What is Serendipity?
Serendipity is defined as the occurrence of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. And when it comes to our careers, serendipity can lead to opportunities we never even dreamed of.
Sometimes, all it takes is one chance meeting, one random conversation, or one unexpected job offer to change the entire course of our careers.
Our careers shape our lives, and often, the direction they take is due to happy accidents or serendipity.
What Three Words
I was recently asked to say a few words when we were celebrating the 50th gathering of our fabulous Chief Customer Officer Forum.
It’s a fabulous group of amazing people, sharing learnings since 2007. I’d given it some thought, reflected and decided my ‘what three words’ (with a bit of cheating ) would be.
With a huge back catalogue of projects large and small, it took a little time to identify what matters to me most. And not least that happy accidents were often only there because you had your eyes and mind open to the crashes involved!
How to Embrace Serendipity
Here are the top four ways to embrace serendipity:
1. Novelty / Curiosity
One way to embrace serendipity is to be more curious. Quite simply, my desire to keep doing new stuff. The pattern which stuck out was that my “best” work was in novel situations. Things I was asked to do but hadn’t done before.
I think I was asked mainly because clients saw things I couldn’t see in me. And I had seen similar patterns in many places, which gives great confidence and transferable skills to other situations.
Where did it come from?
Studying both languages and sciences. Jumping industries from physics to textiles to telecoms to property to customer experience. Jumping from sales to consulting.
There are so many examples in consulting where variety is the spice life (despite a solid 20 years sticking to implementing Amazon’s growth model as the core to our business).
Quite simply, my desire to keep doing new stuff. The pattern which stuck out was that my “best” work was in novel situations. Things I was asked to do but hadn’t done before.
For example, over the last few years, transforming a traditional marketing function into a digital world, developing the top talent of a major company, driving customer experience by changing the conversations at many levels by co-creation (including an artwork delivered rather than a report).
This is my desire only to work with people who believe in sharing, who give and take, who play the long game, who you want to spend time with both at work and at play.
This grew over many years of slowly learning to conserve, as well as throw energy around. Life is too short to waste on people purely on the take.
A belief that everyone needs to be grounded. It may have come from working in a petrol station or a shop when a teenager.
On the first day at work after college being taught to lift boxes and for 6 weeks learning to sew shorts until we, as a graduate intake, could do a full shift.
Working a manual switchboard with an operator when starting work in telecoms. All these things teach you that frontline jobs are hard to do and so you never take people for granted – after all, they do the work!
4. Team Building & Developing People
Perhaps the most accidental belief, yet deeply effective activity you can do. Perhaps it came from sport or school walking trips, perhaps from educational heroes.
Certainly I developed it from working with bosses who saw themselves as coaches and mentors rather than as managers.
I value hugely the phenomenal teams I’ve assembled, working together and learning together. Both the formal companies and the strong, yet informal, working networks like our global alliance LimeBridge or the CCOForum which I facilitate.
Also, I still remember the frustrations I experienced. Both valid and mainly invalid blocks to progress when in my early twenties. This drives my belief in giving young people far more chances to try things out and to lead than the typical hierarchy allows.
Stuff Which Felt Hard Becomes Magic Learning
Overriding these reflections and discovering these patterns in oneself is the pure good luck, the very serendipity, of being in the right place at the right time, of getting sacked or jumping at the right moment to free me up to do that next great thing. Stuff which felt hard at the time soon becomes a magic learning to use next time.
Reflecting now there are two more words I’d throw in: networks and passion.
Networking is key to success in any career.
Networking is key to success in any career, and sometimes, the connections we make are the result of happy accidents.
Keep an open mind and be ready for the unexpected, and you never know what opportunities may arise. My mantra for successful networking is “only dine with people you like”.
Passion is a word I use a lot, as you’ll know if you’ve been to any of my talks. We’ve all heard the saying “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” But how do you know what you love?
Sometimes it takes a little serendipity to show us what our true passions are. Maybe to take a job in a different field and end up falling in love with it.
Or perhaps a hobby that turned into a lucrative business. Eyes wide open! And keep thinking about your passion – test it all the time. And never be too sure there isn’t something else you’re passionate about too!
Serendipity Can Lead You to the Career of Your Passions
Serendipity can play a big role in our careers, but it’s up to us to make the most of these happy accidents. Keep an open mind, embrace change, and never stop learning and growing.
You never know what opportunities may arise, but with a little bit of luck and a lot of hard work, serendipity can lead you to the career of your passions. The only thing that’s certain is that it’s sure to be an exciting journey!
Written by: Peter Massey at Budd
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