Unexpected opportunities — Joyce’s Career Tip of the Week

Learn the ability to turn serendipity into opportunity. Rather than attributing a positive outcome to “luck,” plan to put yourself into positions where good things could happen. Equally importantly, be ready to take action when they do.

Earlier this summer, I attended the annual conference of the National Career Development Association and had the opportunity to hear the eminent career theorist, John Krumboltz, on a panel. He was illustrating his theory of “Planned Happenstance,” or making luck come to you.

Inevitably, you are going to encounter multiple obstacles and uncertainties along your career path. Krumboltz recommends that you develop curiosity and satisfy those feelings by learning new things. He advocates practicing persistence in the face of obstacles and maintaining flexibility to address a variety of circumstances and events. Finally, cultivate optimism and the ability to maximize benefits from unplanned events.

When I am working with a student who is creating a résumé, preparing for a career fair or an interview, I typically talk about the importance of having a focus. Recruiters want to see that applicants match position requirements and fit within organizations. They look for interest in their company and products as well as experience and enthusiasm for the kinds of work need to be done.

Sometimes, students will ask me, “What if I don’t have a focus?” In previous columns, I’ve written about other theorists and job search gurus who have talked about the importance of lifelong learning, trying new things and networking. Finding a focus, discovering your preferences and ultimately, blazing your path is not going to happen in isolation. You’ve just got to “put yourself out there”!

Early one fall semester, I sent out a survey requesting information about summer internships. One question was, “How did you find your internship?” A Fulton Schools undergraduate mechanical engineering student replied, “I was on a ski trip in Colorado. I started talking to the guy sitting next to me in a hot tub. We were talking for quite a while and he asked me if I’d like to do an internship with his company.”

I’ve heard of other instances where casual conversations have turned into interviews that resulted in internships or jobs. What are some things that you can do that could put you into places and positions where more good things might happen?


Joyce Donahue is a Certified Career Counselor who works in the Fulton Schools Career Center.