Create your own opportunities!

by Richard Saroyan, Career Consultant

Taking the time to plan and prepare our careers is an excellent idea. An interesting twist is to plan for the unexpected. Sounds a bit ironic, right? One theory, called planned happenstance, addresses turning chance events into personal opportunities. To sum it up, planned happenstance is being aware of the many random career opportunities that pop up in our lives and taking advantage of them. You may not think they exist, but if you start to pay a little more attention to your daily life, you might be surprised at the kinds of situations that present themselves as potential career opportunities.

Let me give you an example of a chance encounter I experienced about a year ago. One day I made a trip over to the local dry cleaners near my apartment. When I walked in, the owner greeted me and as we were sorting my dry cleaning she asked me about my job. I let her know that I was a graduate student and was also an intern at San Jose State’s Career Center. Almost immediately she told me that one of her regular customers was a recently retired college career counselor. Voila! Seemingly out of nowhere, an opportunity had presented itself. I asked if she thought it would be ok to get in touch with her client. She provided me with his contact information and I was able to schedule and conduct an informational interview . As a result, I got some great information on the field and tips to land a job- some of the very tips I used to land a position here at SJSU.

In my circumstance, I already knew what I wanted to do for a career. So what about those of you that aren’t sure? These random events can serve as the catalyst to meet people in a variety of careers and learn more about they do. As you’re talking to people about their jobs, see how they relate to your interests, preferences and values.

Many times we tend to cut off great opportunities in our minds before we get the chance to explore them. Be careful of this common thought-trap. If you notice that the little voice inside of you is being a Debbie Downer, acknowledge the thought and remember that in time you can gain the experience and skills necessary for a given position. Remember, any new information you gain is helpful in figuring out your career path –you have nothing to lose. It all doesn’t have to happen at once.  Learning how to collect information and network are very important elements on your career journey.

So the next time you’re out and about, say hi and talk to the person next to you. They may be one of the keys to uncovering and landing your dream job. Remember, happenstance can happen anywhere at any time:

  • Waiting for a bus, train, subway
  • Getting coffee
  • Waiting in any type of line
  • Class, on-campus events, lectures
  • Family gatherings, reunions
  • Going to the dentist ….you get the idea!

Richard has been a career counseling intern at the SJSU Career Center for the past year. He recently completed his M.A in Counseling from Santa Clara University and was hired as a Career Consultant with the career center and the WorkAbility IV program which focuses on assisting students with disabilities. He has previously worked in marketing for the videogame industry. Richard enjoys working with students on all career related topics.


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