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Is Luck a Career Factor?

Monster Members’ Share Their Stories and Insights

Is Luck a Career Factor?

You’ve probably heard the expression “you make your own luck,” and people talk about being in the right place at the right time, but what role does good fortune really play in career success?

We asked Monster members just like you, and their answers seem to indicate that while luck is indeed a career factor, hard work and dedication play important roles as well. Here are their stories.

Making Luck

One Monster member, whose Irish grandparents came to the US in 1920, talked about his view of luck:

Abraham Lincoln used to say, "The harder I work, the luckier I get." The legendary Alabama football coach Paul "Bear" Bryant used to define luck as "preparation meeting opportunity." Another coach said luck is putting yourself in position to succeed.

I guess that's what the luck of the Irish is all about. A lot of Irish immigrants, as well as people from other places, worked their fingers to the bone and succeeded.

Another Monster member said luck helped him launch his career, but hard work has helped him sustain it:

I was lucky to land the right job while still in my senior year in college. That's the best time to take advantage of luck -- in 1979. However, once you're in the real world and not in school, all luck disappears. In the real world, you are just a pawn in a world of strict rules set by the company you work for and those you wished you worked for. No more luck. If you're lucky enough to find a good job and unlucky enough to lose it later, then don't count on luck to find you another good one.

Luck is being smart enough to keep yourself valuable by staying current and ahead of the curve with your specialty. Training does not end with graduation.

The Right Place at the Right Time

Several Monster members spoke of a fortuitous encounter sparking career success. Here’s an example of how speaking up at the right time allowed one Monster member to further his career:

I originally hired on with a construction company performing the trade I had developed proficiency in. After nine months of performing the same repetitive skills, I approached the lead construction manager and told him I wanted more of a challenge. I also told him I wanted more responsibility. What I didn't tell him was that I wanted more money and the work I was doing had become boring. He said he would think about it and talk to his boss.

As luck would have it, the company was actively looking for an employee who was willing to step up to the plate to assume more responsibility. I asked at just the right time. Within three months, I was transferred to a job site as an acting assistant superintendent. I was answering phones, scheduling subcontractors, dealing with homeowner issues and ordering supplies. I also got to work rain or shine, as there was always office work to do.

I was eventually put in charge of a small job, where I was able to develop my own style of managing employees and continue learning the necessary paperwork to perform the job. After that, I was promoted to running a series of more jobs as an on-site project manager with a secretary running all work that totals into the millions of dollars. I not only got more challenges and responsibility, but I also increased my salary.

Meeting the Right People

Luck can also be about who you know and how you work your connections. This Monster member’s boss gave him some good advice about a pivotal job opportunity:

I was fortunate in 2002 to have worked for a supervisor who really liked my job performance. Unfortunately, I was terminated from that job, but fortunately he told me of a position at the company his wife worked at. I did a day of shadowing and got the job, which I stayed in for the next four-and-a-half-years. In that job, I learned a lot and worked with a good group of people. That job was my true stepping-stone with stability. I am forever thankful to my past supervisor for telling me about that job.

A Lucky Blunder

Sometimes, luck is not what you do right, but what you seemingly do wrong. Consider this Monster member’s story about missing a job “opportunity” and how he worked it to his advantage:

Back in 2003, I interviewed for a job in San Antonio with a very large firm that wanted me to get my feet wet there, move out of state and then slowly, through advancement, work my way back to Texas where my teenage boy and girl are currently living. The salary was excellent, and the benefit package was fit for a king.

I had an alternate email account that the offer was sent to. It sat there for two weeks. Needless to say, they had filled the position when I got around to business, even though I was actively looking for more work and overstressed in my underpaying job.

So did I miss my big break? Not so. My blunder inspired me to continue looking for other work. I now am working in the same town my kids are in. They are both healthy and happier that Dad didn't move off. And the job I finally landed is a dream job, with a salary that depends on my efforts.

The moral? Just because you mess up doesn't mean you are not worthy of the better job. Use it as a learning process and a stepping-stone.

Intuition Meets Opportunity

One Monster member was inspired to start looking for a new job and took a position she felt good about -- leading to career success. Here’s her story:

After falling victim to the office bully, I followed the advice of an article I read on Monster and began searching for another job. I submitted my resume to several companies, but there was one that particularly caught my attention. There was nothing significant about this ad, but I just had a feeling it was something interesting.

Interestingly, I received a phone call about two hours after I submitted my resume via email and was invited for an interview. I hit it off with the interviewer, who is now my direct supervisor, as though we had known each other for decades. I was hired on the spot for a job that absolutely suits me to a T. If I were independently wealthy, I'd do it voluntarily. I received a big pay increase, and it's closer to my home. And the office bully at my previous job? She's about to get the pink slip and is struggling to find another job.