There is a careers theory (created by Mitchell, Levin and Krumboltz*) which suggests that we can take advantage of chance encounters, unexpected occurrences, and uncertainty. This is called ‘Planned Happenstance’ – and our Virtual Summer Recruitment Fair could be the perfect time to put this theory into action.
What is Planned Happenstance?
‘Planned Happenstance’ is a framework for recognising that many jobs, decisions, and opportunities come out of unexpected moments, but that we can prepare for and even generate these, as well as making the most of them when they occur.
The theory suggests that you can help yourself increase the chance of these beneficial outcomes by adopting an attitude of curiosity and deliberately putting yourself in the way of something new, as well as learning to recognise and capitalise on such happenstance encounters.
The theory has five elements:
- Risk taking
Risk taking is often left out of accounts of this theory, but it simply means taking action or moving forward even if you are uncertain what the outcome could be. Our Summer Recruitment Fair could be seen as a gentle form of risk taking, in a really safe environment. You don’t quite know ahead of time what the content of your conversations will be, or what jobs you might find out about, but it’s a risk worth taking!
How will taking advantage of chance events benefit my career?
The whole ethos of this framework is for you to be able to generate, recognise and encourage beneficial chance events.
The uncertainties facing graduates as you complete your degree are very real, and of course the dramatic changes caused by a global pandemic have made even previous certainties uncertain. If this is you – feeling unsure of your next steps, not knowing if there is a particular job role or sector you want to go into – studies consistently show, serendipitous events have a significant impact on many people’s career choices.
Reframing uncertainty as open-mindedness
Planned Happenstance also encourages you to reframe being uncertain as being open-minded. Humans naturally crave certainty over uncertainty. But it feels more positive to say that you are keeping an open-mind about your careers options at the moment. Come along to the Fair being consciously open-minded, and with curiosity.
Are some people lucky in their careers?
You probably know about people you think have been unusually lucky in their careers, those who stumbled on something good by being in the right place at the right time. What you may not have seen is that these same people have almost always been primed to take up those opportunities, by actions they took. They were curious, they were able to investigate, they connected with people.
The ‘planned’ part of Planned Happenstance means not only that you can proceed in life knowing that something unexpected might occur, and you are ready to act on it positively, but that you can plan to make it occur: putting yourself in a new situation, talking to someone new, just being interested in what’s out there.
How can you plan to do a job you’ve never heard of?
You will probably have had the experience of being asked what you want to do. Primary school children asked this question are likely to answer with predictable ideas from role models they have seen, either in real life or in books or that they have watched: teacher, astronaut, firefighter, doctor, nurse, pilot, pirate… You get the idea.
This mechanism by which you can only pick from what you know operates even at graduate level. You have perhaps been trying to identify your graduate career choices based on the knowledge available to you now, which is of course all we as humans can do. But there are myriad roles and responsibilities out there that will simply not currently be visible to you. There jobs could also provide ways in which you can develop skills and attributes that are meaningful to you.
Developing your curiosity into unknown careers
THIS is where the Recruitment Fair comes in. Whatever stage your current career thinking is at, come and be curious.
Who is here? Who is offering what? What do the people who work for these companies do? What was surprising to them when they started? Is there a role or sector represented that you have never even heard of? Why not give it a go?
Getting help researching and exploring new careers ideas
Careers advisers have 10 minute bookable slots on the day of the fair. Students can book one to ones via the ‘Chat to team’ function on the employer stands once you have booked onto the Fair.
There is also a rolling programme of webinars and presentations on all sorts of useful career topics which you can find on Surrey Pathfinder.
Using ‘Planned Happenstance’ at the Fair
Why not decide to use one of these elements – perhaps curiosity or optimism – and see what happens at the fair? Unplanned events occur, and you can respond to these with flexibility and optimism. Try also to constructively initiate something new – be it as small as speaking to a new employer, starting a conversation, sitting in on a presentation that piques your interest. All the employers at the fair are there because they want to engage with Surrey students. That is you. Why not come and investigate?
If you would like to explore how the ideas in this blog relate to your career path, you can book a longer Careers Appointment via Surrey Pathfinder.
* Journal of Counseling and Development Vol 77:2