Finding a Great Job: Luck or…?

As a career consultant, I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard one of my candidates, either in a one-on-one or group session, comment on how “lucky” one of their colleagues was for landing a new job.

“Boy, he was lucky his past supervisor worked there or he never would have gotten that job.”

“Wow, she sure was lucky she stopped in when she did because they hadn’t even posted the position yet.”

“He was lucky he had friends already working there. They got him that job.”

Or, “How did she ever land that great job? She must be the luckiest person on earth!”

These are real remarks I’ve heard from real candidates. The intent of these comments is usually not malicious in nature, though most are tinged with a hint of jealousy. This is natural and understandable, as those making the comments are often struggling with their own job search success and are feeling frustrated.

What these candidates don’t know but I do know, because I’ve been fortunate to have worked with the “lucky ones,” is that there’s always more to the story than meets the eye. The gentleman who got a position “because his past supervisor worked there” had formed a professional relationship with the supervisor who had left a year earlier. He maintained contact through occasional emails, solicited advice on his resume when he began the job search process, and let the supervisor know that he was applying for a job within the company, asking for background on the new company’s culture and history, but never directly asking for a job. The networking relationship this “lucky guy” built over time enabled him to use the past supervisor as a resource so that he was better prepared to interview, and he landed the job because of this relationship he had maintained. Luck or good networking effort?

The girl who “luckily” stopped in right when they were preparing to post a position had targeted this company as a good fit based upon her strengths and values. After considerable research, she had been monitoring them for three months through LinkedIn groups. By following this company, she learned that they were on the verge of securing three large contracts that would result in a major expansion in the region. Using LinkedIn, she identified several networking contacts who worked for the company and set up multiple informational meetings to learn more about the company and its products. She then crafted a well-written, proactive letter of interest, describing her desire to work for the company and highlighting several areas of expertise that the company would need. These efforts led to her being contacted by the hiring manager, prior to their going public with their expansion news. Luck or skillful research and laser-focused search strategy?

Likewise, the “luckiest person on earth” did a great deal that her colleagues were not aware of prior to her securing the “great job.” Working with a career consultant, she completed a thorough career assessment to identify her key strengths and values. Then she targeted companies and positions that were a fit for her in terms of both qualifications and culture. In the meantime, she also established relationships within her networking group that led her to additional contacts – one of which was an operations manager at a targeted company. Over time, she maintained the new relationship by sharing articles and other industry information with the operations manager. In the end, the targeted company was considering forming a new department and this “lucky” girl was recruited to head the department. Luck or savvy self-marketing?

One of the many things I’ve learned over the years I’ve enjoyed working in the career transition field is that luck really has very little to do with success. Being in the right place at the right time and knowing the right people is crucial to the career transition process, but it may have very little, or nothing, to do with luck.

In his book, The Start-up of YOU, Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, states that “you can develop habits of behavior that increase the likelihood you find great career opportunities.” I believe that it is the development of these habits of behavior that, more often than not, lead to successes that seem lucky, but that actually come about through solid and persistent networking opportunities and a focused search strategy.

Hoffman goes on to discuss what has now become my favorite mantra – selective randomness. Selective randomness is basically the idea that by taking action and placing yourself in front of more people, in more places, and by sharing more ideas, you will create more random occurrences that will “eventually collide and form new opportunities.”
With this idea in mind, the luck factor is replaced by the fact that the more you network and place yourself in the path of people, events, and places, the more likely you are to affect your own destiny.

So, is it luck or increased opportunities through consistent career transition strategies? You decide! I’ll put my money on the latter and even give you odds.

By: Tim Matott