Getting Lucky: A Simple Approach to Successful Transition

By Millicent N. Simmelink

"Being in the right place at the right time" and "It's not always what you know, but who you know" are job hunting clichés we've all heard that often pack a lot of truth.  But how much of this luck needs to be left to chance?  How do lucky people get lucky in the first place?  Can career development practitioners help their clients become luckier as they search for personal direction and professional fulfillment?

Career practitioners can be instrumental in helping clients improve their luck.  Remind clients that getting lucky is 80% attitude, 20% chance.  According to psychologist Richard Wiseman (2003) of the University of Hertfordshire in England, who has done extensive studies on luck, there are four basic characteristics that all lucky people share

  1. expect good fortune
  2. increase chance of good things happening by creating, noticing or acting on opportunities
  3. trust intuition
  4. cope with bad luck by looking for the good in any situation.

Help clients reframe their mindset as they contemplate transition as it is essential to improving odds of personal and professional success. Clients who adjust their mental outlook are empowered to focus more positively on opportunity.

Case in point:

A recent corporate outplacement client had experienced three downsizings, unrelated to performance, within a five year period and was afraid that this bad luck was following him in every professional transition he made. But was it?  As we talked about his experiences, it became clear that each opportunity, although short, had offered him skill development, income and valuable professional experience. The downsizings were due to circumstances beyond his control and his on-the-job performance evaluations were consistently strong.  At the time of his last downsize, he was living in one city during the week, commuting home to another city on the weekends and had found this lifestyle unfulfilling.  He mentioned that when he was recruited for the position, he had had some misgivings, but the company had reassured him.  As he talked, he realized the position was not as ideal as he had hoped and that something better had to be "out there" even though he was being forced to make that decision.  Now that he was looking again, it was important that he learn how to evaluate opportunities more carefully, trust his intuition, use news worthy information to his advantage, know how to spot internal signs that may signal impending organizational change before it happens and consistently develop professional networks before he ever needs them.

Getting lucky is about being open to opportunity and trusting your instincts. Lucky people see how they can creatively translate their skills and experiences into new situations. They trust their gut feelings.  Lucky people think outside the box and can re-invent themselves in a way that enables them to adapt their gifts, talents and interests to a variety of positions and employers.

Tools to use with clients

  • Teach clients how to be open to the possibilities that surround them everyday 
  • newspapers, television programs, professional associations, blogs, websites, local and national publications are all excellent sources for identifying business trends, growth, potential organizational needs, openings and
  • locate real people who might be helpful links to the right opportunity. 
  • reading, viewing and listening with discernment are useful skills when developing ideas that can benefit one's career direction. 

Successful Transition

As for the "unlucky" client, he learned to creatively add to his network, including learning to read and listen more openly for clues uncovered a world of untapped possibilities.  Some of the ideas he thought about and chose to explore were dead-ends, but others led him to conversations that helped him to clarify career direction, industry trends and companies that would be a good match to approach.  Ultimately, the networking paid off.  A contact introduced him to a colleague who was searching for someone with his credentials who ended up making him an offer. This time, he trusted his instincts as he evaluated the offer and the company. Almost one year into the new job, his position continues to be interesting, stable and professionally challenging.  He no longer lives in another city, commuting home on weekends.  He feels valued by his employer, has opportunity for advancement and continues to view his daily lifework experiences with a fresh optimistic perspective. The client learned a valuable lesson in the process:  Bad luck is merely an illusion and good luck is what you make of it.      


Robert Wiseman.  The Luck Factor: Changing Your Luck, Changing Your Life: The Four Essential Principles (Miramax, 2003).

Millicent N. Simmelink, M.Ed., L.P.C. is the Founder of  Career Links and a Managing Director in charge of Employee Development for Beachcliff Cabinet & Design Company in Rocky River, Ohio.  Contact her through her website at www.careerlinkscounseling.com .  


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