A Great Career Requires More Than Luck

Are you waiting for a lucky break in order to jump-start your career? Sure, it would be nice to receive a phone call out of the blue recruiting you for your dream job, but chances are that won’t happen. Therefore, it is up to you build the career you want.

Positivity, preparation, and recognizing and acting on great opportunities is the real formula for getting your lucky break. As Seneca famously said, “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” If you work hard to build the career you want, others may think you are just lucky, but you will know the truth — you have to be the one to ignite changes.

A favorite organization of mine is the nonprofit 80,000 Hours. They are a group dedicated to helping people find the best way to have a high social impact with their careers, and therefore a greater sense of fulfillment. Through hard data and research, 80,000 Hours has flagged five components they have found lead to the greatest satisfaction with work.

1. Work that engages you: The type of work that engages you may evolve, or it may stay the same for a lifetime. This doesn’t matter so long as you make it a priority to always be involved with something you find truly appealing. Engaging work is the most individual component and requires really knowing yourself.

2. Work that helps others: Helping others can be subjective, but as long as you believe you are accomplishing this in some way, it will make a difference in your level of job satisfaction.

3. Work you’re good at: It is necessary to feel as though you are using your strengths and talents in a field that compels you to continue to learn and grow. Otherwise, it can lead to feelings of frustration or uselessness.

4. Working with people you like: You may like your colleagues for a wide variety of reasons — perhaps they are intelligent, fun, nurturing, ambitious. Your reasons for wanting to be around them don’t matter as long as you enjoy spending your time in their company.

5. Work that meets your basic needs: Basic requirements, such as an acceptable salary, decent hours, and reasonable commute, are important to feel your work is worthwhile.

All five of these criteria can be controlled to some degree by the decisions we make. Although change is always difficult, making the necessary adjustments is a challenge worth taking.

When I personally look back at my corporate career, components 3, 4, and 5 were intact, but the work was not consistently engaging and I didn’t feel as though I was really helping anyone. Despite some of the job satisfaction factors being present, the two that were most important to me were missing. This led to a career that ultimately felt unfulfilling and compelled my need for a change. On the other hand, many entrepreneurs may feel as though they have components 1 through 4 covered, but their self-employment at times is not meeting their basic needs. This too requires an adjustment, as one must still be able to pay rent and eat.

Although not fully exhaustive of everything a person may want out of a career, using a list like this will help highlight any underlying issues with your own employment. It’s interesting to weigh the various components for yourself, as they do not all carry the same value and importance for each individual. What they do, however, is call attention to key forces that actively control the trajectory of your professional life. If you take the reins and steer your own career, in the end you may feel as though you did get your lucky break after all.

Michelle M. Perkins is a member of the DailyWorth Connect program. Read more about the program here.