Building a successful career involves immediate and long-term planning. On day one of your new job, you may find yourself trying to nail down your exact project list, key priorities, and accomplishments you to check off to get the promotion you want. Longer term, you may be thinking ahead to your next move or additional skills you need to acquire to advance in your career.

Planning can certainly help you achieve professional success. However, things don’t always go according to plan. Sometimes, the best opportunities arise when you least expect them: a chance hallway encounter with a colleague, a key stakeholder sitting in on your presentation, or an organizational change that reshapes your team. Opportunities that come out of the blue can feel unsettling but also broaden your career in positive ways.

Golden Opportunities Can Feel Premature

When any opportunity presents itself, one of the most common questions I ask myself is whether the time is right for me to pursue it. Often, imposter syndrome can kick in and I find myself feeling underqualified or underprepared to make the most of the opportunity.

For example, only a few months into starting my own business, a TEDx organizer happened to overhear a talk I gave at a marketing conference. She connected with me afterwards to ask if I would be interested in pitching a talk for their upcoming TEDx conference.

My immediate reaction was that I wasn’t ready. Giving such a high-visibility talk when I was just getting my feet under me as a speaker felt premature. However, giving a big talk could also enable me to more credibly establish myself as a career change expert. Sharing my message about changing careers on a public stage had always been a dream of mine. I just never expected the opportunity would come up when it did.

Prioritize Potential Regrets Over Reservations

When you are presented with any sudden opportunity, you may face three common internal debates.

The first involves the classic chicken or egg dilemma. Do you wait until you feel more fully “ready” before pursuing something, or do you go ahead and gain some useful experience that could eventually open other doors? In my case, I remember wondering if I had the credibility to be taken seriously. I wasn’t sure if I first needed more practice as a public speaker or if giving the talk could give me the exact experience I needed.

The second question involves capacity. Do you seize an opportunity when you already feel stretched or wait until you have more bandwidth? In my case, with the conference only four months away, I didn’t feel I had time to adequately prepare while also focusing on getting my business off the ground.

The third has to do with scarcity. If you passed up an opportunity, what if another one doesn’t come up again? Talk about living with regret. Erring on the side of action can feel hasty, but inaction can result in you kicking yourself later. For me, being invited to give a TEDx Talk doesn’t happen every day, and I wasn’t sure if the opportunity would ever come up again.

In the end, I decided to go for it, and eventually gave one on reshaping the story of your career. To this day, I credit that talk with playing a significant role in shaping my own professional trajectory over the years.

Rise Above Your Doubts

The moment you consider doing something new in your career is often immediately followed by reasons to put it off. The timing may not feel right. You may not feel quite ready. You may want to wait until you’ve first crossed some other milestone.

Maybe you’ve been thinking about creating your website for months, but you’re not sure if you’re ready to share your work with the public. Maybe you’re on the verge of pitching some proposal, but you’re worried no one will react well to it. Or maybe you want to connect with someone at your dream company but feel like you lack the necessary experiences to be taken seriously.

The most rewarding career experiences often happened when, despite your worries and fears, you step forward and do something bold. The edge between comfort and risk is often where the most unique, exciting new opportunities are.

Be Open to New Opportunities

When opportunities come knocking, be ready to answer. Few of my career plans transpired exactly as I’d planned, but being open to some unexpected pivots has enabled me to still keep my career moving forward. In hindsight, erring on the side of being brave and bold rather than overly cautious or reluctant has tended to serve me well in my career and life.

If you’re on the cusp of considering an audacious move in your own career, I challenge you to take a brave step and err on the side of action rather than inaction. If you’ve been thinking about taking your career in a new direction, what’s one specific action you could take today to move you closer to making the idea a reality?

Goals certainly give your career good intention and direction, but serendipity can also shake up your career for the better. No matter the situation, it rarely hurts to try. After all, according to Wayne Gretzky, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Keep putting yourself out there and remaining open to opportunities as they arise. You never know what will lead to your next big break.

Listen in on this topic as I discuss “Putting Yourself Out There” in more detail on Career Relaunch® podcast episode 13 with sniper turned magician Julian Mather.

This article was originally posted on Forbes.


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About Joseph Liu

Joseph Liu helps aspiring professionals relaunch their careers to do work that matters. As a keynote speaker, career & personal branding consultant, and host of the Career Relaunch podcast, his passion is helping people gain the clarity, confidence, and courage to pursue truly meaningful careers. Having gone through three major career changes himself, he now shares insights from building & relaunching global consumer brands to empower professionals and business owners to build & relaunch their personal brands.

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