The serendipitous career move

    August 19, 2003

I’m always fascinated when people tell me about a career change that — sometimes literally — falls into their laps.

Recently I’ve even seen research suggesting that change happens without conscious planning, more often than we know.

My neighbor “Ed” found his career, he says, when he literally fell from the choir loft into the church organ. He was so fascinated by the repairs that the specialist invited him to work in his shop. Through high school, Ed did small chores and later graduated to apprentice repair. Now he owns a firm that repairs church organs all over the region

According to a story from long ago, the California Highway Patrol stopped a man for speeding. Noting that he handled the car exceptionally well at high speeds, they suggested he apply to the CHP. Now he can drive ninety miles an hour all day long.

In her book Fighting Fire, Caroline Paul recalls the man who came up to her in the gym, complimented her strength, and handed her a Fire Department recruiting pamphlet. Caroline, a Stanford graduate who had majored in fine arts, went on to become one of the first women fire fighters in San Francisco.

Three Dog Bakery was formed when a dog refused to eat. The vet suggested, “Why don’t you cook for her?” The dog’s owner had no idea where to begin. He modified a cookie recipe and the dog wolfed it down. That was the beginning of an empire.

I’m trying to collect more serendipity stories, but people who fall into careers they love do not read self-help books or call career coaches. I suspect we all hear many messages. A professor says to a student, “You have a knack for this subject and you should major in it.” A neighbor says, “You ought to consider making a career out of your talent.” And the conversation is forgotten half an hour later.

Messages are rarely presented as advice. They are invitations. If you say “no” or don’t open the envelope, they’ll just go away quietly. Meanwhile, you struggle with a career you’ve outgrown, or you try to live up to someone else’s dream.

I urge clients to be open to invitations — not advice. As you open your intuition and become focused on what you want, you’ll find yourself attracting more invitations. Stuck? Stop pounding on the door of career change, ring the bell gently and wait to see what unfolds.

Cathy Goodwin, Ph.D., is an author, speaker and career/business consultant. Your Next Move Ezine: Read one each week and watch your choices grow!