How to Create Lucky Breaks to Advance Your Career
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8 Ways to Get Lucky Breaks to Advance Your Career
Have you ever wondered how some people got so lucky?
Have you ever asked yourself, “How come they got that exciting opportunity?”, or “What did they do to get that promotion?”, or “Why them and not me?”
Well, more likely than not, it’s because they took advantage of pivotal moments.
Pivotal moments are opportunities for key people to see you in action. They’re times when what you do or don’t do, what you say or don’t say, can make a fundamental difference to your career trajectory.
Looking back on your career so far, what turning points do you see? What were the moments when your actions or decisions changed the path you were on?
Pivotal Moments Are All Around You
It’s easy to miss Pivotal Moments without even knowing. Like letting a whole day go by without connecting with someone you’ve lost touch with because you simply didn’t even think of it as an option. Was there something you could have helped them with or a relationship you could have strengthened?
Or ignoring the anonymous colleague you bump into regularly at the coffee machine to rush back to your desk. Could they be the connection to your next sponsor?
Or not showing up at the event you paid to attend because you have so much work to do. Might you have landed a new client or opportunity?
Pivotal Moments are often easier to see in hindsight. That’s one of the reasons we agonize about the things we should have done or shouldn’t have said when it’s too late.
The reality is there are potential Pivotal Moments all around you every day. You just have to venture forth and capture them. Any of them could lead to your “lucky breaks” – the ones that help you advance in your career farther, faster and potentially in a different direction that you never knew existed.
As the saying goes, “better lucky than smart”, so those lucky breaks are to be treasured.
Pivotal Moments in My Career
These are some examples of Pivotal Moments in my own career:
- Saying no to an opportunity to work in the highest-paid, most prestigious group in our division at the time (derivatives structuring) in order to take on a less impressive role, but one that suited my strengths much better (covering clients). This allowed me to shine, which led to…
- Taking the opportunity to transfer to London to start a new client coverage business for my employer, even though this meant uprooting my husband and our three young daughters from a very happy life in New York. We loved London so much that we still live here and I ultimately became European COO for the company.
- Saying yes to participating on a panel even though it would be a three-hour drive round trip and staying in a makeshift dorm room overnight. This turned out to be an opportunity to work for the President of the most innovative university in the US.
- Being the first in the audience to raise my hand and ask the question after a keynote speech, even though I was really nervous. This led to the opportunity to have a one-on-one meeting with the CEO of one of the top 10 corporations in the world. (The CEO was the speaker.)
Each of these actions and decisions led to outcomes I hadn’t expected or planned for when I took them. In fact, they had a much bigger impact on my life and career than the seemingly ordinary things that I did to set them in motion.
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8 Ways to Get Lucky Breaks to Advance Your Career
How to Create Your Own “Lucky Breaks”
The good news is you don’t have to wait for “lucky breaks” to come around. You can start creating them yourself by capturing more of those Pivotal Moments.
Here are three ways to start creating Pivotal Moments and “lucky breaks” in your career.
Show up at different places
No one gets the opportunity of a lifetime sitting at their desk all day long. And as a friend of mine likes to say, “motivation follows action, not the other way around”. So get into action! Show up at different places than your norm… even if you don’t feel like it.
If you spend 12 hours a day unhappily grinding away at a list of tasks that just keeps getting longer, challenge yourself to step back and look for a better way to approach what you’re doing. And as you do that, make sure you’re freeing up time and mind space for showing up in new circles and new situations.
Showing up is the first step to creating lucky breaks.
Where are you showing up now and where do you want to show up going forward? How do you want to change things up?
Come from a place of wonder and curiosity
When you show up, you want to do it as your best self. Coming from a place of wonder and curiosity makes it easier to show up as the most delightful version of you because it’s about being other-focused, not self-focused.
Instead of falling into the rut of being preoccupied with your own challenges and aspirations, you’ll be that refreshing person who’s more interested in the person you’re talking to. That will set you apart and make you instantly amazing to others!
A great way to do this is to ask questions, especially open-ended ones. Then, listen to their answers as though they are the most important person in the world at that moment. Resist the urge to judge and instead appreciate what’s special about them.
If you’re unhappy at work or in life, coming from a place of wonder and curiosity is essential. I find that lucky breaks are far more likely to occur when you’re fully in the moment and appreciating others around you. Being interested in the world around you brings out your positive energy, so don’t let your worries or dissatisfaction determine the vibe you give off.
Be open to good luck
Being open doesn’t mean going around seeking or expecting lucky breaks. It’s more about allowing lucky breaks into your life and seeing the opportunity rather than the challenge.
As a serial entrepreneur I know says to himself every morning, “today could be the day I meet the person who will fund my new venture.” This is his way of remaining open and optimistic.
In your case, it could be “today could be the day I meet the person who will become my best client, be my sponsor, or help my daughter get a new job”.
Lucky breaks don’t always come with a name tag or flashing neon sign. Sometimes, you have to follow up a few steps before it becomes apparent. And it could be a multi-step process. The connection you make could be the connection that leads to the connection, or the stepping stone that leads to advancing your career and landing your dream job.
When you learn to recognize a potential Pivotal Moment, you’ll be far more likely to be able to seize it. And that makes it easier to create those moments by putting yourself in a position to have more lucky breaks.
The key is to be open and stay open to what emerges.
By the way, that London transfer was a lucky break that I almost missed out on. When my boss’s boss asked me if I wanted the new role, I said no. After all, my husband had a job and our third child wasn’t even a year old. I only reconsidered it when I told my husband that I’d turned the offer down and he asked, “Why don’t you go back and at least find out what it is before we decide?”
In the end, it turned out to be a great move for the entire family (our children are now global citizens) as well as for my career (I ended up becoming COO for the firm’s European business). And we still live here 20 years later.
Start Creating Your Own “Lucky Breaks”
Whether you’re having an amazing career, feeling stuck or something in between, Pivotal Moments are key to maintaining and gaining momentum. The good news is they’re all around you.
Once you start noticing, you’ll be able to take advantage of them and even create those lucky breaks to advance your career.
So be on the lookout for those Pivotal Moments when what you do or don’t do, and what you say or don’t say, can make a fundamental difference to your career path. Then, seize them and create more to maintain and gain the momentum you need in your career.
Which of these steps would most help you create more lucky breaks to advance your career?
Leave a comment and let me know.
Very insightful article and quite timely too I must say. I am passing through a similar phase in my career and looking to move it into growth trajectory. I enjoy reading all your articles.
Terrific that you are moving into a growth trajectory, Neeraj! Thank you for reading. I’m rooting for you!
I like your idea of intentionally seeking out new circles and situations. I need to be intentional about this. My current position does not facilitate this during the work day.
Thanks for the advice, Mary 🙂
Being intentional will serve you well, Brandi. Wishing you well for a wonderful career ahead!
My boss just went on a 3 month maternity leave yesterday. Even though we knew months ago it would be happening, I still found myself getting more anxious as it got closer. I am trying very hard to look at it as an opportunity to prove to myself, if not others, that I am up to the challenge. Not sure if this is even related to what you are saying, but as soon as I saw the post I knew it appeared today for a reason. Thank you for giving me the extra kick of motivation!
Wow, I love it when the universe sends us exactly what we need to hear (or read!).
Yes, this is a wonderful opportunity, Joanne. Enjoy it! Lean into it. And as my tennis-playing father said to me, “Swing out! You have nothing to lose and everything to play for!”
Keep breathing, and believe in yourself. You can do this!