In our fast-paced, highly competitive job market, it's easy to get caught up in the idea that we need to have a clear vision of our career paths and a precise plan for achieving our professional goals. However, as many of us know all too well, this approach can lead to disappointment and frustration when reality doesn't quite live up to our expectations. The truth is, the career journey is often full of twists and turns, and the jobs we think we want may not always be the best fit for us. So, how can we break free from this limiting mindset and find the career paths that truly align with our skills, interests, and values? The answer lies in embracing the power of serendipity.
Trust Serendipity: Let Yourself Be Surprised
One of the biggest obstacles to finding the right job is our tendency to try to fit into a preconceived idea of what we think we want. We often get so caught up in our idealized versions of our future careers that we fail to consider alternative paths that may be a better fit. To overcome this, we need to learn to trust serendipity. This means being open to new experiences, people, and opportunities, and letting go of our need for control.
For example, imagine that you've always dreamed of working in marketing for a big tech company. You've spent years building your skills, networking with industry professionals, and applying to every job opening that fits your criteria. But despite your best efforts, you haven't had any luck. Instead of getting discouraged, try taking a step back and exploring other opportunities that may not have been on your radar. Attend industry events, join professional organizations, and connect with people in your network who work in different fields. You never know what unexpected opportunities may arise.
Practice Serendipitous Networking
Networking is a crucial part of any job search, but it's important to approach it with a mindset of serendipity rather than a checklist of specific job openings. Instead of only connecting with people who can help you get your foot in the door at a specific company, focus on building genuine relationships with others in your industry. Attend networking events, join professional organizations, and engage with people on social media.
For example, you might strike up a conversation with a colleague's friend who works in a completely different field, only to discover that they know someone who works at a company you're interested in. Or, you might attend a conference and meet a recruiter who specializes in your area of expertise, leading to a job opportunity you never would have considered otherwise.
Embrace Change and Build Transferable Skills
Another key aspect of embracing serendipity in your career is being open to change. Rather than fearing the unknown, embrace the idea that change can lead to growth and new opportunities. One way to do this is by building transferable skills that will always be in demand, regardless of the industry or job function.
For example, skills like communication, problem-solving, and project management are highly valued across a wide range of industries. By focusing on building these skills, you'll increase your chances of catching a lucky break and being prepared for unexpected opportunities.
Trust Employers to Recognize Your Skills and Expertise
Finally, serendipity demands that you trust something beyond yourself to guide you towards the right career path. This means trusting employers to recognize your skills and expertise, and reaching out to companies whose work and culture align with your values.
For example, you might come across a job opening at a company you've always admired, but you're not sure if you're qualified for the role. Instead of dismissing it, take a closer look at the job description and consider how your skills and experience might align with the position. Then, reach out to the company and introduce yourself, highlighting your relevant skills and expressing your interest in the role. You never know, a recruiter may evaluate your skills and match you to a role you weren't initially interested in, but that ends up being a better fit.
Embracing serendipity in one's career can lead to unforeseen opportunities and a more fulfilling professional life. By maintaining an open mind, developing transferable skills, and trusting in the ability of employers to recognize one's talents, one can be better prepared to seize the day and make the most of any opportunity that arises. Embrace the power of serendipity and see where it may lead you!
Jonathan H. Westover, PhD is Chief Academic & Learning Officer (HCI Academy); Chair/Professor, Organizational Leadership (UVU); OD Consultant (Human Capital Innovations). Read Jonathan Westover's executive profile here.