What Steve Jobs Taught Me About Missed Opportunities

A mosaic portrait of Apple CEO's Steve Jobs made out of Apple products. Created by Charis Tsevis for the Los Angeles Times

A mosaic portrait of Apple CEO’s Steve Jobs made out of Apple products. Created by Charis Tsevis for the Los Angeles Times

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something – your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence to follow your heart even when it leads you off the well worn path; and that will make all the difference.

-Steve Jobs

Like most of us, I missed out on a great job – we all do at least once in our life. But looking at that job and what not getting that job entailed, made all the difference in who I am today.

To boost my career, I, like most people eager to get ahead, looked for a job that I thought would challenge me, help me grow professionally, and offer opportunities that I did not have in my current position.

I interviewed for the dream job in my field; it was at a prestigious firm, the benefits package was better than any I had ever had, and the salary was one I could not only live on, I could save on! And, it was hinted there was room for advancement. The client list read like a who’s who in all different categories of business and the actual job appeared very challenging. It was perfect for me.

They gave it to someone else.

So instead, I took a job at a boutique agency, it was small and with a targeted clientele of high tech companies, a niche market. The starting salary and position were lower than what was offered at the first firm, the benefits were good, not great, so I was slightly disappointed, but happy to be working in my field. Plus it was a better situation that I was in, so it was still a step up.

So why am I glad I missed the dream job? Because I heard later the dream was a dream all right – a nightmare! I expected to put in hours, paying my dues, but the person who took the job put in 80 hours a week, was under tremendous pressure to produce and be on call at all hours, plus bonuses were not tied to productivity, but how much you kissed up to your immediate boss. Needless to say the culture and working conditions were very stressful.

In the job I did accept, I was mentored, coached, encouraged to attend monthly training sessions given by senior people in the firm. I was told weekends were to recharge and to try to not come in early and stay late if I could help it. I was asked my opinion, even though I was an ‘entry level’ employee and I was encouraged to ask questions and be a real part of the team, a contributor.

An entrepreneur ran the agency and the culture was entrepreneurial. I ended up some weeks working 80 hours, and put pressure on myself to get results for my clients, I did work weekends, coming in early and leaving late. But it was not a stressful environment; it was fun, collaborative, cooperative and creative. The additional work time was my choice, not an expectation or demand.

The opportunity for advancement was amazing. The revenue of the company was transparent to everyone; we knew what each client brought into the business, how much the overhead was and the amount of profit, every month! We also knew, a percentage of the profit was put aside for the bonuses at the end of the year. I had never worked in such a transparent firm before; where we all knew the stakes and the dollar value of each account to the firm. Truly entrepreneurial.

The lessons I learned there, in gaining business and client knowledge, looking at a plan strategically and tactically, learning how to grow accounts and successfully pitching new accounts (business development) all while developing my personal and professional skills, has translated well into my own freelance business.

I will never again aspire to attain the ‘prestigious’ position over the one that allows me the personal and professional growth and freedom I experienced in that small agency.

The small agency job was a real dream job, and enabled me, even today, to fulfill all my dreams. Today Steve Jobs’ quote resonates with me. He was right, I didn’t understand the opportunity or the impact taking the smaller firm’s position had in my life, until I could look back and connect my dots!

Have you taken the time to look and connect your dots? What did you ‘miss’ that turned out to be a blessing to you?