You don’t get a job… You get the keys to the building!
Almost exactly 18 years ago, I stumbled upon the job description for the assistant director role at the Stanford Technology Ventures Program, which was a new entrepreneurship center at the Stanford School of Engineering. It sounded intriguing… but I crumpled up the job description and threw it in the trash. You see, I had much more experience than was required for the position, and the salary was really low.
However, the next day I pulled the piece of paper out of the trash and flattened it. Why not apply? It couldn’t hurt, right?
I was fortunate to get an interview, followed by 10 more, with a broad range of people across the Stanford community who would be involved in building the program. The more I learned through the interview process, the more fascinated I became with the opportunity. Despite the low level of the role, I would get a chance to work with an remarkable group of people on an exciting new initiative. I felt lucky to be offered the job!
I decided at that moment that I would soak up everything I could about entrepreneurship and innovation, and to see where this role could lead. I volunteered to do things that were well beyond the scope of the job. Each of these projects built my skills and knowledge. And, the more I learned and contributed, the more opportunities unfolded.
Over the years, together with my colleagues, we launched new courses, developed international partnerships, and built an online platform to share our content. Based on the success of these initiatives, we raised funds to build our team, allowing STVP to continue to grow. I wrote books based on what I’d learned, and was rewarded in many ways, including the chance to travel around the world, sharing what we have done and helping others build their entrepreneurship programs.
It is important to note that none of these roles were in the initial job description; they were created over the years.
When you get a job — any job — you aren’t given just that job, but rather the keys to the building. It’s up to you to decide where they will take you.
If you just do the job that is assigned to you, you are telling your colleagues that you have reached the peak of your drive and abilities, and you will continue to do the same thing year after year. But, if you make the effort to find ways you can make the organization more successful, you demonstrate that you are ready for bigger challenges.
In all organizations, there are always white spaces ready to be filled and golden nuggets of opportunities lying on the ground waiting for someone to pick them up. Sometimes it means looking beyond your own desk, outside your building, across the street, or around the corner. But the nuggets are there for the taking by anyone willing to gather them up.
Success comes from looking for holes in your organization, asking for what you want, leveraging your skills and experiences, being willing to make the first move, and stretching beyond what you’ve done before.
Instead of waiting to be be anointed, and tiptoeing around an opportunity… Seize it!
As John Gardener wisely said, “We are all faced with a series of great opportunities — brilliantly disguised as insoluble problems.”