When Good Luck is Bad for Your Career

EPSON scanner imageIn the first grade, I wore cat eyeglasses and an eye patch, had chipped buckteeth and a pixie haircut with cowlicks. And in the first grade, I wanted to model when I grew up. Buckteeth and an eye patch, and I was certain Vogue Covers were in my future! Sorry, I have no pictures of me with the eye patch; my mother would not allow it. Yet, had a Vogue Cover ever happen, I’m pretty sure luck would have been the reason, not my six-year-old self’s confidence. Or should I say delusions?

Women often attribute their success to luck and so do others. Sure luck plays into all of our lives. As Oprah says, “I believe luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn’t been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn’t have been ‘lucky.'” She’s not the first to have this opinion. The philosopher Seneca is attributed with originating it. Yet somehow, many women forget that preparation part of luck.

Perhaps one of the reasons some people credit luck instead of their ability and preparation is because they know about their missteps along the way. The stories are pretty common: the entrepreneur who opened three businesses before the fourth one succeeds; the start-up that triumphs with its third product, not it’s first; and Oscar winners who went to hundreds of auditions before getting the first small bit part. In a recent study on corporate innovation the “only thing that correlated definitively with consistently successful innovation was the amount of times a company tried.” That’s a nice way of saying the successful innovative companies fail multiple times for each achievement.

“Won’t employers expect the same if I put specific results on my resume? I don’t know if I will be that lucky again.” I paused for a moment the first time I heard a client say such a thing. By now, I’m used to it. I hear versions of this all the time.   The problem is that employers hire known entities. You can establish yourself as known by giving specific examples of results. Sure, future employers will expect you to accomplish similar results for them. They really don’t care if you luck into them; white knuckle your way to them; or calmly and steadily progress to them. Employers want results and candidates need to sell they can bring results. So if luck is keeping you from owning your achievements then luck is also keeping you from progressing in your career.   Try letting education, training, ability, experience, talent, and determination join luck as reasons you triumphed. That mindset will help you succeed even more.