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Leverage Your Luck!
Open Yourself to the Possibilities of Chance Encounters
by Craig Harrison
Published in the Oct. 5, 2003 
edition of
The California JobJournal

Authors, counselors and search firms have all made a career out of telling us how to find our next job: what to do, which steps to follow, and how to methodically seek and search. They teach us all the right moves.

Indeed, many a job is found through dutifully following the sage advice of experts. And yet, what about serendipity? What about happenstance? What about the roles that chance and coincidence play?

As a jobseeker, you should do everything to give yourself the best chance to succeed. And one such approach is to be open to serendipity; to welcome the possibilities and create a space for the Universe to assist you.

Kindness of Strangers

Cathy Krizik had just moved to San Francisco from abroad and was unemployed. One day she took CalTrain home from a luncheon on the Peninsula. As she waited on the platform, she struck up a conversation with a stranger. She told the man she was looking for work as a graphic designer. It turned out there might be an opening for her at the high-tech trade publication where he worked. As she took his business card, a slew of objections came to mind: she hated high tech, she didn't want such a long commute, and of course, the requisite "I'm not qualified." But she knew enough about job hunting to know you have to do the legwork.

Despite her reluctance, she had a great interview. In fact, she was surprised to find that she was excited by the job. She eventually was offered the position at the salary she requested, and worked there for six very satisfying, successful years.

What's luck got to do with it?

Those who are poised to leverage their luck make the most of whatever befalls them. The next time someone opines that, "she's just lucky," look a little deeper and you will see the diligent preparation that puts "lucky" people in position to leverage their good fortune. When your ship finally comes in, try not to be at the airport.

Job coach Joel Garfinkle of Oakland (dreamjobcoach.com), believes that hard work often precedes happenstance. After jobseekers get clear on what they are meant to do through a methodical process, they are primed for happenstance. "When [jobseekers] let go of what they are supposed to be doing and give in to what they are meant to be doing," he explains, "little things keep happening each day that surprise [them with] the magic that made that special thing occur."

Reversal of Fortune

For Elizabeth Kearney, serendipity struck suddenly. Her boss, the company's CEO, announced that she was to be put in charge of another department - her eleventh, and without even thinking about it, she said no. ěHe responded just as quickly, "Oh, but you have to, the announcements have already gone out to the board."

As she headed back to her office, her pace quickened, and by the time she reached her desk, her decision was made. Time for a new career. She typed up her resignation and before she could change her mind, made copies and posted them to her boss and the five members of the board. Just then the phone rang. A member of a chamber of commerce committee was on the line asking if she would be chair next year. She told him no and explained that she had just resigned.

Instead of reciting the usual platitudes about being sorry she was leaving, he surprised her with "Oh, great, then I can offer you a job. Would you be willing to meet with the president of a company of which I am one of the owners?" Nothing ventured, nothing gained, thought Elizabeth. And in a matter of weeks, she was directing her own staff.

Auld Lang Syne

Oftentimes it's not about meeting new people, but rather keeping up with old friends and contacts. Consider the story of Leslie Wolf, a Bay Area service quality consultant.

One day she was running through the parking lot of her local market, when she saw a guy she had worked with almost 15 years earlier. With no makeup on and looking a bit bedraggled, she was hiding beneath the hood of her raincoat, thinking, "Oh, I look terrible. Should I pretend I didn't see him?" But before she could answer her own question, he recognized her, and they began talking about what they were doing. Wolf confided that she was looking for work, and they reminisced about their years together at a big bank. He'd always remembered the quality work she'd performed as a manager.

A month later, Wolf was hired by her former co-worker. Had she not been open to happenstance that day at the supermarket, she would have missed a good opportunity. So, don't discount the value of renewing old acquaintances. Past managers, co-workers or even subordinates could provide the connection to a job you'd love.

From Stood Up to Stand Up

In 1993, I was single and searching. One weeknight I was waiting to meet a blind date after work. I arrived at the restaurant, nabbed a nice table and waited...and waited...and waited. For the next half hour I considered the many options: wrong time, wrong place, wrong day. Had she come and left? Met someone else? She finally arrived and within two minutes I wished she hadn't. It was clear we weren't a match. The evening was agonizingly bad. She talked all about herself or about how great her ex-boyfriend was. Every other table had interesting couples engaged in engrossing conversation. I just wanted to go home. Simply put, I would rather have been doing my dishes. Bummer.

Later that week, in need of a speech topic for my local toastmasters club meeting, I wrote about my blind-date experience. My seven-minute speech drew lots of laughs, and the club president recommended my giving it again at a contest, as evaluators each competed to critique it best. More laughter. An audience member that night asked me if I could deliver 45 minutes on the drama, suspense and intrigue of blind dates. I did. And at that venue a meeting planner approached me about making the same presentation to a singles organization. It was my first paid gig. A career was born. And I owe it all to that bad blind date.

Tell It Like It Is

Often employees fall down when it comes to admitting mistakes. The credible communicator can admit errors or mistakes in a forthright and direct manner. Everyone makes mistakes, yet the credible communicator can address them and go about rectifying them, restoring confidence in him or herself. Those lacking in credibility might try to cover up, ignore or minimize their folly, often compounding the error of their ways. Ultimately, it's less important that you made a mistake, than that you fixed it and can assure others it won't happen again.

Could that be Opportunity Knocking?

Whether or not you believe the Universe has a master plan for you, be open to the possibility. Career counselor Cathy Krizik states it well: "I love planned happenstance. To me it is a deeply spiritual stance. It is harnessing the power of the universe in service to yourself. All you need do is pay attention to its whispers."

Any chance you're convinced?

© Copyright 2003 Craig Harrison. All Rights Reserved.

Craig Harrison is a professional coach
who helps people communicate with clarity and confidence.

More of Craig's articles for job-seekers can be read here.

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