I had to laugh as the most recent post on this blog was about chance and here I am posting my own blog about chance! Was it meant to be?!

I’m in the third week of my Graduate Diploma in Career Development and for my first assignment I’ve had to interview 3 people about their career. It’s been very interesting finding out where their lives have taken them and how much of it was due to careful planning and how much was due to chance events. It surprised me how much was due to chance, or serendipity, and since my first paper is all about different theories of career development I got curious and decided there must be a theory related to this. As it happens there is. I haven’t come across it myself as yet but it’s called planned happenstance and was developed by a theorist called John Krumboltz.

Careers NZ summarises that “at the core of this theory is the fact that unpredictable social factors, chance events and environmental factors are important influences on our lives.”  True enough. Any of these things can affect our lives and they’re not always positive (the earthquake in Christchurch, for example) but how do we turn these events into something that will positively effect our career path? 

An article in the Microbiology Today journal  (of all the chance places it could be) summed up how to go about this:

The happenstance part is all about noticing situations that you could not have anticipated and recognising the potential opportunities they might offer. The planned part is about being prepared to take advantage of the situations – knowing what your interests are, being receptive to unfolding events and being ready to act on them.

There are things you can do to take advantage of the opportunities brought by chance events:

  • Become more self-aware – think about what interests you and follow-up on it
  • Don’t dismiss apparently off-the-wall jobs – are they really that crazy? Consider how you might be able to develop them
  • Be positive and don’t dismiss an idea before you have had a chance to think about it
  • If things don’t go to plan, look for new opportunities as they crop up
  • Make good contacts and network as widely as possible
  • Don’t be afraid to approach people for advice
  • Look for opportunities to learn and develop new skills
  • Don’t be held back by stereotypical views of how things should happen – there is often not a right way (or a direct route) into a job
  • Follow up on your curiosity. Don’t worry about whether you will be successful or where it will lead – if you don’t try new ideas you’ll never know where they might have led.

For those who have a very strong career path in mind my two cents worth would be don’t regard any chance events as a set-back. As the above point says it’s a chance to look for new opportunities. For those of you with no clue where you’re heading this theory means you can latch onto these ideas and simply see where they take you. It won’t suit everyone but I quite like the idea!

All of the people I interviewed don’t regret where their chance events have taken them. Perhaps they wonder ‘what if..?’ because they’re curious but the beauty of your career is that it is continually unfolding and certainly doesn’t end at the age you retire. Paid or unpaid, make the most of whatever life throws at you.

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