Wednesday, April 6, 2016

How to Create Career Serendipity

Visual representation of Lars' talk, courtesy of Morgan Mercer

As a first year Masters of Public Policy student at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, I accept all the networking and job search help that I can get. Recently Lars Leafblad, co-founder of ballinger | leafblad, came to the Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center’s “Theory to Practice” event to discuss nonprofit job seeking. Lars encouraged us to “work to accelerate serendipity” in our job seeking process. I love this idea. Serendipity means: the occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way. As it turns out, we do not have to leave our career to chance.

Throughout his presentation I was reminded that professional sounding words like “networking” often come down to human-based skills - like empathy and reciprocity – in reality. We should not see a job search as a short term task, but rather conduct our career in the preparation for happy or beneficial opportunities, by viewing a job search as a long term and coordinated effort. We can share helpful tips and articles on LinkedIn, create a job seeking advice group, and talk with others in our field in a genuine and relationship-building way. The more we connect with colleagues and follow through on offers to help others, the more we present ourselves as the kind of person someone may want to work with, or hire, someday.

The reality is: this just makes sense. Lars highlighted that an interviewer is looking for both warmth (being engaged, thoughtful) as well as competence. We should ask good questions, such as what this position is intended to fix, start, or create. We spend a lot of time at the office, and would certainly want to work with someone both warm and competent.

This event with Lars reinforced the notion that both my technical skills and competence in the policy field, as well as long-term relationship building, are legitimate goals in my future career. The more we pursue both ends, the more serendipitous career events may enfold, and we will leave less to chance.

By: Lauren Walker
Lauren Walker is a first year MPP candidate at the Humphrey School studying Global Policy. She also works for the Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center as the Gross Family Fellow. She studies the intersection of global policy and policy analysis, and hopes to increase communication between policy makers and effective programs in her future career. She previously worked as a Regional Organizer for International Justice Mission in the Midwest.

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