MBA Career Advice: An Ear for Shared Opportunity

In this weekly series, our friends at MBA Career Coaches will be dispensing invaluable advice to help you actively manage your career. Topics include building your network, learning from mistakes and setbacks, perfecting your written communication, and mastering even the toughest interviews. 

You will have a much better time fostering and maintaining meaningful professional relationships with people if you learn to develop an ear for shared opportunity. This means that as you go through life and work, you are attuned to the ways in which the information or people you are encountering could be useful not just to you but also to others. It means you think about things through the lens of possibility and interconnection.

Let us say you just read an interesting article about developments in the field of neuroscience. (Note that this does not have to be about business. If you follow developments in specific fields because they are interesting to you, chances are they will be useful to someone else, too.) Some questions you might ask yourself if you have an ear for shared opportunity are as follows:

  1. Who do I know that would appreciate the findings in this article?
  2. How do the ideas in this article relate specifically to the work people I know are doing?
  3. Whose opinion or reaction am I interested in hearing about these ideas?

Or imagine you are meeting new people at a charity benefit. Some questions that might occur to you are these:

  1. Who else do I know who should hear about this organization?
  2. I just met someone in corporate finance in a consumer goods company. Who do I know who wants to know more about that industry?
  3. The person I am talking to loves photography. Who else in my network is passionate about amateur photography and would enjoy talking to this person?
  4. The person I am talking to needs a new mechanic. I don’t have a car, but who was it that was bragging about their mechanic last week?

If you are asking these questions, then making new connections will come very naturally. You will forward the article to three friends in different industries and let them know why you think the information could be useful to them. You will ask the consumer goods financier if he would like to join you and your friend for coffee next Wednesday afternoon. You will introduce your new friend to your colleague with the awesome mechanic. Connections flow very naturally when you have an ear for shared opportunity.

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