How to Get Your Dream Job

8 Ways to Make Your Own Career Luck

People often say that you make your own luck, but how do you make your own career luck and get the job of your dreams? LearnVest shares how you can do so.

You sit next to someone on an airplane who later helps you land your dream job.

Your dentist’s daughter is a book editor, and wouldn’t you know it, she’d just love to publish your memoir.

You have a role model in your industry, and your roommate’s fiancé just so happens to be her best friend.

OK, chance doesn’t always work out as we might wish . . . but a few travel apps, a weak economy, and plenty of gumption got us thinking.

RELATED: What It’s Really Like to Be 20-Something Today

Cajoling Lady Luck may be easier than ever, with new services like Planely, a Danish start-up, and Satisfly, a Hong Kong-based start-up. Both apps connect passengers before their flights, so they can see the Facebook profiles of fellow travelers and choose seats by people they’d like to meet. Airlines like Dutch carrier KLM and Malaysia Airlines are getting in on the act with similar services of their own. Sharing and viewing this social media info is, of course, optional all around.

Read on for more.

Setting aside (a) the “creepy factor” of sharing your identity with strangers and (b) the nuisance of, say, an editor being pitched by a potential writer for four hours straight or a creep hitting on someone all the way to Dallas, this new travel trend got me thinking about the role of “luck” in my own life.

How I Made My Own Career Luck at 30,000 Feet

A mere month after I graduated college, I found myself on a seven-hour flight to Europe with a lot of career decisions in my future. I struck up a conversation with the guy next to me, whose job turned out to be helping young analysts in his company figure out what to do with their lives.

He pulled out a worksheet.

All the way to Berlin, he walked me through my strengths and weaknesses and gave me a new lease on my career. At the time, I was trying to decide between pursuing art history work at a museum and finding a job that allowed me to write — he almost single-handedly shifted the scales toward the latter, and I’ve never looked back.

I asked around and found so many similar stories.

For example, as a college senior, Sharon Rosenblatt — now a PR consultant — was having trouble lining up a job after graduation. While she hit the pavement looking for work, she had a part-time gig as a personal trainer. She told one of her clients how she was looking for writing work and, lo and behold, she offered Rosenblatt a small PR writing project at her company. That turned into a PR internship, which turned into a full-time job offer.

Not only was Rosenblatt lucky, she was primed to seize opportunities in even unlikely places.

I don’t consider myself terribly lucky; I’ve never won a raffle in my life. But I do feel very fortunate in many aspects of my personal and professional life. So it’s dawned on me that sometimes we’ve got to create our own luck.

By polling many different people about their own amazing lucky breaks, researching the “science of luck,” and delving into personal experience, I’ve come up with some ways even the unluckiest of us can help career — and life — success find us:

Put Yourself in Proximity

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70 percent of all jobs are found through networking. So, while you might not want to share your social media profile with fellow travelers, the basic premise holds: the more you pursue the sort of people who can help you, the higher the probability you’ll meet them.

Although those people may not have the exact job for you, getting to know them can mean smart advice on your career path or even insight on who's who in your industry (for example, some industries have regular social gatherings where professionals hobnob . . . but you've gotta know someone to hear about it).

Aside from Facebook stalking the job recruiter in seat 14A, there are other ways to find networking opportunities:

  • Look up networking events through your school’s alumni association.
  • Search online for professional groups through sites like Meetup.com.
  • Try following industry leaders in your chosen profession on Twitter to see what they're thinking about — and maybe even where they're hanging out.

Pursue the People Who Interest You

If you know who you’d like to meet, do what you can to meet them, even if it means risking rejection.

Anne Jones, the author of multiple fiction and nonfiction books, was doing research for a historical nonfiction idea. She emailed the author of a book her friend suggested as source material . . . who happened to live nearby and owned her own publishing company. Jones invited this author to her writing group. The author came and afterward asked to publish Jones’s book! Luck? Sort of. Gumption? Totally.

Keep yourself from getting discouraged about networking and meeting people by remembering that “creating luck” is all about probability — the more you put yourself out there, the higher the chances that something will pan out.

Take Off Your Blinders

Get out of your routine and open yourself to serendipity. As Psychology Today puts it, “An open person heads to the dog park thinking he might encounter a potential new friend, business partner, or romantic interest. A closed person sees only dog owners.”

Natalia Paruz is a case in point. A quirky musician in New York City, she hasn’t had to go on auditions or look for gigs ever since she started playing in the subway 17 years ago. “People who happen to pass by me in the subway have been taking my card and inviting me to perform,” she says. “This is how I got to play with philharmonic orchestras and record for TV commercials and film scores."

Always Be Ready

You might never know when luck will strike, so be prepared to pounce.

Joanne Cleaver, the creator of Wilson-Taylor Associates, a firm that manages research and strategic communication projects to advance women in various industries, had an idea for a book, The Career Lattice, based on trends she noticed from her job. She positioned herself to get her book published by attending a writers conference. Before going, she had her elevator pitch ready and knew what she wanted to accomplish. She happened to meet an agent who signed her and helped her land a book deal.

“By the time we went from the fourth floor to the lobby, she said she’d find a way for us to work together,” Cleaver says. “It was a coincidence that she chose that conference to attend. It was choice that prompted me to introduce myself to her.”

Don’t Count Anyone Out

Don’t discount people who seem like they won’t be able to help you directly; making friends with one person means meeting her friends, who will introduce you to more friends . . .

Suki Shah’s business, GetHired.com, didn’t have anything to do with the environment, so he didn’t expect to find funding from an investment firm specializing in eco-friendly pursuits. But his friend introduced him to another friend, and Shah followed through. In the end, his business was funded by Global Environment Fund. The business launched this February, with $1.75 million in seed funding. Shah’s philosophy? Take all the meetings you’re offered and keep an open mind.

Seek Out (and Listen to) Advice

The universe is like your fortune cookie: even if you receive advice that sounds strange or comes from an unusual source, try to keep an open mind.

Dan Nainan worked at Intel and had to give technical demonstrations on stage at events, but public speaking made him nervous. One of his employees was a part-time comedian and convinced Nainan to give comedy a shot. He took a comedy class to get over the fear of speaking on stage, and did he ever: his own comedy career unexpectedly took off!

“Since then,” Nainan says, “I have performed at the Democratic National Convention, at a TED Conference, at three presidential inaugural events, for Donald Trump at his Palm Beach golf course, and more.” He’s even appeared in an Apple commercial. If he hadn’t been receptive to unorthodox advice, none of this might have transpired.

Think of Yourself as Lucky

Professor Richard Wiseman, a psychologist in the UK, tested a group of people who self-identified as consistently lucky or unlucky, and asked them to look through a newspaper to count the photos inside. There was one half-page ad in big type that read, “Tell the experimenter you have seen this and win 250 pounds.” The so-called unlucky people tended to miss this, while the lucky ones tended to spot it.

Wiseman’s theory is that unlucky people are tenser than lucky ones, and the anxiety “disrupts their ability to notice the unexpected. As a result, they miss opportunities because they are too focused on looking for something else.”

So don’t let your feelings of unluckiness turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy. Wiseman recommends listening to your gut, trying to be open to new experiences, remembering the positive in situations, and simply visualizing yourself as being lucky. Good luck.

— Allison Kade

Check out these smart stories from LearnVest:

Good Luck Charms Actually Work: Court Serendipity In 2011

Generation “Why Bother”: What It’s Really Like to Be 20-Something Today

3 Ways to Be a Better Brainstormer

4 Ways to Stay Sane in a Toxic Office

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