11/01/2009

Serendipitous Moments - More Than Just Chance

By Danielle Gruen

Those of us who have ever experienced a serendipitous moment or life event know the powerful effect such an experience can have.  The moment may seem to come out of nowhere by chance, and even be referred to as a mere coincidence.  Prior to the unforeseen occurrence, one might think such a moment were not even possible or probable to take place.  This is both the wonder and awe of what we call serendipity.  According to Webster's dictionary, serendipity is defined as "the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for".  So, what can we, as career professionals, do with serendipitous moments both for ourselves and the work we do with clients?  Making the most of such unexpected moments comes not with detailed planning or forethought, but instead with positive thought, the act of living in the moment, seizing opportunity, and creating action.

Given that a serendipitous event is unplanned and unanticipated, the moment could potentially be missed or overlooked by one person, while the same event discovered and developed by another.  How does this occur you may ask?  It primarily has to do with personal attributes and positive characteristics of the individual, as career professional John Krumboltz says in his Planned Happenstance Theory.  Krumboltz states that people with optimistic qualities are more likely to capitalize on chance events and turn serendipity into opportunity.  On the other hand, more pessimistic individuals might get frustrated with the same event, dismissing it as insignificant or bothersome.  This critical difference is imperative both in our own lives as flourishing professionals and in the work we do with clients. 

As a client of mine builds her private business, for example, I suggest she use self-reflection and assessment to critique her networking tactics and determine what is working and ways to improve.  In doing so she realizes she has not engaged in conversation with some of her own friends about her current projects.  The following week a social lunch turns into a business lunch as she and her friend discuss overlaps in the work each one does.  By the end of the lunch "meeting", the two have come up with ways to work together through cross-promotion, referral and even the sharing of an office space. 

Life transitions, unplanned events, and personal situations are aspects of life that can be potentially negative or positive in nature.  Depending on the individual, the circumstance becomes challenging, manageable, or devastating.  In turn, this can mean the difference between opportunity and stagnation.  Turning serendipity into opportunity becomes much more challenging in times of heightened stress or turmoil.  Through improving coping mechanisms and developing more optimistic attitudes, one's "toolkit" is enriched, positivity is developed, and the chance for serendipitous opportunity is increased.  The following are tips for transforming destiny or chance into reality both for career professionals and clients, even during the most potentially challenging times in life. 

Life Transitions

  • Find positivity and opportunities in change and anything new through self reflection and consultation with trusted others
  • Promote self-growth and introspection through activities such as journaling or volunteering
  • Develop curiosity to consider new possibilities
  • Be creative and think outside the box - how can this unexpected event be turned into a new and positive opportunity?

Unplanned Events

  • Foster optimism to get the most out of unplanned events - try to see things from a new perspective and be open to change
  • Cultivate motivation and focus to deal with obstacles, both internally and through external support
  • Establish a flexible, positive attitude to cope with challenges, changes, and unknowns
  • Network regularly and often to maximize the unplanned times
  • Research the labor market ongoing for some understanding of the unpredictable economy

Personal and Family Situations

  • Engage in self-reflection to process your reactions and feelings
  • Construct strength-building mechanisms for dealing with personal issues such as positive selfvisualizations, exercise,and/or personal counseling
  • Form a strong social support network of friends and community

To foster hopeful attributes, create effective networking, and in turn increase the likelihood of turning serendipitous moments into opportune moments, consider lifelong learning and skill enhancement, regardless of professional level or expertise.   Incorporate a balance between work and personal life whenever possible, and encourage clients to do the same.  Keep in mind, self-assessment and feedback from others is an ongoing process in career exploration and management, both when times are smooth or turbulent.


 

Danielle Gruen Danielle Gruen, MS, NCC, DCC, is a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor for the State of California, Division of Department of Rehabilitation in Los Angeles, California.  She currently serves as Disability Awareness Specialist and liaison counselor in the transition services program for high school students.  She also serves as lead counselor and provides Disability Awareness training at a local community rehabilitation program serving the HIV/AIDS community.  She earned her Masters degree from San Francisco State and has worked in non-profit, Higher Education, and government as a Career Counselor.  She recently began a private practice providing local and distance counseling. She can be reached at: livingcareers@gmail.com


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