A few weeks ago, I was playing the game Rummikub. It is a game where you randomly pick 14 numbered tiles at the start, and then work to get rid of them by laying down three-of-a-kind or a series of three numbers. You are also allowed to manipulate other people’s tiles to make new combinations with the tiles you have in your hand.
Like in any game, you can leverage different strategies. One of the people I was playing with decided to use a strategy where they were holding all of their good plays for later in the game.
I’ve used this strategy many times while playing the game because it can pave a runway to an easy win; but while playing this time, I noticed something interesting.
A big part of Rummikub is manipulating other people’s tiles to make room for yours, but if everyone is holding their good tiles for plays towards the end, then there is not much room to make moves during the game.
The game progressed slowly and there was not much excitement. And it occurred to me that holding your tiles might seem smart, but it is also flawed, because when you don’t create opportunities for others, they can’t create opportunities for you.
As we cleaned up the game, I realized how applicable this message is when thinking about different aspects of our careers. So, here are a few ways that creating opportunities for others can create opportunities for you:
Share industry knowledge with someone who could eventually replace you
One “old school” mentality was to hold onto all of your industry knowledge to ensure job security. The problem is that when you do this, you stunt your professional growth. Your job will no longer be intellectually challenging, but you cannot hand off these responsibilities because no one else is properly trained.
By sharing your industry knowledge, you create an opportunity for someone else to learn something new, which not only frees up your time, but provides you with an opportunity to mentor and teach others. This experience mentoring and teaching will build up your leadership abilities, which will open doors to even more opportunities down the line.
Go beyond the scope of your work to help another team
It is important to remember that everyone at the company has the same overarching mission and everyone is on the same team. Of course, there are limits, though. You should not lose track of your other job responsibilities by always helping others, but when you can help other teams, you usually end up creating opportunities for yourself.
By providing consultation on a project outside the scope of work of your job, you help your colleagues move past an obstacle and create opportunities for them to invest their time in solving new problems. By helping others, you create opportunities for yourself, too, by building strong working relationships which can come in handy when you need help, and you establish yourself as a subject matter expert.
Additionally, by helping others, you also come across as a team player, and you could potentially learn about a sector of the business that you might want to join someday.
Prompt a colleague to share their ideas
Sometimes it’s hard to speak up and advocate for our ideas, and it is important to help your colleagues find the confidence to do so when they have something important to share.
We all know by now that giving others a compliment does not make us look less accomplished and actually has the opposite effect.
In a meeting, on an email thread, or in a Slack channel, prompting others to share their ideas gives them opportunities to innovate and arrive on the best solution for the topic of discussion. People will remember the support you provided them and bring you along with their success.
This whole topic started with a simple game of Rummikub, but it showcases how every action taken by members of a group or team has effects on the individual and team level.
You should never do things for others in hopes they will reward you in the future, but instead remember that playing the tiles you have available, in all aspects of life, to create opportunities for others could open up paths that would never be available if you kept your tiles to yourself.
There is no certainty in the outcome, but if there were, there would be no fun playing at all.
Paige Kassalen loves to put her creativity to use by solving problems in emerging technical fields, and has been an IEEE member since 2012. After graduating with a degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech in 2015, Kassalen began her career with Covestro LLC. in 2015, and soon became the only American engineer working with Solar Impulse 2, the first solar-powered airplane to circumnavigate the globe. This role landed Kassalen a spot on the 2017 Forbes 30 Under 30 list along with feature articles in Glamour, Fast Company and the Huffington Post.
After Solar Impulse, Kassalen has helped Covestro and JPMorgan Chase develop and implement strategies to embrace a range of emerging technology trends from autonomous vehicles to machine learning. In 2020, Kassalen received a Master of Information Systems Management degree from Carnegie Mellon University and now uses her problem-solving skills at an artificial intelligence startup, CrowdAI, where she leads the implementation of computer vision solutions for existing commercial customers.