What Luck Really Looks Like

If you attended the 5th Annual NIH Career Symposium last Friday, you heard about how many professionals in a wide variety of industries got their job.  You probably heard more than a few panelists say they got their job by “luck.”  However, if you listened to their whole story, you would have realized that they made their own luck.  What you did not hear was a panelist say, “I worked in the lab all the time.  One day, this person that I had never seen before came into the lab and said, ‘Hey, you want this job?’” 

A common response from our panelists to the question, “How did you get into the field you are in now?” was something like the following:  “Really, I kind of got lucky.  I was volunteering with this organization…” or “I was serving on this committee…” or “I was working on this council…” all followed by “…and I started to develop these skills,” or “…and I meet this individual who worked where I now work.”  They did not sit idle waiting for providence to shine upon them.  Most of their stories share a common theme; they were out working to develop skills and gain experience doing what they wanted to do.    

Their “luck” was not random chance.  The second century Roman philosopher, Seneca, is credited with the saying, “Luck is where the crossroads of preparation and opportunity meet.”  While opportunity had to present itself, the panelists from the career symposium were doing the right things to be in the right places at the right times.  The panelists may feel “lucky” to have the jobs they have.  They enjoy what they do and they are excited by the new challenges they face.  But, they had done the work to be prepared to take advantage of that opportunity when it came.  Their word of choice may have been “luck,” but their story was one of preparation meeting opportunity.  They made their own luck.  How will you make yours?