3 Secrets to Getting Your Foot in the Door

Last Updated May 23, 2011 5:52 AM EDT

When you're just starting out in your career and looking up at successful people who have the sort of top job you hope to one day hold, it's hard to make out how you'll ever get from where you are to where you want to be. Sure, you'll work hard and continue learning, but often you sense that there's another magic ingredient to the career of your dreams -- a big break.

But how do you go about getting your foot in the door when it seems to be firmly shut against you? By definition a big break is serendipitous, a chance opportunity to take your career to the next level that's not entirely within your control. And by definition they're also hard to come by. But just because rare career-launching opportunities have an element of chance to them, doesn't mean there's nothing you can do to increase your chances of getting yours.

Writing on the American Express OPEN Forum blog, consultant Barry Moltz offers several tips on how to find your big break. Many are focused solely on entrepreneurs but a few are very relevant to young people starting their careers in the corporate world as well:

Big breaks are attached to people. This is why networking and systematically staying in touch with all of your customers, prospects, friends, influencers and connectors are so important. Business is never about the idea, but instead it's always about the execution. Therefore, business is always about people and your relationship with them.

Big breaks usually start small. There are few true stories of instant success. Most businesses owners started out very narrowly focused to seek that first sign of success. After many added failures, they are finally able to grow their success, but the seed of that "big break" happened well before that!

Big breaks mean sometimes giving up. Winners certainly know when to quit. It is important for every business owner to know when to call it quits and or evolve their business to another stage or format. Nintendo started out as a playing cards company. Nokia used to make rubber tires and boots.

Obviously Moltz's tips are pitched to business owners (and there are several more in the complete post) but the idea of assiduously tending your network, being aware of small opportunities and making the most of them, and remaining flexible so you can take advantage when an opportunity doesn't come in the form you expected, also apply to those starting their careers in companies. And of course, you'll also need the courage to grab your chance when it presents itself.

For those of you further along in your careers, how did you come by your big break?

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(Image courtesy of Flickr user Arenamontaunus, CC 2.0)
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    Jessica lives in London where she works as a freelance writer with interests in green business and tech, management, and marketing.