What Is Low-Hanging Fruit and How Can It Help Your Career?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 5 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

At work, there are some types of accomplishments that require dedication and hard work, while others may involve minimal effort. Investing your skills and time into your work is admirable, but there are some situations where pursuing simple opportunities that offer accessible, fast benefits is also a good idea. Learning about the distinction between challenging and easy prospects in business can help you develop a long-term strategy for your work. In this article, we discuss the concept of low-hanging fruit and share some of its benefits and drawbacks.

What does low-hanging fruit mean?

The term low-hanging fruit refers to opportunities or tasks that are easy to accomplish, only involve a basic level of effort and provide immediate rewards. The idea of low-hanging fruit comes from the idea that fruit growing on the lowest branches of a tree is the easiest for you to pick. This phrase is especially common in finance and sales, but you can also use it to reference any kind of business or professional opportunity. Here are some examples of the principle in business:

Focusing on former clients instead of sourcing new customers

It's much easier to target previous clients than to find new ones, which is why many companies use this strategy. Although focusing on an already established client base makes sales easier to achieve, it may also limit long-term growth. For instance, say a business that has a healthy customer base of 300 sales per month. It chooses to focus its strategy on catering to these individuals who have already purchased in the past. It works for a little, but over time, clients decline, and the 300 sales a month gradually becomes half of that.

Reusing a marketing strategy

When a marketing strategy has worked for a company in the past, they often return to it when their sales are declining. The thought process is that if it was effective the first time, it may provide the same results when recreated. Reusing the same marketing strategy once or twice over may create a similar outcome. Falling into a pattern of using the same strategy for success repeatedly because it's easier can decrease the long-term effectiveness.

Promoting from within

Another example of the principle is promoting from within to fill an empty role or position. When a company has an open role on their team, they sometimes turn to a current employee to fill it. Promoting an employee within a company has some benefits. It shows team members that there's upward mobility within the company and can improve their satisfaction with the job. Although it's fitting to promote a team member within certain circumstances, it may eliminate the possibility of finding someone even more fitting for the role.

Related: Your Online Career Coach: Advanced Job Search Tips to Get the Job

When to go after the low-hanging fruit

It can be tempting to always pursue easy opportunities in business, but it's important to balance accessible and simple tasks with more difficult ones. In any job, some tasks are simple and some are more challenging. Using your work ethic and taking risks to accomplish long-term goals is part of being successful in business, but you also need low-hanging fruit to provide you with short-term achievements to gain momentum.

Consider the initial metaphor of picking fruit on a tree. If you work as an apple picker, you may be tempted to start by picking all the apples at the bottom of the tree. This is a good start but leaves you with the task of climbing the tree to pick all the out-of-reach apples later. It's best to have a strategy to ensure you pace yourself to pick every apple from each section of the tree without getting tired. Here are some common situations when it's helpful to go after low-hanging fruit at work:

Investing in future growth

Sometimes, the principle can turn into long-term opportunities. If pursuing a simple accomplishment is a good investment in your future success, it's likely a good use of your time. Think about how a project, investment or business relationship can change from a brief interaction into a strategic partnership or valuable part of your portfolio.

Related: Career Growth vs. Career Development: What's the Difference?

Seizing temporary opportunities

When a great opportunity appears, it's important to take it, regardless of if it's an impressive achievement or an easy success. Amazing opportunities aren't always going to be available, so use your judgment to consider if a business opportunity is something you can act on immediately or if it can wait. Consider business priorities and environmental factors to decide if it's necessary to pursue a task's benefits now.

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Meeting performance targets

Sometimes, you get behind on your performance goals and complete an easy assignment to recover your progress. Seeking low-hanging fruit is helpful when you want to boost your work performance or get ahead on your goals in the short term. If you know it's necessary to make one more sale to hit your weekly targets, for example, it's smart to approach a vetted lead instead of cold-calling random numbers.

Related: What Is a Performance Appraisal? (With Definition and Types)

Testing new methods

When considering trying new techniques, it's a good idea to implement them in a low-stakes business situation with a high chance of success. For example, if you have a new sales method you want to test, experiment with a consistent return customer first. This way, you can be confident in getting a sale while still getting feedback on your techniques.

Gathering resources

If you need immediate cash flow or a reliable customer base, going after low-hanging fruit can help you rapidly gather the resources you need. Other types of business initiatives may require a higher investment of money and time, but making an easy sale or pursuing an opportunity with a high chance of success can give you access to dependable resources when you need them. Knowing where to find accessible opportunities in an emergency is useful for anyone trying to grow their career.

Learning business practices

When you first start at a position or enter a new field, pursuing easy successes is important for learning best practices. Practising with low-hanging fruit gives you the chance to refine your skills in a safe environment. You can make mistakes and learn from them without potentially losing the opportunity entirely. Starting with simple assignments lets you achieve confidence in your skills before moving forward to other tasks.

Benefits of low-hanging fruit

Here are some of the main benefits of embracing the principle in your career:

Building confidence

Every time you succeed at work, it can build your confidence. Because low-hanging fruit involves regular, reliable success, it consistently boosts your confidence in your skills. If you're having a hard day at work and want to remind yourself of your abilities, choosing a project where you know you can thrive is a good way to review your fundamentals and become more self-assured.

Related: Top 10 Qualities of a Good Employee (And How to Develop Them)

Sharing success

When you identify different types of low-hanging fruit at work, share them with others on your team. For example, if you have multiple reliable sales leads in one region, distribute them among all consultants in that area. Having a fair distribution of opportunities with a high likelihood of success can build teamwork and a culture of shared motivation.

Providing rewards

Planning to complete reliable, easy projects on a regular basis is a great way to reward yourself for working on other tasks. Every time you finish a difficult assignment, consider switching to one of your simple responsibilities that usually has a good outcome. This can give you a mental reward and add variety to your workday.

Gaining momentum

Small successes can help you generate energy in your career, build professional contacts and expand your network. As you complete simple tasks at work, you can use the positive momentum from each success to motivate you towards future projects. Because the principle typically guarantees success, regularly pursuing accessible opportunities can help you find a pattern of productivity at work.

Disadvantages of low-hanging fruit

The principle may not always work with your strategy and goals. Your focus may move away from accomplishing major milestones to choosing the easy and quick option. For instance, you may have a series of decisions at a one-hour meeting. By addressing the quick and easy decisions first, you reduce the time to address the larger issues. Also, you may not discuss the important matters in-depth because you choose the easier alternatives.

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