If luck were exclusively defined by success at the poker table, then I would be one of the unluckiest individuals in the world. For many years, our annual sales kickoff meeting ended with an all-night poker game. My contribution to the event was monetary. And the “gift” was always a one-way street out of my wallet and into the hands of the winner.
Fortunately, I have a different (better?) definition of luck. I have a beautiful wife of 33 years that loves me (on most days!), two independent and successful children, and a dog that appears to think I am a pretty fun guy. So yes, I am incredibly lucky.
Staring out at a fantastic sunset over the Finger Lakes this past weekend, I started to reflect on what role luck might play in the job search process. Dr. Tina Seelig, a professor at Stanford University, delivered an engaging TED Talk this past year on strategies that you can employ to add some luck to your life and your career. She views luck as a wind that is always blowing and that there are three steps you can take to build a sail and catch some of that wind.
Change your relationship with yourself.
Change your relationship with other people.
Change your relationship with ideas.
Those three “change” principles, on the surface, may sound a bit generic. But if you listen to the 12-minute TED Talk, you will see that there is real meat on those bones. Equally important, each one carries a value that is directly applicable to the job search process.
#1: Change your relationship with yourself
In her TED Talk, Dr. Seelig describes this first change principle as taking small risks to get out of your comfort zone. In your job search, you change your relationship with yourself by building your personal brand. Talk about taking a risk. Coming out of your shell and telling the world who you are and why anyone should care takes courage. How do you build your brand for your job search? There are two steps that I call basic and advanced.
Basic: Get your branding assets locked down and in place. That means baseline versions of your elevator pitch, resume, and cover letter. And a LinkedIn profile that is complete. This work does not take much risk or courage but is still hard and essential work.
Advanced: Demonstrate some thought leadership. This step is where we begin to apply Dr. Seelig’s approach to taking little risks. It takes courage, and confidence, to believe that you have some knowledge and a point of view to share with the world. What if no one listens? What if no one cares or disagrees? So what? That’s the risk part of the equation. Nothing ventured, and nothing gained. Start by finding a topic about which you are passionate. Write an article on LinkedIn Pulse and add it to your profile. Do more than add a “Like” to posts in your LinkedIn news feed. Instead, respectfully, add some meaningful thoughts in the comments section of higher-profile posts. It’s your voice. You have value and deserve to be heard.
#2: Change your relationship with other people
The obvious extension of Dr. Seelig’s second principle to the job search process is networking. But that would be too easy. I have discussed at length, in previous articles, how networking is the key to your job search process and your ticket into the hidden job market. In her Ted Talk, Dr. Seelig says that you increase your luck by showing appreciation for those who help you. To not do so is a lost opportunity and a downward draft on your luck meter. Truer words have never been spoken about the job search process. Networking is not a one-way street. You build the most effective job search professional network when you give as much as you get from the network. In one of my favorite books on networking, The 20-Minute Networking Meeting, Nathan Perez and Maria Ballinger teach you to end every networking meeting with one critical question. How can I help you? Ask that single question, mean it, and follow through on the promise to add some real luck to your network and your job search.
#3: Change your relationship with ideas
In the TED Talk, you increase your luck by searching for the value in all ideas, good or bad. In the job search process, you are selling, and the interview phase is the final step in the sales process. What if you brought a set of ideas to the interview? Would that increase your luck? I believe the answer is yes but how to do so requires a new interview technique that I call the 90 Day Plan. Develop a 30-60-90-day plan (i.e., a set of your ideas) that is specific to the open job posting. Research and networking with current company employees and team members can help supplement the information needed to build a comprehensive plan. Plan to bring a printed version of the document (2 copies) with you to the interview to share with the hiring manager. The timing of when to introduce your ideas in the interview takes judgment and practice. For example, you may use it as part of your answer when asked a question like: “Tell me why you are the best candidate for the position?”. You can always use the 30-60-90-day plan as a part of your close to reinforce how well prepared you are to take on and succeed in the position. An excellent additional reference article on the development of a 30-60-90 day plan can be found here.
Focus on these three strategies, and I believe you will grow your luck quotient in the job search process. It takes work, but if done correctly, you can make your own luck and land a great job. I will close out this article with a quote on luck from a gentleman slightly more gifted with the written word than myself. With a little “luck,” it also applies to today’s article!
“For a long time now, I have tried simply to write
the best I can. Sometimes I have good luck
and write better than I can.” – Ernest Hemingway
If you like getting your job search advice served up with an authentic voice, a dose of humility, and some popular culture, please subscribe to my AdvantEdge blog.
Dan Troup is the Managing Director of the AdvantEdge Careers coaching service. If you are interested in learning more about how a job search expert and certified career coach can assist you, please contact AdvantEdge Careers for a free initial consultation.