Best career tip: Plan for chance

My favorite career theory that I learnt about during my MSc, and one I think you’ll enjoy too, is John Kumboltz’s Planned Happenstance theory. It reminds us about the role that chance plays in careers. Very few careers nowadays are in fact linear. They’re not perfect plans developed fresh out of university that each graduate has stuck to, and we wouldn’t want them to be.

How many times have you heard people explain where they are now with the phrase “I just fell into it” or “a chance meeting with X led me to Y”?

Traditional career approaches encourage you to plan logically. To narrow down your options by matching your skills and interest to a job. But that’s not how it works! You develop skills. You learn as you go along. You grow, and from that, new interests emerge that take you off-piste and in to new directions.

Especially now, when the world of work is changing so fast. New roles, systems, lifestyles, and companies are springing up all the time.

Think to 2000 when Twitter, Instagram, Youtube and Facebook weren’t even born yet. Companies didn’t advertise for social media jobs, so if you graduated then with a perfect career plan and stuck to it, you would have had your blinkers on to opportunities to do something new and completely different. At that time, no-one was making their money from being a health blogger, posting pictures of their food and videos of their workouts. That was not an option career advisors gave out (probably still don’t!). And AirBnb and Uber didn’t exist to make it easier for people to make cash on the side from their spare room or car. Now we’re in a time of more options and opportunity.

We can’t plan for what it will be like in another 17 years time. Who can predict what the next big thing will be?

This is why I like the aptly named Planned Happenstance theory which encourages you to ditch the idea of having a plan and to embrace uncertainty and stay curious.

With such a fast changing landscape, new niches, needs and solutions pop up all the time. You don’t even have to wait for your ideal role to come up, you can create it.

With my coaching clients going through a career transition, I try to get them to see this time of change and uncertainty as an exciting opportunity. To get out there, to learn, to talk to new people, to try things out. Kumboltz wasn't saying luck just happens. He was very much about creating your own chances. So it’s a time to say yes to invites and events you normally wouldn’t. Not just picking roles that match the skills you already have, but looking at roles you’d normally dismiss. How might they help you develop new skills and lead you toward something interesting you hadn’t planned for?

Something will happen if you’re out there doing something.

So when you’re planning your career, plan for happenstance.

I would LOVE to hear about how chance played a part in your life, so don’t be shy and email me to let me know!


P.S. It was pure chance I took my red bag to the Saatchi exhibition, but talk about great timing- look how good it makes the blue plastic bag piece of art look!