I have been seeing a lot of finalists lately and broadly two 'types' of students emerge: those of you with a clear plan for what you’re going to do after graduation and those of you trying to plan life after university. Traditional career planning techniques focus on matching interests, skills and abilities to a particular job or laying out a career plan for the next 10, 20 or 70 years. Unfortunately, there are times we become so wrapped up in making the one right decision about our careers, that we forget the importance of chance.
This is why I am a huge fan of John Krumboltz; a leading career theorist who suggests that chance or unplanned events have a place in the career-planning process and has put forward the theory of Planned Happenstance. In a nutshell, Krumboltz suggests that a career is something that will gradually unfold and encourages you to make the most of opportunities as they arise. Therefore, if you are experiencing difficulty clarifying what you want to do, it could be you are trying too hard to rationalise your thinking. Instead, actively seek out and explore new career ideas and pursue interesting things as they arise. For example the more people you speak to, the more likely you are to find out about jobs you might enjoy and opportunities which may not be advertised.
According to Krumboltz, you can engage in five behaviours that can enable you to turn chance events into productive opportunities and these are:
- Curiosity: Explore new opportunities – Get on Twitter, talk to people, go to events, say “yes” to new experiences, research, explore the “unknown”
- Persistence: Exert effort despite setbacks
- Flexibility: Be ready to change your attitude/mindset when new information/opportunity arises
- Optimism: View new opportunities as possible and attainable
- Risk-taking: Take action in the face of uncertain outcomes.
Here are some practical actions you could take starting today:
- Meet new people and do new things. Join clubs, volunteer, play sports, go to careers events, talk to your peers, lecturers and alumni.
- Take an interest in the new (or investigate the very old!). Keep an open mind.
- Understand yourself and consider learning skills which might lead to new opportunities.
- Learn about the world: What’s happening in technology? Industry? Society? What opportunities do these present?
- Expose yourself to different viewpoints: Study abroad, read papers you think you’ll disagree with and engage in debates.