Author Ayn Rand once said, “The ladder of success is best climbed by stepping on the rungs of opportunity.” But how do you find opportunity and then capitalize on it? Making the most of any future career opportunity is an ongoing process that requires action. Opportunities present themselves in many ways, and actively pursuing them takes time, preparation, due diligence, and discipline. If you are you at the bottom of the ladder and just starting your career or halfway up and working toward that next promotion, re-evaluating your goals and capabilities and then making an investment in yourself can pay off with big dividends in transforming your career.
The path to a successful career varies from person to person and can take many twists and turns. Some people are deliberate in the opportunities they explore, whereas others need help in navigating a path forward. Either way, it’s important to know yourself and your passions and to let these guide you as you begin the journey to embrace your road not yet taken.
Advancing your skill set begins with knowing what type of advancement you desire to achieve. Be strategic with your goals. Establish the direction you want to go and pursue opportunities that directly align with your goals. It’s easier to assess each future opportunity for its true value if it’s evaluated within the context of your career aspirations. Also, take into consideration your hobbies and the things you like to do outside of work. By aligning your personal interests with your career goals, you will find more satisfaction in your work and your personal life. The following recommendations can help you get to where you want to go.
Consider engaging a mentor. A mentor allows you to accurately evaluate your skills through the eyes of someone else. We are not always the best judge of our abilities. A mentor helps us to see our blind spots in order to create a plan for personal growth and development. Evaluating your aptitudes and talents and taking an inventory of your skills will help you understand any gap that exists—and how to fill it—as you prepare for that next big opportunity.
Be results-oriented.Seek opportunities that give you a platform to perform and highlight your skills. Embrace what is happening in your organization and learn from it. In today’s business climate, there isn’t a shortage of projects that drive enterprise success. Seek these projects either by volunteering to lead the project or being an active participant on the team. Working on special projects increases your value to the organization and elevates your visibility to senior leadership.
Develop multiple skills. Today’s leaders need analytical, tactical, and strategic skill sets. People who are able to think strategically add value to any team. Strategic thinkers understand the emerging trends, can identify gaps, and connect the dots with tactical solutions. Additionally, today’s healthcare financial leaders need to develop a working understanding of the clinical issues that drive the financial performance of the organization.
Develop your soft skills. This includes emotional intelligence and strong verbal communication skills. Advancing your career will require the ability to recognize and control your emotions. You must be able to discern and understand the various emotions expressed by colleagues and to appropriately use emotional information to guide your thinking, behavior, and responses to others. Don’t take things personally. Your verbal communication should be clear and concise. The soft skills of an individual separate the strong leaders from the average employee. Be confident, positive, considerate, and compassionate.
Develop your leadership skills. This can be accomplished formally or informally. You can always learn from those you work with who have more experience. If you’re in a leadership role, you can get valuable advice from seasoned leaders. Take leadership classes or an online leadership assessment to help you identify how you best interact with others. Consider enrolling in a Lean Six Sigma training course, which will teach you excellent skills for managing relationships, processes, and conflicts to achieve specific outcomes. Leading projects helps to further develop your skills. In addition, volunteering as an HFMA leader provides opportunities for leadership training.
Dare to take risks.Don’t underestimate your ability to step outside of your normal routine to learn something new or to get involved with something you know very little about. Don’t think that you need to know every detail of a subject or a project before you can successfully lead a team; jump in with both feet. Be courageous and self-confident and take on new challenges—push yourself out of your comfort zone. Those who dare to take risks are more successful in achieving their career goals. Engaging in new experiences will reward you with powerful life lessons. And, remember, if things don’t turn out exactly as you intended, you can learn from the experience and adapt accordingly. We all learn from life lessons, and you’re only a failure if you don’t grow from your experiences.
Capitalizing on opportunities requires you to stay the course for the goals you have set for yourself. If you’re not achieving the outcomes you want, reassess what you’re doing and how you’re doing it, and course correct. Make the most out of every opportunity, and remember that the things that are most challenging are often the things that prove to be the most rewarding. Furthermore, some of the challenges you encounter can lead you down a different path of opportunity, a path that you hadn’t previously considered. Mark Twain once said, “There is no security in life, only opportunity.” Capitalizing on opportunities is the key to a successful career!
Kari Cornicelli is VP/CFO for Sharp Metropolitan Medical Campus in San Diego and is past chair of the national board of directors for HFMA.