pathways for talent 

Our blog

Our blog


Posted on July 19, 2016 at 8:35 AM

So there you are contemplating your existence. The sky is grey, your life is blue and suddenly BOOM!

There it is, your dream job in glorious black and white in the morning paper. Or you’re in a meeting with your favourite client and your contact eyeballs you and says they need you on their own team-big job, big money, big prospects. Or again, you’re beavering away at your desk as usual when you get a call from a headhunter with an offer you can’t refuse.

If these scenarios sound attractive, but a tad unrealistic in your current situation, don’t despair. Help is around the corner. It goes by the name Happenstance.

The Theory of Happenstance, formulated by the career theorist John Krumboltz, states that unpredictable social factors, chance events and environment are important influences on workers’ lives. In other words, stuff comes out of the blue in people’s careers just as it does in their general existence.


But luck is no accident.

Krumboltz says we should have

      •  curiosity to explore learning opportunities
      • persistence to deal with obstacles
      • flexibility to address a variety of circumstances and situations
      • optimism to maximise benefits from unplanned events.


Krumboltz states that people with these positive qualities are more likely to capitalise on chance occurrences and turn serendipity into opportunity.

Furthermore, several factors have been highlighted as being helpful in career management, including:

      • the commitment to continuous learning and skills development
      • ongoing self-assessment
      • appraisal and feedback from others
      • effective networking
      • achieving work-life balance
      • financial planning to incorporate periods of unemployment.

These attributes and tasks enable you to turn chance encounters and occurrences into career opportunities.The trick, of course, is to be open to these possibilities and recognise them when they appear.

Unfortunately, we hear all too often in our practice of their being missed entirely or rejected. Here are some reasons

      • people are innately resistant to change and they’re too busy to look up from the grindstone to notice what’s happening in front of them
      • fear of losing a “steady” job (an illusion of course, as in today’s workplace steady jobs don’t exist)
      • a step into the unknown-a bit like coming out of the EU!
      • concern it won’t work out
      • new directions can be scary.

But consider. We all know the workplace is changing at an unprecedented rate. A significant proportion of the jobs available today won’t be around in 10 or 20 year’s time. So how do you plan to manage that? The answer is that largely you can’t, because there are simply too many variables involved which are beyond our individual control.


Technology shift is just one example. What you can do however is

      • be as open as possible and attuned to any chance event, approach, conversation or material that might enhance, switch or even transform your career; think laterally
      • never reject anything out of hand; even if you don’t think it’s right for you at this moment, use the interaction positively to add to your network and career capital
      • ensure your profile is optimised, updated regularly and out there. Attend networking events, speak at fora where appropriate, submit articles to relevant industry media and contribute to LinkedIn groups and posts. Be visible. You’ll be amazed at the increase in approaches you’ll get from recruiters and others as a result
      • if you land an interview for a role you don’t think you match 100%, go for it with both barrels anyway. Perfect candidates, like perfect jobs and perfect employers, are a pernicious myth. It’s also surprising how many rigid job specifications get altered (or even entirely new roles created) because the prospective employer has fallen in love with a candidate! Qualities are as important as competencies
      • take stock of your career and direction at least once a year and ideally get a second opinion from a career management professional or mentor. In the current market, status quo means going backwards.


In summary, happenstance is there to be apprehended, grasped and wielded to further your career and ambitions. Be open to new things, situations and developments and think of the benefits they can bring. Seek things outside your comfort zone and watch yourself grow. Even adversity can be a tremendous opportunity if handled positively. Embrace happenstance as your dearest friend and it will prove a constant star in your universe.


Further Reading


Krumboltz, J.D. and Levin, A.S., 2010. Luck is no accident: Making the most of happenstance in your life and career. Impact Publishers.


For more information go to

PS do you have a question or a personal experience of happenstance you’d like to share? Contact us today at

[email protected]

James Ashmore

Categories: Career Management Development , Happenstance