Posts Tagged planned happenstance
On my recent trip to New York I visited a number of interesting places that made me think about how people deal with change. (I know! Even on holiday I’m generating material for blog posts! How sad!).
I also read a book that made me think about luck. This blog post is an attempt to put all that thinking into one place in preparation for a possible training session on navigating change.
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I wanted to share with you a eureka moment I had recently while running a workshop with a group of speech and drama PhD researchers. It was a full day workshop on career planning and we were reaching the dreaded dead zone (after lunch but before afternoon coffee) and moving into the discussion on networking.
Networking seems to invoke fear in the hearts of many, the idea of self-promotion really does go against all things English (and most other English-based cultures). I got the conversation going by running the following clip:
This clip always leads to great conversations (and usually a lot of laughing) about awkward networking situations that people have experienced.
A few concepts that I blogged about have been floating round in my head for a while. A recent discussion with a client made them come together.
She was talking about how her educational background in Africa had given her a particular mindset about career success. She explained that in her home country, passing a relevant professional examination pretty much guaranteed an appropriate job. When she came to the UK, it was a great shock to her that just having good qualifications was not enough. She had been surprised at the emphasis placed on demonstrating acceptable personal qualities and the importance of networking. It had taken her quite a while to overcome this mindset, and even now her initial reaction when faced with a career challenge was to think about what training she could obtain.
She was quite surprised when I told her that it wasn’t just people from outside the UK that suffered from this blinkered attitude to employability and career success.
Yesterday my colleague Vanessa and I ran a day workshop called ‘Can Career Theories be Useful?’. Among the participants were trainee careers advisers trying to get to grips with career theories for their professional qualification and experienced advisers using the course to refresh their theoretical knowledge and bring it up to date. We also had frontline administrators and information officers joining in the fun.
We spent the morning exploring and discussing various sites of interest in the landscape of career theory. Afterwards, participants tried to get to grips with a couple of particular theories by putting them in their own words and applying them to client case studies.
The final activity of the day was a short brainstorm on ideas for what a careers service would look like if it was based solely on the idea of Planned Happenstance and you didn’t have to worry about money.
In a world of employment gloom where graduate jobs are on the decline it seems to me the time is ripe to inject a bit of planned happenstance theory into our careers sessions.
Many successful people, when asked about their career, will talk about an element of luck. But being in the right pace at the right time usually involves taking action to get there. The person fortunate enough to be offered a job during work experience gets the opportunity not only because they had the initiative to get the experience in the first place but also because they made an impact once through the door.
Planned happenstance is a useful tool for advising in a difficult economic climate, when the R-word hold sway. First, because it encourages open-mindedness in career planning, rather than searching for a rigid career goal. Secondly, it promotes positive action regardless of whether this leads to an obvious outcome.
But how does this impact on our work?
I have just enjoyed reading Malcolm Gladwell’s new book Outliers. It is a book about success — extraordinary success — and what is behind it. As with Gladwell’s other books, Outliers contains a treasure trove of surprising facts that make you stop in your tracks. Why are most successful ice hockey players in Canada born in January, February or March? Why did many of the most successful corporate lawyers in New York have almost identical biographies? Why were commercial planes flown by Korean pilots more likely to have accidents than those flown by Americans?
Gladwell takes on the pervasive myth that extraordinary success is purely the result of extraordinary talent in individuals. He examines the social, cultural, racial and systemic factors that hide behind the success stories.
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Careers - in Theory is a blog from The Careers Group, University of London.
The aim of this blog is to highlight and discuss theories, models, research and other interesting stuff that might have an impact on the work of careers education and guidance.
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