Ever heard about “planned happenstance”? It’s about always getting yourself ready for unexpected opportunities coming to your life, because unplanned events could lead to good careers. My whole career path until now has been all about seizing unexpected opportunities, even when I already had a plan.
Are you worried that you do not know what you want to do after graduation? Scared that you may pick the wrong job offer and have to stick with it for your whole career? You may want to read my story.
What were my plans before becoming a career adviser?
I’m a Vietnamese careers adviser who graduated seven years ago with a Banking and Finance degree. I planned to get a job as a financial analyst, but my first job was about organising events and project management – coincidentally two terms that technically described my university life. I was in charge of sales and marketing in a trade promotional exhibitions company. One year later, when I decided to come back to the banking industry, I planned to get a sales position which was not my preferred choice, but the most appropriate option at that time. I had sales skills and experience, a network with potential clients from my previous job and a relevant degree.
Guess what? I got a job in an international bank, not a front-office position, but the Business Operational Risk Management Assistant/ Administrator/ Personal Assistant for the Deputy General Director in charge of Financial Markets. The job perfectly matched my needs at that moment, including a professional working environment, a multinational corporation, a higher salary and a good fit for my personality. I also had a chance to continue my interest in organising events by participating in the bank’s charity project, contributing to several successful fundraising events. I should have felt happy.
After being satisfied for one year, I realised I wasn’t interested in developing a long-term career in banking and administration and started to consider a career change. At that point however, I still didn’t even know that my desired job even existed in the labour market.
I was lost. I had experienced several roles and areas but was not really a specialist in any, I wasn’t sure what I was good at. This is what I did to find the unknown answers.
- I attended workshops and inspiring talk shows of successful people in their careers.
- I registered for short courses which were relevant to what I thought I was good at, i.e. a one-day interpreting/ translating training.
- I reached out not-for-profit organisations to find volunteering opportunities where I could use my strengths and meet new people with the same interests.
- I read books (I had rarely found the patience to finish a book)
The result? I found a book that changed my life in one of the training events, ’18 Minutes: Find Your Focus, Master Distraction and Get the Right Things Done’ by Peter Bregman. The specific message that opened my mind was that I should earn a living from what I could do continuously and repeatedly without getting bored.
I reflected on the new things and learned from the experience…
Not all the aforementioned activities gave me the outcomes that I expected. As I selected them with consideration, instead of being disappointed, I reflected on all of these experiences and added them into my decision-making ‘kit’.
Reflecting on Bregman’s message, I started talking to people and loved listening to career stories to learn about different jobs and how people grow in their careers. It reminded me about a period of unemployment before my first job and my job search strategy which helped me get the banking job. I realised that I had helped people in preparing job applications and I checked recruitment news which really interested me as leisure Human Resource Management came to my mind!
I took action based on what I had learned & got ready for ‘unexpected’ opportunities…
I clarified my curiosity and confirmed my interest by studying an intensive Human Resource Management course in four months. I gained fundamental knowledge as well as socialised with lecturers and classmates in the field. Afterwards, I confirmed my interest in a similar job to recruitment work. Instead of serving employers, I preferred supporting people to find suitable jobs, using my employability skills and HR knowledge.
At this point, I had a clear description of my desired job, a recruitment job in either an internal HR department or an external recruitment agency.
Lucky me! Before I found the job I had envisaged, a job advertisement found me, Student Experience Executive for Career Services of the British University,Vietnam. Unexpectedly, all the skills and knowledge gained (whilst organising events, in administration, in banking and finance, during my university life, my period of unemployment and even my leisure time) were the critical points helping me get this job.
Keep moving forward and widen your horizons…
All my career decisions so far have not exactly followed my career plan. Sometimes, the wrong train takes you to the right station. We only make decisions based on where we are, what we have known, and how our environment shapes our perception. That’s why the wrong train may take us to new horizons where we have never imagined. This is when we should embrace uncertainty and unexpectedness.
The more I work in this field and interact with new people, the more things I realise that I need to learn. I’m on my way enhancing my professional knowledge and skills, meanwhile re-identifying the particular path I want to develop in career guidance.
If you ask me whether I am satisfied with my career, my answer would be yes and no. On the one hand, I feel happy and satisfied as I am doing what I am good at and what I love. On the other hand, at any point in my career that I find myself satisfied, I find new challenges to conquer and improve myself. Am I overwhelmed? Yes, but I am enjoying the uncertainty and expecting new, unexpected things to come.