Archives for category: Rachael Roberts

Career planning is often presented as applying a logical, step by step approach following a linear pattern to develop your career but the reality is that life in general and our career thinking more specifically often don’t work that way. We have a huge number of options open to us and deciding what is the right career is no easy task. What happens for many people is that chance encounters, opportunities and life situations lead us to follow certain paths at different points in our life.


What is important is the approach we take to what life throws at us and how we deal with it in a way that can benefit us. Although people may feel that they fell into what they are doing ‘by accident’, it is likely that their attitude played a part. So what should you do to make the most of life’s everyday events?

Clarify ideas: follow your curiosity and identify your interests

Remove the blocks: wonder “how can I” rather than “I can’t because…”

Expect the unexpected: be prepared for chance opportunities, such as unexpected phone calls, chance encounters, impromptu conversations and new experiences

Take action: learn, develop skills, remain open and follow up on chance events

This approach has a name, ‘Planned Happenstance’ and is a theory developed by Krumboltz, Levin and Mitchell to encourage us to create our own opportunities or make the most of those presented to us for our own learning and career development.

Planned (arranging the parts) +

Happen (occurring by chance) +

Stance (a view or attitude) = ‘Planned Happenstance’

To make the most of this, consider where you are at with your career development. How clear are you about what you want to achieve? Network as widely as you can. When opportunities arise, be open-minded and think laterally about the benefits it could provide before dismissing it or assuming you don’t have time. Take up chances to develop skills or learn something new. If things don’t work out, look for different routes and seek advice from those you respect. A positive approach could lead to opportunities and directions you didn’t even know existed!

Want to know more or need convincing? Read the career stories of researchers who have gained from this approach.

Further information:

J.D. Krumboltz and A.S. Levin; Luck is No Accident: Making the Most of Happenstance in Your Life and Career (2016) – 2nd edition

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Let’s get one thing clear – I’m not saying everyone needs to do a placement or an internship. In fact I’m writing this to stress that there is more to work experience than a 3 month placement – a placement may not be what you need at all. For researchers, whether PhD student or research staff, a placement may not be practical, possible or preferable.

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As the build up increases to the Paralympics, Channel 4 have launched a trailer called, ‘We’re the Superhumans’ which is receiving a lot of positive press and has even been described as the “best TV trailer ever”. It is great in so many ways; uplifting, insightful, educational and inspiring, it really shows what people can achieve. But one aspect of it left me feeling very frustrated. Throughout the trailer people are singing, saying or signing the words “yes I can” but at 2 minutes 15 seconds the shot goes to an office with a ‘careers’ sign on the door and a man is his 50s, wearing a grey suit, is talking to a schoolboy who is a wheelchair user and saying, “no you can’t”. It only lasts a couple of seconds and then returns to the previous, positivity but the message is very clear. Careers advisers will tell you what to do, or more likely, what you can’t do, they’ll judge you and will ultimately trample all over your dreams and aspirations. Don’t take my word for it, have a look yourself. But do come back and read the rest of this post! Read the rest of this entry »