You’ve heard it plenty of times: the super-successful person who is interviewed and credits luck for her success, or talks about simply being in the right place at the right time. But if it’s just good fortune, what is there to learn? And how can you get access to the fairy dust that seems to have made that person’s career advance?
What is luck, really? The chances of finding a four-leaf clover on your first try are one in 10,000, but your odds of advancing your career are significantly better—when you take intentional and proactive steps.
While there may be some career successes for which pure luck was a factor, if you look more deeply, they are probably the rare exceptions. Luck is actually something you make for yourself and something you can prepare for—taking advantage of good work and intentional effort, which almost always precede the discovery of the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
Also consider that ascribing your success to simple good fortune undercuts your success. You’ve worked hard and done some great things—and deserve the kudos and credit that come from the results. Luck may be something, but great thinking, hard work and developing relationships are much more.
How to Create Luck in Your Career
Here’s how to create the conditions for luck to be yours (and the efforts you can embrace and take credit for when you succeed).
One of the keys to being lucky, is being ready and moving ahead based on a sense of what’s happening around you. Stay alert and read your context. If you sense your company is considering big changes in your division, have a strategy for your next steps. When you see your group may be reporting through a new leader, reach out and connect with them. Or when you see your customer needs are starting to change, be ready to recommend a new product, service or direction.
In addition, always be exploring. Be curious about your market and your customers, obtain certifications or additional credentials which match your interests and seek learning in new areas all the time. By staying attuned to the next things that interest you, you’ll be ready in case your present situation changes, and you need to make plans for the future.
Statistically, your next job or career step is likely to come not from your primary network, but from your secondary or tertiary networks. By definition, the people you’re closest to, probably have access to the same information as you related to new opportunities. But your more distant connections will have access to information about opportunities which you probably don’t. And this is a great way to ensure you’re “lucky” in your next steps—by staying connected to a network of people who will know about new possibilities.
Reach out to others and strengthen your network all the time—even when you’re not looking for a new role. Focus on building relationships, not just adding to your number of contacts in a transactional way. Seek to add value for others, and stay connected when you see people get promoted or change jobs. Send notes to wish people congratulations or forward articles which may interest them. Nurture connections on a continuous basis and in a meaningful way, and when you need some good luck to facilitate your next career step, you’ll have people to whom you can reach out and from whom you can seek support.
When you’re looking for the next opportunity, your past and current performance will be under scrutiny, and they will fundamentally shape your prospects. Consider the example of a woman who learned her husband was being transferred to another country. It was the right decision for their family to pull up stakes and make the shift. As a result, she had to give up her current role and seek a new role—and she hoped to stay within her global company. Because she had a great record of performance and good relationships, she was able to reach out to the leader of the new region and a position was adapted for her. While she could have attributed this to luck, in reality it was the result of her reputation and credibility based on her strong track record.
Performing brilliantly in your role today (even if it’s not your ideal position) is always one of the best investments in your role for tomorrow—and creates the “luck” which will be part of landing the next opportunity...