It’s common to think that with solid career goals and plans to reach them, all will be well. Whether you plan or go with the flow, you can count on unplanned, unexpected events – both good and bad – to affect your career.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t plan or have goals. It DOES mean that even if you do, unpredictable experiences will surely affect your career decisions.
Key to career success and satisfaction is the ability to respond to happenstance and chance encounters, to learn and respond in constructive ways, recognizing opportunities in them.
Below are three brief descriptions of people I have known (I’ve changed their names to protect their privacy.) As you read, notice the changes and adjustments each made in response to unforeseen occurrences.
Jeremy majored in chemistry as a prelude to medical school. However, by his senior year the thought of at least four more years of time and money required to become a doctor had lost its appeal and left him uncertain about his future.
Working with a university career counselor, Jeremy discovered “prosthetics” as a field to explore (see the Occupational Outlook Handbook link for a description): it would draw on his science background, help others in a practical way, and it required only a one-year masters degree.
On the day he was to meet with an employee in a Prosthetics and Orthotics lab for an information interview, his host was ill. Instead, the owner of the lab offered to meet with Jeremy. A week later, much to Jeremy’s surprise, the owner offered him a part-time job.
By the end of Jeremy’s senior year the owner was so pleased with Jeremy’s work that he offered to fund the year of required specialized training at Northwestern University if Jeremy agreed to return to the lab as a full-time certified prosthetist after completing training! Not surprisingly, he accepted the offer.
Jeremy could not have foreseen the chain of events that would occur when he requested the information meeting.
Angela, a St. Louis native, moved to San Francisco and lived with her aunt while establishing her freelance graphic art career. After two years, business was solid and steady enough that she was able to move into a place of her own. However, six months later, her disabled mother called from St. Louis with the news that Angela’s father died suddenly. An only child, Angela made the difficult decision to return to St. Louis to care for her mother. Transitioning her work base to St. Louis was now on her agenda.
Although Marco’s entire career has been in accounting, he, too, experienced unexpected events. After eleven years at Arthur Andersen, he was offered a job as vice-president of taxes at a large local retailer. When that retailer was bought by Macy’s several years later, Marco was told he could stay on in his current corporate position if he relocated to Cincinnati. He declined, preferring to stay in St. Louis. Since then he’s done a four-year stint as president of the accounting division of the St. Louis office of a national consulting firm, and he now works as a partner in a mid-size public accounting firm.
In Jeremy, Angela, and Marco’s cases no amount of careful planning could prevent the welcome or unhappy events that affected their careers. Consider your own work history – the people and events (personal, family, economic) – that have influenced your work decisions. What role has happenstance played in your life?
Don’t get me wrong, I do advocate planning, setting goals, and taking focused action. However, planning isn’t enough. The future is full of unexpected situations. To ensure good outcomes, expect to meet them!
Consider a CAP (Career Action Planning) Session if you:
> Feel stuck or stalled in your career
> Are worried about a layoff
> Wonder if it’s not just a new job but a new career you need
> Have been looking for work but not getting results.
In this 90-120-minute meeting, we can get to the root of your career problem and come up with a plan to solve it. For more information call me at 314-752-1373 or use the contact form on my website.