In today's fast-paced and competitive job market, it's easy to feel like success is reserved for a select few who have it all figured out. However, the truth is that luck plays a significant role in our career paths, and sometimes, the most unexpected opportunities can lead to the most fulfilling and successful outcomes. The concept of serendipity, or the art of finding happy accidents, can help you cultivate luck and achieve your career goals.
Today we will explore the power of serendipity in your career, and provide practical tips on how to cultivate it.
Trust Serendipity: Let Go of Your Idealized Future
One of the biggest obstacles to serendipity is our tendency to have a fixed vision of our future. We often imagine a specific job title, industry, or company that we believe is perfect for us, and we may overlook opportunities that don't fit this idealized version. To overcome this, it's essential to let go of your preconceived notions and trust that serendipity will lead you to unexpected but fulfilling opportunities.
For example, Sarah, a recent graduate, always dreamed of working in the marketing department of a big tech company. She applied to countless job openings but kept getting rejected. One day, while volunteering at a local non-profit, she met a graphic designer who introduced her to the world of design. Sarah discovered that her creative skills were a perfect fit for the design industry, and she landed a job at a small design firm that eventually led to a successful career.
Practice Serendipitous Networking
Networking is a crucial aspect of career development, but it's essential to approach it with a mindset of serendipity. Instead of focusing solely on your career goals, practice "serendipitous networking" by connecting with others for the sake of getting to know them, their perspectives, and their stories. Attend networking events, join professional organizations, and engage in conversations with people from diverse backgrounds. You never know who might introduce you to your future employer or mentor.
Jake, a software engineer, regularly attended industry conferences and networking events. At one event, he struck up a conversation with a fellow attendee who shared his passion for artificial intelligence. They kept in touch, and a few months later, Jake received an invitation to join a startup that specialized in AI technology. He landed a senior role and helped the company secure significant funding, leading to a substantial boost in his career.
Embrace Change and Develop New Skills
The job market is constantly evolving, and certain skills are always in demand. Embracing change and developing new skills can increase your chances of catching a lucky break. Instead of fearing the unknown, approach change from a place of possibility and curiosity. Identify emerging trends in your industry and proactively develop skills that align with them.
Melissa, a marketing professional, noticed a growing demand for digital marketing skills. She took online courses and attended workshops to enhance her knowledge in the field. As a result, she landed a job at a prestigious marketing agency and quickly rose through the ranks.
Trust Employers to Recognize Your Skills and Expertise
Finally, serendipity demands that you trust something beyond yourself to tell you what's right for you. This looks like trusting employers to recognize your skills and expertise. Reach out to companies whose work and culture you find appealing, even if you don't see a specific job opening. Sometimes, a recruiter may evaluate your skills and match you to a role you were not initially interested in but that is a better fit.
Andrew, a recent college graduate, was interested in working for a non-profit organization. He reached out to several organizations and offered his volunteer services. One of the organizations recognized his passion and skill set and offered him a full-time role as a fundraising coordinator. Andrew discovered that his skills were a perfect fit for the role, and he went on to have a successful career in the non-profit sector.
Cultivating serendipity in your career requires an open mind, a willingness to take risks, and a readiness to embrace change. By letting go of your idealized future, practicing serendipitous networking, developing new skills, and trusting employers to recognize your talents, you can increase your chances of stumbling upon unexpected opportunities that may lead to success and fulfillment in your career. Remember, serendipity is not a guarantee, but by adopting these strategies, you can create an environment that fosters luck and sets you up for success. So, go ahead, take a chance, and let serendipity guide you on your career journey. You never know 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.