What’s Luck Got to Do With It?

Posted by Lindsay Dubbeldee on 3/17/20 10:01 AM
Lindsay Dubbeldee
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3 Ways to Improve Your Luck in Your Job Search

Whats Luck Got Do Do With It

Several years ago, a psychology professor named Richard Wiseman launched a lengthy study of “lucky people.” Why do some people seem to fare better, succeed more often, win bigger than others? While many of us may shrug these things away as “dumb luck,” or being “born lucky,” Wiseman wanted to discover if “lucky people” actually share habits, attitudes, or other characteristics that lead to their good fortune and if they did, whether luck is something that we can create or build for ourselves.

Well, if you are job hunting, today is your lucky day, because according to Wiseman, there are a number of things that people can do – that you can do to “be more lucky.” We have compiled a list of our favorites for you here. (We haven’t included any charms, four-leaf clovers, or horse shoes but if those things make you feel more lucky, by all means, add them to your list.)

1. "Lucky" People Notice Unexpected Possibilities – and are Open to Them

One of Wiseman’s experiments involved two groups of people: those who had experienced many lucky events in their lives and believed they were “lucky” and those who saw themselves as “unlucky” for the opposite reasons. Members of each group were asked to given the seemingly mindless task of counting the number of photographs in a newspaper. “Unlucky” people took substantially longer to complete the task than their “lucky” counterparts. Here’s why: on the third page, there was a large print box – right next to a photograph – that said, “Stop counting, there are 43 photographs in this newspaper.” The “unlucky” people sailed right past that note and continued counting. But the “lucky” ones were willing to divert that extra moment of their attention to the big clue.

What This Means in a Job Search

So often we are told that, if we maintain a steely-eyed focus on our number one goal, we are more likely to succeed. But “lucky” people tend to see and approach their priorities differently. Yes, they pursue their goals with vigor – but not with tunnel vision. Instead, these individuals remain curious, attentive, and aware of new opportunities as they emerge. They’re capable of shifting gears because they’re capable of taking in new information and acting on it.

I see this phenomenon play out for candidates more often than you might think. Let’s say you’ve been working with a recruiter as a candidate for a CFO position at a company you admire – and you didn’t get the job. What happens when that recruiter reaches out and says the employer thinks you’d be perfect in one of their line management roles? Unlucky candidates dismiss the call. After all, they’re aiming for CFO. But lucky candidates want to hear all about the role. It really might be an unexpected, “just perfect” opportunity.

2. "Lucky" People See the Best Possible Outcomes – Even During Times of Disappointment

Wiseman asked his study participants to imagine themselves in a specific, distressing scenario that ended with them having a badly injured arm. They were then asked to describe whether, in that scenario, they had been lucky or unlucky. “Unlucky” participants said they were, indeed, unlucky. The “lucky ones, however, seemed to instantly perceive their good luck because, after all, it could have been worse. Wiseman described these differences as the ability to not only see the good in most situations – but, importantly, to build on the good, using it as a foundation for building success.

What This Means in a Job Search

This is about resilience. Job hunting has its ups and downs. Not every employer is going to start doing cartwheels when you walk into the interview. Not every job is going to pay you, title you, or otherwise reward and nurture you in the ways you need. There will be disappointments. Candidates who stay at the top of my call list are the ones who demonstrate resilience after defeat. They show me – and employers – that they believe in themselves, they believe the right opportunity is going to come along, and they’re optimistic about their abilities to do well. Every time you can see the good in a disappointing outcome, you’re actively increasing your own luck – because you’re building and exuding a kind of resilience that attracts employers, recruiters, and other influencers in your network. That, in turn, drives more “lucky” opportunities your way.

3. "Lucky" People Listen to Their Intuition

Wiseman says that “lucky” people believe in their own instincts – or intuition – when making decisions. If that sounds a little too woo-woo to you, consider this: scientists have been discovering that intuition isn’t so much irrational as it is misunderstood. People who trust their gut are actually processing data. But they’re doing it differently. Intuition is an ability to rapidly recognize and take in information from multiple sources and quickly come to an opinion – or a “feeling” – about whether it adds up to say “good idea” or “bad idea.”

What This Means in a Job Search

One of the worst de-railers in a job search is getting locked into one idea of what the ideal opportunity looks like. “Good on paper” might be the perfect fit, but sometimes, good on paper (the job title, the comp, the employer reputation, the benefits) is simply distracting you from other, equally important, considerations. Lucky candidates pay attention to all of the data. During your office tour, did everyone seem disengaged, worn out, unwelcoming? That doesn’t mean you should turn down the job. But if you’ve fine-tuned your intuition, you’ll see it as a flashing caution light, telling you to slow down and seek additional information about the work environment, the current management, other factors before you say yes or take a pass.


If you're in the job market, and ready to try your luck on our job board, click away. We'd love to see your application.

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