One difficulty that urban adults often encounter is lack of opportunity. This is often due to a combination of a limited professional network and lack of experience that employers often look for. Even those young adults who have earned college degrees have a hard time finding opportunity in their desired fields. An analogy I like to use is, “stepping through the door”. If you or someone you know is in the situation I described above, your doors of opportunity are currently closed. The good news is, more often than not those doors eventually open–but you have to be prepared to step through when they open. It requires patience, planning, and preparation. It’s important to note, there are multiple ways to get to where you want to go professionally. Here are a few basic steps that you may want to consider taking:
1. Find a mentor: Find someone who is experienced in the field you are trying to break into. If you’re unsure who to ask, start by researching and asking around about experts in the field. Once you find someone, let them know you are interested in (insert field) and you would like to pick their brain and ask them some questions. If you like them and see benefit in their knowledge, ask them if you can do it again. This is how many mentor/mentee relationships begin. Your mentor will help you network, stay on the right path, and help you gain experience that employers are looking for. You will help your mentor grow professionally as well. As they help guide you, they learn a lot about themselves as coaches and leaders.
2. Seek professional development opportunities: Just because you have a High School or College diploma does not mean you are done learning. Those individuals who are successful are truly lifelong learners. Consider taking additional courses, joining organizations, attending seminars, etc. Part of stepping through the door is being READY to step through the door. You do not want to step through the door and fall flat on your face. Consider this–a business major from Chicago goes back home after graduation and has a difficult time finding a job, so he/she finds a job at McDonalds. Once a week they attend Toastmasters (public speaking) and is a volunteer coordinator for a local community organization where they hone their ability to lead and facilitate meetings. One day, the community group has a town hall in which a prominent businessman attends. Our business major opens the town hall with a brilliant speech, and then proceeds to facilitate the town hall displaying the ability to read social cues and maintain control of the event. At the end of the event, the businessman asks a few of the volunteers about them. Their door just opened. Do you think she is ready to walk through?
3. Arguably most important–recognize the door and walk through it: it sounds simple, but it is often overlooked. You can have your mentor and prepare yourself to walk through the door, but if you can’t recognize the appropriate opportunity it was all for not. Understand what your skill set is, pay attention to what others say your gift is, and gauge your interests. If you do these things, you will notice that certain doors will open while others stay shut. Do not be afraid to walk through a door, even if you do not know the outcome. You never know where it may take you. Don’t confuse this with letting others decide your path for you, ultimately, what you decide should be up to you. As I mentioned earlier, there are many ways to get to where you want to go professionally. This is meant to get you started. Always remember, eventually your door will open and you need to be ready to step through.