When I coach people in career transition, I emphasize control. I say that there are things you can control, like your own responses to job postings or answers to interview questions. You can control how you reach out to a contact and how you choose to say, “Thank you” for someone’s help.
But we also agree that there’s luck involved in getting hired. It’s about showing up at the right place at the right time, and you can’t always predict that optimal situation.
Ah, but luck is a strange thing. It is about accidental timing. It can also come from paying attention. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “You make your own luck.” Well, to an extent, it’s true.
Let me give you a famous example: J.K. Rowling put herself into optimal situations repeatedly as she tried to publish her first Harry Potter book. Rowling was a single mother living on welfare. She was rejected by 12 publishers before Bloomsbury finally agreed to publish it. The book became a global phenomenon, making Rowling a multi-millionaire. It was all because she made sure she showed up so she would be there when the opportunity arose.
Bill Gates is another example. He paid attention to the emerging computer revolution and responded to the trends. His company became the largest software developer in the world. He could have said, “Eh, forget it,” early on in the process. But he stayed engaged.
Famous visual artists also are often noted for putting themselves in unique situations where interesting things can happen. Conceptual artist Marcel Duchamp was famous for saying that in art there are no accidents. He took whatever happened, such as the breakage within his “Large Glass” piece, as part of the process and incorporated it.
So, what does that mean if you’re making a career transition? There are lots of ways you can do this to improve your chances of seeing an opportunity and readying yourself to receive it.
First of all, it means putting yourself in the right environment. If you are in marketing, get involved in marketing organizations or with groups that need marketing services. If you are in finance, find out where your target employers are, and go there. Maybe an industry conference? I’ve seen clients identify job opportunities just by intentionally showing up where the employers are.
Stay attentive. Read the news in your industry and news about your target companies. Follow your targets on social media to remain aware of their advances, developments, and shifts in the business environment that could mean opportunities are coming. Is one of them growing or expanding into new vertical areas? That is a signal that could mean they need your particular talents. One of my clients saw a company moving into a new service category and contacted the vice president of sales to offer some insights. He soon found himself in a new job with a pay bump.
Here are some other ways to bring luck into your orbit as you seek greater career satisfaction:
1. Keep meeting new people. Don’t hole up in your abode surfing the web. Get out into the real world and attend community events, corporate happy hours, sports activities, and gatherings—anywhere people are meeting. While you’re there, talk to people. Ask them about themselves. You never know if someone you meet will provide a new perspective or connect you with a valuable contact.
2. Read widely. (Even fiction.) Research studies from multiple universities have shown that reading has a positive impact on your cognitive abilities, communication skills, problem-solving abilities, empathy, creativity, and mental health. Reading exposes you to new ideas and perspectives. This means you will be even more prepared to convey your thought processes and connect ideas in sophisticated ways that can impress an interviewer.
3. Be alert to your reactions. If your gut tells you that a situation isn’t right—like in an interview when things feel “off—it probably isn’t. By moving on from it and not spending too much mental energy on it you will clear space for something better to come along.
4. Practice gratitude. Ok, this one’s getting a bit overdone. But here’s what it can help you with: Good vibes. When you feel better and more optimistic, you will gravitate in fruitful directions. Tonight, give it a try. Think of three things that you are grateful for from your day. Reflect on each one. Then unplug from social media and relax into a good night’s sleep! (I always read a chapter from a good book. Habit since I was 8.)
Consider that luck is defined as a force that seems to operate for good or ill. Luck is often seen as mysterious and unpredictable, but there is some evidence that we may be able to “invite” it. Often, people who are more optimistic tend to have more good luck because they are more likely to take risks and try new things, which can lead to positive outcomes.
So, try to put yourself in a position to tune into the waves from the more positive end of the luck spectrum and it just might make the difference for you. A great job or business opportunity might come floating into your sphere!