I met a person the other day and we ended up talking about how people discover jobs by accident. His face lit up, “that’s exactly what happened to me! In high school, I was thinking about engineering or joining the military and then I discovered machine tool.” 30 years later he was the CEO of a large machine tool company and now is a consultant in that field.
While on my honeymoon, I met the Director of a high school technical center. I had no idea what a Vocational – Technical school was, but four months later, I was working for him and my life was transformed forever with an understanding and appreciation of all kinds of occupations.
We all have stories about chance events that changed the course of our careers. Then why is it that students and other clients continue to come in and ask to take “one of those assessments that tells me what to do”. The longer I am in this business, the less assessments I use.
Here are 3 steps you can take to help people discover jobs or majors by creating luck or chance events in their lives.
1] Embrace chance events. Share stories of chance events (like mine here) that demonstrate the non-linear way that life works. That chance events are simply a part of life and should be embraced. Talk about how they sometimes look like barriers or hassles but often many positive things happen because of it.
2] Action. To move forward in finding a job you have to DO something. For many people, it requires doing something DIFFERENT than they have been doing. The more out of their comfort zone, often the better. The obvious ones are informational interviews, volunteering, part-time jobs, taking a class but it can be as simple as walking down a different road or driving to an appointment a different way which will expose them to new businesses. The key is to be intentional in looking for new things which may lead to new opportunities.
3] Encourage curiosity. Too many people say “I can’t just call them up and ask to talk to them. I would not even know what to ask!” We need to help people be curious. It’s amazing to me that students will come in and ask me all kinds of questions and they’ve often never met me before, but when I suggest they speak to a person in the field they want to enter, they get nervous. So I ask them:
- What is it that you do NOT know about the occupation you are exploring?
- What is it that you really want to know?
- How can you learn more about it?
- Who can you ask?
Then I explain that I am a generalist and that in order to learn the answers to these questions, you will need to talk to people in the field, or close to the field, or follow discussions in LinkedIn that are focused on this, or….. do SOMETHING else. But you have to get as close as you can to the field, and searching on websites does not get you close enough.
Final thoughts: Intentional serendipity is a filter I wear whenever I meet with students or clients. I encourage them to expand your view of the world of work, don’t get caught looking too narrowly, and be open to chance events because they are a part of your life.
How do you embrace serendipity in your practice?
Note: This is the first of two blogs focusing on “intentional serendipity”. Intentional Serendipity Part II blog
If you would like to really learn more about this topic of using happenstance in career advising, check out our 5-week online seminar for career practitioners. (Seminar link)
Jim Peacock is the Principal at Peak-Careers Consulting and writes a monthly newsletter for career practitioners. Peak-Careers offers discussion-based online seminars for career practitioners focused on meeting continuing education needs for CCSP, GCDF and BCC certified professionals as well as workshops for career practitioners and individual career coaching.
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