Out of work? Looking for a new career? Then start seeing opportunities.
I just read about a fascinating experiment by psychology professor and bestselling British author Richard Wiseman, author of The Luck Factor: The Four Essential Principles
He wanted to see if people who had lucky lives and those who were unlucky responded differently to unexpected opportunity.
He put ads asking for people to respond who considered themselves exceptionally lucky or unlucky. He wound up with 400 people over the years from 18 to 84 from all walks of life. The lucky had stories about lucky meetings with famous people, like Warren Buffet, that changed their lives or chance encounters that led to their marriages. The unlucky told about disasters like their planes being struck by lightning.
Yet through it all, Wiseman wondered if the lucky were DOING something differently from those who were unlucky. In other words, they didn’t just have luck happen to them, they did things that led to luck ”… Although lucky and unlucky people have almost no insight into the real causes of their good and bad luck, their thoughts and behavior are responsible for much of their fortune,” in Wiseman’s view according to an article he wrote about his experiment in The Skeptical Inquirer.
One factor was seeing more opportunities than others.
In an experiment, Wiseman gave volunteers a newspaper and asked them to count the number of photographs. But inside the newspaper were unexpected opportunities—on page two he had a half page notice in 2-inch high type (hardly difficult to find), saying “stop counting—there are 43 photographs in the newspaper.” The self-defined lucky people tended to find it, while the unlucky ones tended to miss it. Then, later in the paper there was another big announcement that said they should stop counting and tell the observer that they had seen this announcement to win $250.
You’d think that would get someone’s attention. But not for the unlucky souls.
Wiseman concluded from this and other tests and experiments that the lucky people aren’t so focused on a single objective (like counting photos) so they can notice new and unexpected opportunities. It’s the opposite of what we are usually told about getting ahead and certainly getting a job in a tough market.
His personality tests also showed that the unlucky were more anxious and tense. Again, if you are in a job hunt or are desperate for a career change you are likely to have increased tension and anxiety as you do your job searching or career idea seeking activities. As Wiseman writes, lucky people “look through newspapers determined to find certain type of job advertisements and as a result miss other types of jobs. Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there rather than just what they are looking for.”
The good news–Wiseman found he could help people understand this and 3 other factors, and that people understanding this led to improved luck.
In this case, the lesson is very clear for career changers and jobseekers (and everyone else, too). It’s not to be distracted and unfocused. But it’s also not about always concentrating on opportunities and goals. Instead it’s about staying relaxed and open ,being willing and confident enough that what you are doing will produce something good—though your idea of what that is may be only one good outcome.
It’s not in his research, but from experience, I’d suggest it’s also about gently holding an intention in mind—for instance, to find out something that will help you with a career choice or to find a great job opening. That intention doesn’t mean you are constantly waiting for every chance to hand out a business card or ask about career opportunities. Instead, it just prepares your mind to hear and see when the equivalent of the ad for the $250 prize shows up even though you are looking for photographs.