Every fortnight, we hand over the blog to one of the London Shapers, to give you a flavour of what they do, how they think and what's really going on in our hearts and minds. Today's piece comes from Shwetal Shah, Head of Partnerships at Erase All Kittens.
We live in a world surrounded by abundance and opportunity, yet many of us will never pursue even half of the opportunities around us.
The first thing you need to work out in order to seek the right opportunities is what you are aiming for: what is your ‘ask’? What are the biggest goals you are working towards?
Since a young age, I have driven by social enterprise: always looking at ways to give back to society with a keen focus on 'E³' - education, enterprise and entertainment. Realising that this was important to me was key, as it made me more aware of the opportunities I want to not only create for others, but what I am seeking for myself.
I'd like to share a few ways of optimising your environment so that you can create more opportunities for yourself.
Before I start, a quick note: these are all the methods that have worked for me multiple times and can be easily replicated, however the outcome will always be different for different people.
In order to find the best opportunities, I needed to access the infrastructure, resources and networks around me, and create the best environment for me to flourish. These networks come in various forms - from grant-giving organisations, to mentors, friends and people who resonate with the things I am working on and come on board to live the same vision. I cannot take all of the credit for my accomplishments, as I wouldn’t be where I am without the networks around me.
1. The Physical Environment
In the last decade I have lived in three different cities - Mumbai, Glasgow and London - and each city provided a unique set of characteristics. But there is a common theme amongst all these cities - being able to create things from scratch. From volunteering in India, and being part of the strong entrepreneurial network in Glasgow running events and working on an e-bike company, to having big corporate platforms in London leading to the initiation of projects focusing on STEM promotion to tackle isolation.
It was the creation of this portfolio of projects and volunteering my time with other organisations in the physical city I was living in, that allowed me to build a name for myself. This attracted other organisations towards me, threw some amazing people my way and gave me the chance to take something with me to start amazing conversations with new people I met - we always had something in common.
2. The Digital World
Thanks to Social Media, we can speak to anyone and everyone, no matter where they stay. The International Space Station may have had a call from the White House, but I managed to Skype a scientist at the South Pole last year. I had the opportunity to ask her about the experiments she does, how she prepares for her endeavours, and what her future plans were (she was just accepted to NASA’s mission to Mars programme and might be one of the first astronauts to set foot there!)
My point being - if there's someone you want to speak to, you can. People generally want to help, and like to speak about their passions. The internet can open up the most incredible people to you, if you let it.
3. The Little Black Book
We all have our little black book of contacts from our educational and professional backgrounds. We rarely recognise the opportunity that lies there, brushing aside our peers as less relevant compared to having the contact of a C-Suite exec in a Fortune 500. But it is your peers that will one day go on to claim that spot, so it is just as, if not more, important to invest in all kinds of relationships. For example, I made an award-winning documentary with a friend with a media background I met at a party.
It might require a slight mindset shift, but it's crucial to train ourselves to spot opportunities where we least expect them - and you can always find ways to seek collaboration and connection with your immediate circle.
All of this can be summed up in my 4 key tips to create your own opportunities:
- Don’t be afraid to reach out to people you don’t know via social media and ask for a coffee or Skype session
- Look in the places you normally wouldn’t ; read newsletters, travel, even if it’s in your own city, and meet people outside of your profession
- Observe your surroundings and see what you can create from them
- Keep creating, so that people come to you, instead of you having to always knock on other peoples' doors