Have you ever had a serendipidous moment in your career, where an opportunity opens up that you weren’t expecting, or a lucky break that leads to that next chapter of your career?
If so, this might be explained by The Chaos Theory of Careers which I came across recently (Pryor and Bright, 2015). The theory provides an explanation for the uniqueness of our career journey – suggesting we are complex dynamic systems made up of mind, body, our social networks and our unique histories.
Our careers rarely go in straight lines – I’ve spent quite a bit of time with pilots recently – a career flying commercial airplanes, can often stem from a long held dream, sometimes from childhood, a really clear career purpose and those who make it into the profession have had to demonstrate determination and tenacity to achieve those dreams (and some significant financial commitment). So with the arrival of the pandemic, and the subsequent 15 months where our flying habits have been dramatically curtailed, many of them find themselves either fully trained but unable to start their careers, furloughed or made redundant.
A friend has sent up an incredible venture that supports them (www.resilientpilot.com), and offers mentoring and support to help them stay current, connected with their peers and supported with their wellbeing. I’m mentoring with them, and a number of our discussions have been around re-evaluating skill sets, thinking about how to use them in a different career context and finding new meaning, purpose and worth in alternative routes to career satisfaction and personal development, if only until the industry is able to open up again. For some that’s meant a really significant pivot – some have become train drivers, others lecturers, and some delivery drivers. Indeed, some are still reflecting and just trying to sit with the discomfort that uncertainty can bring.
Reflecting on this, it is clear then that our carefully planned career outcomes are not always predicable, that life is not always fair and that the way things are, is not always the way they will be – as Pryor and Bright explain – it’s a fallacy that the unexpected will not, and should not happen – perhaps in a strange way, this is comforting.
It allows us to be open to the possibility (as they describe) of ‘planned happenstance’ – being ready for luck, as and when it taps us on the shoulder, and how the complex uniqueness that is us, may in itself be what lead us to that next life and career adventure.
(references: The Chaos Theory of Careers, Pryor & Bright, 2015)