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Five Questions to Ask When You Hear An Opportunity


Columnist and editor Doug Larson explained: “Sometimes opportunity knocks, but most of the time it sneaks up and then quietly steals away.” Do we recognize the sound of opportunity’s footfalls? Or just see its tracks after it steals away?

Each of us encounters more opportunities than we can pursue. How can we decide which to pick? Here are five questions that I’ve found helpful.

1. What does this opportunity offer to me?

I once had the opportunity to earn another master’s degree and get my certification as a nurse practitioner. Since I was already a clinical nurse specialist at a university-based hospital that offered me free tuition, this extra degree would not have cost me a dime. My boss strongly urged me to do it.

I didn’t.

I had no interest whatsoever in becoming a nurse practitioner. Still don’t. Nonetheless, at least once a week, I have regretted not pursuing that opportunity.

As I struggled to teach myself better physical assessment skills, I realized that the formal education might have helped me to acquire those skills more easily. And, an extra credential would have looked good on my résumé.

Before you turn down an opportunity, think about the bigger picture of what it might buy for you.

2. What is the risk vs. benefit?

I had been a nurse for several years when I decided to sit for the IBLCE exam. Having already sailed through several other specialty certification exams, I felt like a hot shot who could pass one more. (I had NO idea what I was in for!)

I told my boss; she was all for it and offered to pay the bill and travel expenses for an upcoming course, and for the exam. (Ohhhhh, those days are almost gone, aren’t they?) I signed up immediately.

I knew that the only thing I had to lose was my ego, in the event that I flunked. That was a small, short-term risk I was willing to take, Now, I’ve had the benefit of passing, recertifying and holding the certification for about 25 years.

When there are virtually no risks, and countless benefits, seriously consider diving in.

3. Will I ever get this opportunity again?

When Executive Producer Robert Ciolino called and offered me the opportunity to be a host on VoiceAmerica’s Heath & Wellness channel, I nearly laughed him off the phone! I didn’t know anything about being a host on talk radio. I didn’t even listen to talk radio!

Luckily, I realized that it might be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, so I agreed to do a pilot series for 13 weeks. Now, nearly five years later, I realize—this was one of the best opportunities I’ve ever had in my life, and I’ve loved every minute of it!

If you think an opportunity might never present itself again, think carefully before you turn it down.

4. Will I have regrets if I don’t pursue this opportunity?

This is a big question.

Luckily, I have only a few regrets with how my professional career unfolded, and even fewer regrets with how my personal life unfolded. For sure, I’ve always regretted that I did not pursue the nurse practitioner credential—even though functioning in that role wasn’t (and isn’t) my thing.

As you grow older, you’ll be a happier person if you are not burdened by regrets.

5. Am I ready for this opportunity?

At least for me, most times, the answer was a resounding, No.

I had many, many exciting opportunities at a fairly young age. Only once did I accept a job for which I was fully qualified. Other times, I had to grow into the job. “Fake it till you make it” was my motto with my early clinical jobs.

I used that same motto when I found myself teaching at universities, being founding editor of a major publication (AWHONN’s Nursing for Women’s Health), being president of Baby-Friendly USA, and much, much more. I was in no way ready for any of those positions. Yet, I did the jobs, and did them well. I did grow a few (okay, many) gray hairs!

The window for applying for the IBLCE exam is here.  Taking the steps to earn this credential could open doors for you like no other.  When you prepare for the exam, you risk relatively little. Sure, you might get the opportunity again, but look what you will have missed in the meanwhile!  And whatever you do, don’t go around regretting that you didn’t do it, or do it soon enough.

And being ready? No, you’re probably not ready for half of the opportunities that come your way. But then, maybe you’re as ready as you’ll ever be.

Do you have an opportunity now? Will you pursue it, or wait until it steals away?

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