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Does An Opportunity Scare The Crap Out Of You? Take It!

Sometimes an opportunity will present itself to you, but you won’t be sure that you have the skills or know-how to do well at it. Basically, you don’t think you’re “good enough” to do it. When you feel like this, I’d encourage you to take the opportunity anyway. Opportunities like this stretch us to our limits, and it is at our limits where we grow the most.

I can think of two specific instances during my sophomore year where following this tip changed my life for the better. The first was my transition from working at the campus help desk to working at the campus web development center.

When I started my sophomore year, I was still working at the help desk. My job basically entailed answering phones and helping people with their computer problems while simultaneously banging my head against my desk. Eventually, I worked my way up to be able to sit in the back room and remove viruses, but I still spent a good amount of time dealing with slow computers and – even worse – the general public. While I am perfectly capable of working with the general public, I find much more joy in working on projects with other people who are interested and actually know what they’re doing to some degree. So, after about a year and a half of working at the help desk, I started yearning for a new opportunity.

The way in which this new opportunity manifested itself was an odd one. At the time, I was taking my first MIS class, and the professor had given me the opportunity to get extra credit by making him a website. Part of my project involved connecting to the school’s database, which I didn’t know how to do. So, instead of ragequitting and taking a lower grade, I marched over to the campus web development office to ask the help of the pros.

After answering my question, the director of the web development office informed me that they were hiring, and I was invited to apply since I had some experience. He gave me a link to an online test to take, which was part of the application. Well, the test turned out to be mostly filled with questions about PHP and MySQL. I didn’t know jack about either of these things – all my web development experience was rooted in HTML, CSS, and a little bit of Javascript. Still, I slogged through the test with lots of help from the internet, and managed to score an interview.

During my interview, the director told me that he thought my programming skills were a little weak, but he thought I showed potential and would be a good hire with some training. I was a little wary about my weak programming skills, but I took it anyway.

This turned out to be a good move. During the next few months, I got to basically sit and learn PHP and MySQL, along with a bunch of other technologies, while getting paid. Sure, I did a lot of updates and worked on a lot of projects, but the experience was basically like getting paid to take classes. I came out with lots of new skills I didn’t have before, as well as a fatter bank account.

The second opportunity I referred to was the offer to “help out an entrepreneur in Ames” that I received from the entrepreneurship director at my school. I got this email while I was busy doing a lot of other things, and my initial thought was, “I’m too busy to do this. I think I’ll just delete the email and never look back.” However, my curiosity got the best of me, and I replied to the email anyway.

The entrepreneur turned out to be Cactus Jack Barringer, who has been inventing products, creating infomercials, and making millions for over 30 years. Needless to say, I was stoked to be working with him. After I met up with him, he had me build his website and create a social media presence for him as well. Now I help him find new clients for his consulting business, and I’m gaining a lot of contacts and experience in the process.

So what’s the point of these examples? It’s simple: Taking the opportunities that scare you is the best way to grow and learn. So be confident and take those opportunities. The worst that can happen is that you fail! And if you fail, you simply get back up and learn from it.

Don’t shy away from the things that scare you!