“I know what you are thinking: “Did he fire six shots or five?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement, I’ve kinda lost track myself. But being this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world, and would blow your head clean off, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: ‘Do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?” – Clint Eastwood, “Dirty Harry” (1971)
Do you feel lucky? Have you ever thought about what “luck” is or why you feel lucky or worse, unlucky? As the quote from the movie “Dirty Harry” above highlights, the details count and the risks of success or failure are important to consider when assessing how lucky you feel. If only the criminal in this movie had bothered to count how many bullets were fired, he could make a better decision. You’ll have to watch the movie if you haven’t seen it to find out how that goes for him.
But this time not about the movie. I fly through Las Vegas regularly as I have a home just North in Utah. Many people talk about “luck” in gambling and how they had a “lucky” day. But if you are casino, you know the win rates for every game you have on the floor of the casino and you know over time how the games will perform. What feels like “luck” to the gambler, is literally just the odds of winning the game playing out for that individual – a predictable business outcome for profit at the casino.
Can you make yourself luckier?
As Forest Gump’s momma used to say “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get”.
It is absolutely true that you can not predict what will be inside that next chocolate, but you know it is going to have chocolate and you can even see if it is milk or dark chocolate. You also know, that there will not be a banana, bicycle, or pair of socks in the box of chocolates. And with some quick research on the internet, I’d expect you could get a list of what kinds of chocolates that company makes, if it is not already listed on the back or inside of the box of chocolates. One you have done this quick research, you can quickly determine your odds of picking your favorite candy milk chocolate coconut. And you can even just by looking at the box of chocolates and by picking milk chocolate candies, become “luckier”.
Similarly, when looking for that next opportunity, you can increase your “luck” in getting that next job.
Luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity
In order to increase your odds, in my humble opinion, of getting the next job you want, you need to have a plan (check my previous blog). You also need to be in a position to become more “lucky”. So, what are “the rules”?
1. Understand the game you are playing
Whether you are playing poker, black jack, or craps each game has rules and strategies on how to increase your odds of winning. There are countless books on how you can increase your chances of success in the job market. If you are a new student from graduate school getting your first job, your game plan might be to intern at a few companies of interest before you graduate or do some volunteer work at the hospital if you are going to medical school to become a doctor. You would probably hit some job fairs at school and figure out who you or your parents may know that could help you get a job in a particular firm. The size of your “opportunity landscape” as I like to call it, or that box of chocolates, will be much bigger than perhaps later in your career. Back in the day, I could have tried to be an astronaut, a Navy SEAL, or a brain surgeon – today the likelihood of my doing any of these, let alone successfully, is zero or close to zero.
Based on your career plan you will know what are the next 3-5 jobs you would like to do and they may be a mix of jobs at CSC and elsewhere outside of CSC. Your game will involve working to be the best candidate internally for those next jobs you want inside CSC and how to strengthen your position as a candidate for jobs outside of CSC.
Within this smaller box of chocolates (these next 3-5 jobs you are looking at now), there may be one that is best for you. Whatever your game is, there will be “rules” that you need to understand to play the game best.
2. Find out rules of the game
(a) You should be competent in the skills needed to do the job
Every role in a company will have competencies that are required to do that job. Sometimes these are published, but you can certainly tell what these are based on the job announcements that come out for these jobs. If you have a career plan, you will know the next couple of jobs you are interested in doing. Look at the job announcements or the companies published competencies for that role and compare it to your resume. Any gaps equal your individual development plan.
I suggest to look a few jobs ahead, so two or three promotions from now. This will give you more time to actively develop the skills you need for that longer term role. You may need to learn more JAVA for the next role, but you may need an MBA to be considered for that job aspiration two jobs from now, and that takes time to get done. The more prepared you are, the more “lucky” you will be when those opportunities present themselves.
(b) Be transparent
Your boss should know your career aspirations. If he does, he can ensure your career development plan and remember you for that special project that comes up. Modest honesty is the key here as you may have a different view of your readiness for that next role than your boss does. If there is a gap, ask your boss what they think you need to work on regarding your skills. The more people understand your career aspirations, the more they will think about you when an opportunity presents itself. And with more opportunities, comes more luck.
(c) Be ready to move
Be valuable in your role, but don’t become invaluable. Many people, especially in today’s very competitive job market, are protective of the information they have, how they do their work, and are reluctant to share and teach skills to their counter parts in an organization. It makes sense, you want to protect your current job and be “invaluable” to the company.
That being said, if there is only one person who can do your job (which at the end of the day is never completely true), then you are irreplaceable and can’t move to that promotion. To enable your mobility, you need a successor who can do your job well. You should be developing internal and external candidates to take your job when you get that call about a new opportunity.
Surprisingly, most people do not think this way and end up shooting themselves in the foot. If you make it too hard to be replaced, then you won’t be considered for that next gig.
3. Think about strategy of the game
Just like a good soccer (football for the Europeans) game, you need a good offense and defense and a game strategy to get you that job offer.
Looking at your plan and the roles you are interested in, you now need a strategy to execute your plan. This is the moment when you need to think about not only your career, but your life. What does your spouse think of moving to another city or country? How is the health of your parents? Is there a baby on the way?
At the end of the day, when you are done with work, the rest of your life can significantly impact what you do at this particular moment. Your compass heading towards that ultimate job (more details – in my previous blog), will give you that heading to follow. You may need to slow or accelerate your career plans, you may need to exclude a particular path on your career plan for now, or you may have a very big gap in your next job’s ambitions and your current experience.
Based on this broader view, you can now line up your current strategy. Will you get that MBA now or wait for your little girl to be born or a bit older? Do you love the company you are in or is it time to perhaps explore other opportunities outside of the company?
To sum up, you just need a plan for game and a strategy to execute it. Prepare yourself and the environment to allow you to move to that next role. Also, take control of what you can create for more opportunities that are in line with your preparation, and surprise, surprise – you are luckier!
Keep charging, stay healthy, and GOOD LUCK!