I recently heard a success story from my uncle-in-law, Lance Landvater, who is an extremely accomplished cardiovascular surgeon in Raleigh, North Carolina. Like many that have attained great success, he encountered one opportunity that paved the way for his career that would have been overlooked by many. Just out of residency, he applied for a position only to find out from the head of that department that the hospital was completely over staffed with surgeons and there was no room for him. After much pleading, the department begrudgingly agreed to put him in the least desirable position available and guaranteed he would be promptly fired after one year. While many would have become discouraged with this situation and started feeling sorry for themselves, Lance used this as an opportunity to create leverage for himself in two ways:
He looked at the situation from their perspective and asked himself what he could focus on that would distinguish him from all of his peers and make him invaluable. During that year, he set out to do more surgeries than anyone had ever done before. Although this required him to work multiple shifts per day, he was focused and determined and, ultimately, he accomplished this goal. At the end of the year, everyone, including the head of the department, was blown away by what he had done. Not only did they not fire him, they told him he could hand pick any position he wanted in the country.
The second thing he did immediately was to find a mentor in an influential position to help him. His mentor encouraged him, gave him advice and most likely stuck up for him whenever his name came up.
By becoming indispensable and invaluable during that year, Lance set himself up for success. Whether you are just starting your career, trying to win a large customer, or just beginning a new opportunity, create leverage. Look at the situation from a different perspective and ask yourself, "What is the one thing I can do to differentiate myself from everyone else and make myself invaluable?" Also, get some help from a mentor or champion within the organization. You would be amazed how willing people are to help if you are willing to ask.