24 May

Planned Happenstance

by Jaysa Toet in Recruitment 0 comments

Have you ever looked back and realized you were in right place at the right time because of a specific decision and something good came of it? Think about that situation and the strategy or end goal involved with your choice.  There are times in your career where one intentionally planned event or decision can have a significant impact on changing your path. Whether you are deciding how to spend your free time, determining, “what you want to be when you grow up” or refining your skills in a dream job, strategic career development can be your key to future success. Planned Happenstance (I’ll call it PHS for short) is a career development theory based on the concept that consciously generating actions with an element of uncertainty behind them could lead to opportunity.

Planned Happenstance is essentially the critical combination of being in the right place at the right time but also having the right skill set. As Krumboltz said “skills enable people to seize the opportunity”.

Here’s a simple example to help solidify PHS:

My friend’s husband (we’ll call him Tom) got a new job with a company earlier last year. Tom was trying to decide whether or not to go to the company Christmas party because he was new and didn’t know many people but his wife encouraged him so he made a last minute decision to go anyway. My friend and I had gotten together for coffee and the topic of Planned Happenstance came up. I explained it to her and how it might apply to her life and her husband’s situation especially with something like deciding to go to the party and meet people. Less than a week later, I received a text from her saying “that PHS thing happened to Tom!” It turns out because of going to the company dinner, he sat with the owner of the company and conversations resulted in him being considered for a promotion.. which he got!

“Success occurs when opportunity meets preparation”

PHS can be very simple. Tom could have taken many paths when he made his first decision to take this new job, but he decided to act in a way that generated a higher frequency of beneficial chance (as Krumboltz would say). Combined with his skill set, this action created the serendipity needed to get him to his next career step. So what do you need to know to make PHS work for you? Between Krumboltz and I, here are some thoughts to action in your own career advancement through PHS:

  • To make PHS happen for you a little encouragement from those around you goes along wayopportunity-cost but you also need to have a healthy dose of: curiosity, persistence, flexibility, optimism and risk-taking. All of these skills will allow you to harness opportunities (Krumboltz).
  • Sometimes PHS will be engrained in you; other times you need to be more conscious about it especially if trying new things, getting involved, or going to events are not your forte or favourite. Be self-aware about your talents or things you would like to explore so that you can embrace opportunities or gain new skills so that when opportunities are presented you are ready.
  • Remember that results from PHS are not always immediate, sometimes you need to play the long game but that’s why multiple strategies for harnessing PHS are helpful.
  • What are specific strategies you can try?Look for opportunties for professional development such as further education/designations, joining an association in your industry; attending conferences, training programs and events etc.
    • Schedule informational interviews with people in roles or organizations that interest you
    • Network often as part of an active PHS strategy
    • Low hanging fruit like creating a LinkedIn profile is helpful for a more passive PHS strategy
    • Try a new hobby to mix things up
    • And last but certainly not least, find ways to give back and get involved. For individuals in Manitoba, Volunteer Manitoba has a great listing of opportunities to explore

I’ve seen Planned Happenstance work in my own career life so hopefully you find this blog helpful and PHS becomes part of your thought process. Feel free to leave me a comment below on your thoughts and experiences.

Jaysa is a Partner at Acuity HR where she leads the Recruitment division. For more information on Jaysa or Acuity HR Solutions visit 

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