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.

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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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