Luck is No Accident: Making the Most of Happenstance in Your Career
We’ve all heard of the saying “life is a journey and not a destination” and the same can be said for our careers in life whether you are a recent graduate, a seasoned professional looking for the next challenge or someone who has decided to take a whole new career path after having a good career in a certain area. Although it is always prudent to have an educational or a career plan in place there are many other factors in our careers that influence our career decisions and what path we decide to take at any given time. For instance, performing a certain career or job may not be what we thought and perhaps trying a new career path may prove to be the best thing that could happen to us!
As a student or recent graduate, it is to your advantage to have an open mind and be willing to try different opportunities that may come your way when you start your search for your first professional job once you leave university. This is even more evident in light of the current pandemic which has changed the world of work in many ways that other generations did not have to deal with. Pandemic aside, it is quite normal for most people to change their careers several times in their lifetime.
All this relates to the theory of “Planned Happenstance” by J. Krumboltz. This theory stipulates that it is beneficial to be open to unplanned or unforeseen events in your career journey and to use those events and circumstances as opportunities for career growth. At the same time, one shouldn’t rely on destiny or fate to make their decisions for them but to constructively act upon a potential opportunity when it is present and available. In our ever-changing labor market it is essential to manage life transitions in our careers and to be mindful of the external factors that can impact our lives and decisions.
For example, I knew someone who had just graduated with a Ph. D in Molecular Biology and got a job straight away as a research technician at a teaching hospital, however, he soon learned that working in academia proved to be far more competitive and not what he believed it would be, going into it. He took it upon himself to research other positions where could use his skill set and learned that his skills/education were in demand in government and private pharmaceutical companies. He had only ever thought of himself ending up in academia as an investigator or faculty member, however, having seen this demand he started applying as well as talking to various employers/directors in various companies about what it was like to work in non-academia and what he would need to be successful in those companies. Not that long afterwards, he was interviewed and offered a fantastic position as a research scientist for the government and is now very content with his job, and this all because he was open and willing to try another industry.
- Planned: making decisions and acting on them
- Happen: to occur by chance and unexpected
- Stance: the point of view taken, in this case “open-minded”
To make the most of unplanned events, it is important to cultivate the following 5 skills that will help you capitalize on unexpected or chance events in your career journey:
- Curiosity: exploration of new opportunities
- Persistence: continuing to pursue despite adversities
- Flexibility: openness to change mindsets and circumstances
- Optimism: appreciating new opportunities positively
- Risk Taking: taking action despite the uncertainties
What can you do as a student to learn how to practice Planned Happenstance in order to stay open and eager to new careers and opportunities after graduation?
- Continuous learning and skill development
- Regular self-assessment
- Assessment and feedback from others (try this strengths test!)
- Network, network, network!
- Work-life balance
- Financial planning in the event of unemployment
I’d also like to share a story of Planned Happenstance from my experience. In 2021, I was working as an employment counsellor for a non-profit organization and my friend and colleague had notified me that they were contacted over LinkedIn about a Career Advisor position for Career Services with Yorkville University. They were not interested in the position but had referred me instead as they knew my career interests. I had wanted to get back to working with post-secondary students for a long time and thought this could be a great opportunity. I immediately contacted the employer, introduced myself and expressed my sincere interest in working as a Career Advisor for post-secondary students which led to an informational interview which later resulted in a formal interview and eventually a job offer which I wholeheartedly accepted. And that same job is the position I have currently as the Career Advisor for the NB Campus of Yorkville University!
I have never looked back from this experience, as working with students is my passion! Opportunities occur all the time, you just have to look out for them and be willing to venture into new territory – this is also where personal growth happens!
By Heather King-Andrews, Career Advisor, NB Campus