Friday, January 20, 2012

A Career Full of Happy Accidents

WHAT'S BEEN THE ROLE OF SERENDIPITY IN YOUR CAREER PATH?  I'm knee-deep in trying to map out new segments of my own career path and, because of that, I was recently asked to write about personal career planning.  So I did what any author who's looking for some inspiration would do -- I reached out to the cultural nonprofit community via LinkedIn for some input.  And here's where serendipity comes in.

The second response to my question was about the importance of serendipity -- those accidental opportunities -- to the enrichment of a career. "Too much planning can limit your options," wrote the responder.  Happy accidents can't be planned and that's the point.  I, too, have been the beneficiary of serendipitous career moves that, looking back on them, were completely unknown to me at the time, but in hindsight emerge as important turning points to my career development.  I certainly didn't plan them to be what they ultimately became.

Interestingly, my dictionary defines serendipity as "an aptitude for making desirable discoveries by accident", which implies that there is some innate or acquired ability to sense discovery, to be open to the not yet known, or maybe to be able to generate or attract opportunities.  To me, artists of all types are great examples of people with aptitudes for serendipity, as are many entrepreneurs and nonprofit leaders.  To be a cut above, they've honed their abilities to search for, discover, and invite happy accidents.

How can you create a personal career plan that keeps you moving toward some fairly specific goals while recognizing the importance of being able to expand, strengthen, or magnify your ability to make happy accidents happen or simply to be in the right place at the right time? 

Related article:  Building a Nonprofit Career Path, Bridgestar.org

Image:  Fork in the Road from Jessi Joy via Flickr 

2 comments:

Linda Norris said...

I think serendipity has a great deal to do with openness. In my unexpected career path, I've found good things happen when you are open to new people and new experiences--and are willing to sometimes, just take that leap. Planned serendipity if there's such a thing?

Anne W. Ackerson said...

Maybe planning in that you work on being open to opportunities -- not casting them immediately out of hand. For some people, that takes a lot of work to get their heads around something new or different. I'm pretty risk-averse and it's hard for me to be open, so thinking about openness in the course of planning helps me become more comfortable with new ideas.