Leveraging Luck to Find Your Professional Pot O' GoldMar 17, 2022
One of my biggest pet peeves is hearing jobseekers attribute all of their job search success to “getting lucky.” Luck undoubtedly plays a role in the application process, but in no way should anyone who is serious about their search take this advice fully to heart.
As the philosopher Seneca famously said “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Not a single client or graduate that I’ve worked with who was successful in their search sent out applications, made contacts and then just sat back waiting for luck to play its part.
Their grit afforded them the opportunity to absorb disparate experiences and it was from these that they were able to draw extraordinary connections, while their curiosity allowed them to consistently tap into the opportunities around them. It was only with these influences that they then got good at getting lucky.
To those who aren’t willing to put in the time and energy, this might just sound like luck, but in fact, this is the product of curiosity, deliberate strategy and a lot of hard work.
Here is the role that luck can play in your search and the ways that you can create your own luck to get the professional outcome that you’re seeking.
How Luck Plays a Part: Depending on the field, it can be difficult to anticipate the skills that companies are looking for. While I wish there was a magic eight ball that could predict market needs and the industry trends that will be “hot” a few years from now, we aren’t quite there yet. However, for those truly motivated to land a new role, level up in their career, boost their salary–or perhaps all three–conditions have rarely been better. All of the research says that luck is on the side of those who are savvy with their search in 2022, so I hope that you will consider taking the leap.
Actions You Can Take: The Bureau of Labor Statistics can give you a glimpse of where there are shortages and can help you make informed career decisions. It is also wise to set up Google news alerts for industries and to follow your target companies on LinkedIn to remain informed on trends. If you have some time before you actively search for your next job, consider how you can build a breadth of experience with your current role or even in between roles. Do you have an opportunity to take on a new project or apply a new strategy with your current work? Consider collaborating with others in your field, especially with those you'd like to learn from, or maybe even think about taking courses that can help you build new skills.
How Luck Plays a Part: There will rarely be a time when you know who will be the first to read your CV, resume, or other application materials. It could be a recruiter, human resource professional, hiring manager or another type of selection committee. Only on rare occasions will you get human eyes on your resume; more often than not your resume will be put through an ATS (applicant tracking system). A 2019 report from Jobscan found that nearly 99 percent of Fortune 500 companies used an ATS, a reality which puts those who don’t include the right terms in their resume at a disadvantage. It's just the luck of the draw.
Actions You Can Take: When crafting your resume, it is best to include some of the specific skills and phrases that are used in the job description to ensure that your application is picked up by the ATS and passes the initial screening. If you do decide to apply to a job by submitting an application online, it also helps to apply within the first week of the posting to increase your chances of being considered for the role.
I don’t recommend spending all of your time creating tailored application materials, as you are 4x as likely to land a job with a company/organization where you have a connection. Instead, focus your efforts on meeting others at conferences, through networking events or informational interviews. During these conversations, make sure to prepare accordingly and ask for advice, while remaining grateful for your contact's time and for any additional connections they’re able to offer. You can find recommended questions in my previous blog post here.
How Luck Plays a Part: You will rarely have any idea who else has applied for the same job as you, and even though some will admit to being less competitive than other applicants when it comes to a particular role, in reality, you will never know who you’re up against in the broader candidate pool. From my own personal experiences, focusing on the qualifications of others will only amplify your own insecurities and concerns.
Actions You Can Take: While you don't have control over your competition, you can control how well you communicate your own narrative. Think of your candidacy as a contest with yourself rather than with others. Take time to reflect on your relevant strengths and the experiences that make you most proud, and predominantly feature these in your application materials to help get you to the next round. For the interview, create a tailored brag list of your best qualities and specific circumstances or projects that you worked on that will paint you in the best light. These qualities should convey who you are and how you fit that particular company or organization.
In the words of Wayne Gretzky, “You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take.” Take the action to get lucky in your job search. By identifying the aspects of the application process where you do have control, you will work more effectively and will be more successful with your search in the long run.
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