How a “planned Event” Can Add Luck to Your Career

Many of us think that we need a definite career plan – a kind of strategy that guides our career on an upward trajectory, like a line chart that moves forward and upward in responsibility, salary and satisfaction, which leads to success. And we think that if we don’t have that plan, if we’re not sure what to do or what the next best step is, we might crash.

Some of the most common comments I hear from clients, friends, and family members who feel insecure in their jobs go something like this:

“I do not know what I want. I need a plan that will put me on the right track.”

“I wish someone could tell me what job or industry to work in so I know what to do with my life.”

“I need clarity about my career goals and priorities. I want to chart my next 5, even 10 years.”

This is common because a natural response to job insecurity is the belief that the lack of concrete answers and a plan is holding us back from the career we want. But what if I told you that accepting uncertainty is exactly what you need to do to build your career, and that this approach can lead you to something great?

Like my former colleague Gabby (not her real name), who was ready to step down from her current role but didn’t know what her next step should be. After browsing LinkedIn, she found me. She was curious about what company I was working for at the time and what I was doing. She sent me a message explaining this and asked me to meet with me to find out more. She prepared specific questions and I was impressed by her curiosity. What Gabby didn’t know was that in six months I was going to quit my job and start my own firm. We kept in touch so I could pass on her resume when I applied. You guessed; Gabby got my job.

Without knowing it, Gabby has applied Planned Event to finding her career, and you should too. Planned Happenstance is a published career development theory and a deliberate oxymoron. Here’s how it works: you’re trying to find new experiences and new people. You can sign up for a course, have coffee with a friend of yours, volunteer at an event, or connect with someone on LinkedIn. It is the “planned” part that creates an opportunity for randomness or randomness.

The attitude needed during these meetings is to be educated and willing to be flexible to see where the experience can take you. Actions should not be related to your work, and you welcome not knowing what will happen, even if it may be a refusal.

For example, let’s say you signed up for a class at a local community center, only to find out when you arrived that it was canceled because the instructor was sick. Instead of going home, you can ask other visitors if they would like coffee. Now suppose that the people you invite to coffee decline the invitation. They decide to return home. You are not dejected, rather, you see that it leads to more choice: maybe you walk down the street to a bookstore to see if something is going on there, or maybe you go home too and try again the other evening. Planned Happenstance is about being open to…well…anything!

That’s what Planned Happenstance isn’t: You can’t just show up at Starbucks or stand in the middle of the mall and wait for someone to come to you. It’s not magic. You must take action and then let luck happen. It’s fuzzy, it’s intangible and therefore can be incredible. But appreciate your life. How many of the opportunities you took were the result of a combination of action and luck? Probably more than you think. This is a time-tested approach to development and even career advancement.

How to start putting more luck into your career

The first step is to accept career uncertainty. It means being comfortable not knowing what you want or where to go next. This is a normal and natural place. Then go out and explore new things to create unexpected possibilities. Here are some tips and ideas:

  1. Get out of your current circle of friends and colleagues by asking them to introduce you to people you don’t know. You can also use LinkedIn like Gabby did. Request informational interviews. You may worry about being bored, but for many, this is a great break from the daily routine to discuss career aspirations with someone interested. Those you ask will most likely be flattered.
  2. Buddy. If doing it yourself is too difficult, invite a friend. Decide on a new activity that you will be doing, but separate when you arrive. This way you will comfortably arrive together and then separate to create a personalized experience.
  3. Look into your childhood. What kind of activities did you enjoy doing? Was it learning languages, singing in a choir, participating in 4-H, skateboarding, or something else? This should not apply to your current career; rather, it’s something you once liked.
  4. Make it a routine. Opportunities most likely won’t knock after one try. Maybe every month you go out to dinner with strangers; you and your friend each invite one acquaintance, and this person also brings someone. In this way, everyone has a connection with someone, which makes them more attractive, and at the same time, everyone is having dinner with four people they have never seen. Let the conversation go anywhere.

Contrary to popular belief, a career doesn’t really require specific plans. Rather, they require openness to learning, some risk-taking, and perseverance. Who knows what might be ahead? Our future is uncertain; it’s a guarantee. Letting go of the need to know exactly what’s next creates the energy, space and time to explore new things and let chance or luck take over.


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