For every book or article you read that insists the secret to getting ahead in life is to say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, you can easily find another book or article that says you’ll never get ahead unless you learn to say no. So which is it? Should you accept more opportunities or decline more invitations?
Well, the answer isn’t cut and dry. It clearly depends on what stage of your career you’re in.
Say Yes Often in the Beginning
When you’re first starting out, say yes to just about everything that comes your way. “Want to join a committee?” Sure. “Do you want to attend a networking event?” Absolutely.
Don’t assume that something is below you or that the work is beneath you. You never know what small opportunity might lead to something big.
Of course, many of the invitations you accept won’t go anywhere and they might feel like a complete waste of time. But, you’re likely to discover that some opportunities you thought were dead ends are likely to open new doors.
To say yes more often doesn’t mean you need to say yes 100 percent of the time, however. Overextending yourself could be a recipe for early burnout.
So be reasonable about what invitations you accept. Establish healthy boundaries that prevent pushy co-workers or a toxic boss from taking advantage of your eagerness.
But say yes to opportunities that are outside your comfort zone. Even when you are filled with self-doubt you might find you’re more capable than you give yourself credit for.
As Your Success Increases So Should Your Nos
As your success increases, the opportunities that come your way will be bigger and better than before. But that doesn’t mean you should say yes to everything. In fact, the more opportunities you earn, the more you should be saying no.
Why the shift? Well, once you’ve established yourself, you can afford to miss out on an opportunity or two. But it’s vital to say no so you can put your time and energy into other projects.
There will likely be times that you opt out of things that could have paid off really big. But that’s OK. That’s the price you’ll pay for saying no more often.
Saying no to an opportunity you might have only dreamed about a short time ago feels uncomfortable. But if you’re successful, it’s the right move because your time is more valuable than ever before.
Don’t Waste Your Resources
As your success begins to increase it’s important to find a balance between welcoming new opportunities that could help you advance and declining invitations that are likely to waste your resources. This can be the trickiest part.
At first glance, it’s hard to recognize which opportunities could be lucrative. You never know where one phone call could lead or how a networking event might open new doors.
It’s difficult to recognize your success sometimes too. You might not see yourself as someone who can say no to a meeting with an investor or who can decline an opportunity to speak at a convention.
But, during this critical phase in your career, you need to be focused and determined. In order to reach your goals, you’ll need to opt out of things that aren’t helpful.
Pay attention to the times that you overextend yourself or say yes to things that aren’t helpful. When you learn from your mistakes, you’ll get better at knowing what questions to ask upfront to help you distinguish the good opportunities from the bad.
Originally published at www.inc.com