was given the opportunity to work for that company. And, the guy who was going to be my boss was one of the nicest people I've met recently. I reckon it would've been great to work with him. And their offices? So cool.

With that company being a well known top ad agency, some of my friends were even telling me: "What is there to consider? Go. Take it. It's awesome!" (Or something along those lines.)

And truthfully, I almost did take the job. Actually, I did. I was about to sign the employment contract. Yes, after leaving my old job, I had a new one waiting for me in less than a month. But, I decided in the end that it wasn't right due to a couple of things that came up in the process.

Saying no to that job offer was one of the toughest decisions that I had to make recently. It's one of those things where I have to wonder whether I would regret it or not one day.

But, after almost a month since turning that job down, I am still certain that I did the right thing because this experience is helping me to understand what it really means to weigh possibilities and to explore opportunities. And, here are some of the things that I thought about:

1. Opportunities are best gauged with what you need at any given time.

Just because it's a wonderful opportunity, it doesn't mean that you can't say no. It's important to know first of all what you really need at that particular moment in your life.

In my case, I ended up having to list and to decide what I need the most right now. Financially, my husband and I have managed to put ourselves in a position where our lifestyle doesn't require a full time two-income family. Mind you, what fits our lifestyle may not be good enough for others (and I know that there will also be those who think we have more). But, for us, what we have is comfortable. Just two or three years ago, this wasn't the case. I knew I had to work at least part-time at one stage, just to make sure that we get to keep the lifestyle we wanted for our family. Now, that isn't the situation. We're okay. No expensive trips to the Swiss Alps or purchasing yachts or huge mansions for us any time soon, but we're okay with that. ๐Ÿ˜‰

I know that having fancy schmancy titles doesn't really bother me all that much. And yeah, I don't have the compulsion to want to be boss of anyone else. Maybe one day I will hire someone in my company, but that's to manage growth, not for power.

20120811-011114.jpgSo, I had to decide what was it I need (and what my husband and kids need) at this point in our lives. After creating pros/cons lists and a massive career map, I decided: I needed TIME and FLEXIBILITY the most right now. Far more than job security, prestige, high and regular income, etc.

I need time to spend with my family who missed me over the last couple of years due to my demanding work schedule, especially filled with travel and long hours;

Time to complete my postgraduate degree that I started nearly four years ago. I have my final subject this semester, and it's good to be able to attend lectures and workshops at the University one last time before I finish this off;

Time to build something new. I know that I will always be the entrepreneurial type. It's in my blood. I didn't want to admit it when I was fully engaged in my previous job. But, I know that I have been craving for challenges that will help me to experience start-up life again. I wanted to explore what I want to build and all that.

Time to find out what else I need to do on a personal and professional level. I feel like I have accomplished a lot more than I ever could dream of accomplishing in one lifetime. But, at the same time, I know I am not ready to retire yet. ๐Ÿ˜‰ There's still so much I long to do. And, that's why I need the time to decide which one I want to do next.

And yes, that's why I need the flexibility...

Most days, I know that my main day-to-day aim professionally is to build Vervely. I have so many plans and ideas for it... And not enough time to do it all. But, it's great that I have the opportunity.

Some days, however, I want to be able to be mum and wife only. To make breakfasts and packed lunches. To do school runs, and to stay back for reading time or assembly when needed. To bake homemade bread, cook dinners, experiment with making homemade ice cream... To clean the house (!) and to have home decorating projects. To help with homework and to have long talks with my kids and husband.

I also want the option (though, honestly, I haven't done much of these) to be able to have just time for myself. To watch and to make movies . To read - and to write my books. To paint and to dance again. To explore ideas and to wander.

And yes, the flexibility to meet friends, go for lunches, or even to travel when I want.

Had I taken on another full time job, then I know that I would have denied myself and my family what we need most right now: Time and Flexibility.

So yes, deciding whether an opportunity is worth taking or not means knowing if that opportunity is going to meet what you need at that moment.

2. Every opportunity comes with a cost. Know if the price is worth paying.

When you say yes to one thing, you are saying no to another. Make sure that every yes counts because you never know what you need to say no to later on.

I really really didn't want to say no to that job at the ad agency. It seemed too good to pass up. One of the lovely people who was advising me through this process once told me: "You'll know it's the right thing for you if it's something you can't say no to. If it feels too good to be true..."

But then, I knew that if I took that job, I would definitely not be able to do the other things that I wanted to do. The time and flexibility factors were enough to make me think twice.

Not too long after that job opportunity at the ad agency came up, another opportunity came my way. This time, by way of possibly gaining my first client at Vervely. When I got that message from a familiar person unexpectedly, my "too good to be true" alarm went off again.

I tried looking at the option of doing both - a full time job and client work with this company. But, I realised that even if I could pull it off, I knew that I would be giving up something else. (Like my sanity for example! :))

So, I decided that I needed to dig deep and find my bigger yes.

My bigger yes came back to Point No. 1.

That's why I ended up saying no to the job. And guess what? It was probably just as well.

You see, not only did I end up landing a contract with Microsoft (specifically, Microsoft Citizenship Asia Pacific), I also landed a contract with The Shannon Company New Zealand not too long after. And, just this week, a third contract has been signed with another new client (yet to be officially announced).

Three good, big clients in less than three months of operation of Vervely seems like a pretty good rate. Especially since I was away on holiday for 1 month out of those 3. In fact, if I look at my very rough business plan for my new company, I am surprised to see that the contracts I have signed so far already met more than 50% of my projected gross income for my first year in operation. Maybe I projected too low, and yes, payments aren't all in yet, but still... I am in awe.

There's even a possibility of more clients on the way, as I have had requests for proposals and more talks with potential clients. Plus, I have a couple of projects that could still use some development time.

Again, had I been in a full time job, I would have had to say no to these other opportunities. I would have not known that Vervely may be a viable business. Or that the life I want right now is worth saying yes to, even if I had to say no to some other amazing opportunities that become available.

This is my bigger yes.

3. Communities bring opportunities. And, they help to make them happen too.

Never ever underestimate the power of nurturing personal and professional relationships over the years. This is the sort of thing that can't easily be quantified. But, it's true: your network is your best asset.

I have been a proponent of community building for a while now. And, I have to say that whilst I have seen the power of community many many times now (in different situations and not just my own), I can never cease to be overwhelmed by it whenever I witness it.

In this situation, I have seen this in action again from the moment I left my old job... Up until now.

You see, those three clients that Vervely gained with hardly any push? They're the result of community building work that I have done - from as far back as 10 years ago. Maybe even since I was in school in some ways, in one situation.

That amazing job opportunity with the ad agency? Again, that's a lead brought about by someone in my local social media community.

Even some of the potential clients and projects that are waiting in the wings: Yes, primarily community-driven. Not marketing. Not PR. Not strategic.

My step-by-step career mapping was also largely helped by community. You see, one of the things that I did when I left my old job was talk to people. Not to whinge or to complain or to have a pity party. In fact, truth be told, I was so busy engaging with people regarding possibilities and opportunities that I didn't really have any time or energy for pity parties.

I had a lot of offers of help. Well meaning friends, colleagues, and contacts who offered their time and energy to help me out. To build me up on a time when I was feeling unsure about a lot of things. They shared resources. They gave advice. They were bouncing boards.

When I told one of the friends I made through work that I feel uncomfortable asking for help, he was adamant in saying that I shouldn't ever feel that way. Most people are willing to help out. A lot of good folks are more than happy to bring value to other people by giving what they can offer - be it a lead, a recommendation, a testimonial... And in some cases, even a job!

And my friend was right. I ended up with so many incredible conversations over the last three months, just talking about all the possibilities. Some, even offering opportunities. Others, helping me to gauge opportunities...

A couple of professional contacts I have, who both were so gracious and generous with their time and advice, were very instrumental in helping me to have the confidence, not just in Vervely, but especially myself.

And, that's the thing: Because they have helped me, even when they didn't stand to gain anything, I have now become one of their champions. If they have something that needs help promoting, I'm there. If they have project that needs support that I can offer, I'm in.

The thing is, it has happened in the reverse too. I have had people talk to me and say they now want to help me out because once upon a time, I helped them out.

Maybe that's what it means to have Communities of Opportunities: Finding ways to become each other's champions.

Anyway, I know that this is something that I have been thinking a lot about lately, so I might continue to explore these ideas in future blog posts.

Actually, if you are in Adelaide on the 30th of August, I am the featured guest speaker at Collaborate to Innovate. And, I would be talking about the topic: "It Takes a Community to Build a Company and a Career". This third point is something that I would be expounding on during my presentation. So, do join us if it's something that interests you.

About the Author Shai Coggins (MTeach, MSoc Sci App Psych)

Shai has been managing and blogging here at ShaiCoggins.com for 17 years. Here, she writes about creativity, productivity, and how to recharge for a better, happier lifestyle. She is the author of Today: Life Journal, Colour Bliss: Kaleidoscopes, and a little known children's book. A serial entrepreneur, Shai also currently runs Vervely.com, a boutique digital media agency offering online content, community, and conversion marketing services. Her blogging experience and digital work have been featured in various media, including being listed in Fast Company's "Most Influential Women in Technology" list. Originally from Manila, Shai lived in Singapore and the USA before moving to Australia with her British husband. They have two children, a pet bunny, and a rambunctious rescue Labrador.

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