by Charles Volkert, Esq.
Most people would agree that luck plays a role in life, including at work. While sometimes what comes to you really is just sheer luck—a happenstance occurrence that leads to a fortunate turn of events—people seen by others as “lucky” are often just more willing to embrace certain attitudes, habits and opportunities.
Here are some ways you may be able to invite more luck into your professional life:
- Demonstrate a strong work ethic
Thomas Jefferson famously pointed out the link between diligence and luck when he said, I'm a great believer in luck and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”
Although we probably all know someone who has coasted to success without seeming to work hard, this is probably the exception rather than the rule. And when promotions or salary increases are being decided, you can bet that your work ethic is one of the factors taken into consideration.
Developing a reputation as a hard worker doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be the first person in the office every day and the last to leave. Quantity doesn’t always signal quality. In fact, if you’re a fixture in the office at all times of the day and night, your colleagues may wonder about your workload management skills. It’s better to be known for performing high-quality work with apparent ease.
An anonymous person once said, “Luck is when opportunity knocks and you answer.” Responding to opportunity is one of the best ways to enhance your professional success. But recognize that it doesn’t always announce itself. It would be helpful if you could actually hear opportunity knocking, but sometimes you just have to be alert to an opening and go with your instincts.
For example, your boss might not think of you to be the lead attorney on a high-profile case that’s come in, but if you think you have the ability to take it on, ask to be considered. Sure, this will involve sticking your neck out, but it can also provide you with a forum to distinguish yourself, which can lead to even more career-
enhancing opportunities. Be prepared—and willing—to take a chance when an
opening presents itself.
Although luck is often random, it also helps to have the occasional brilliant idea or
proposal. But it’s difficult to be innovative when you’re buried in casework and
don’t have time to think outside the usual boundaries.
The most groundbreaking ideas are often the result of happenstance. In other words,
you may need to allow your mind to meander—preferably outside a work setting—
if you’re going to stumble across truly inspired ideas. Try to carve out time when
you can shift from the more logical, analytical and accuracy-oriented thinking
associated with the left brain—to more right-brain thinking modes, which focus
more on feelings, creativity and aesthetic issues.
It can help to find opportunities to interact with people or subjects that are outside
your usual operating circle. Often seemingly unrelated things—for instance, an
artistic pursuit or cultural event—might provide insights or inspiration for
resolving a legal quandary. Books and movies that stimulate fresh thinking can also
be helpful, as can any nonwork pursuit that allows your mind to roam in new
directions. The key is to allow yourself time to shift out of your usual modes of
thinking and doing.
Finally, don’t forget to be a pleasant and friendly person as you seek to take
advantage of opportunities that present themselves. Forget that old saying about
where nice people finish. Most people don’t buy it. Those who meet with success are
more likely to be individuals who are respectful and supportive of their colleagues
and clients. As you try to cultivate more career luck, don’t neglect to exhibit these
Charles A. Volkert is executive director of Robert Half Legal®,
a leading staffing service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. The company also provides managed review and e-discovery services. Based in Menlo Park, Calif., Robert Half Legal has offices in major North American and international markets.
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Question & Answer
My main career goal in the new year is to find a new paralegal position with expanded responsibilities and better compensation. Although I'm eager to tackle a job search, I'm wondering if it would be better to wait because I'm afraid employers won't be thinking about hiring during the holidays. What do you think?
Conventional wisdom might suggest that employers will wait until the new year to embark on new initiatives, such as adding staff, but that's not necessarily the case. After all, people are always leaving jobs for one reason or another, irrespective of the time of year, or needs may arise that require firms to add staff now, rather than later.
A recent survey by Robert Half Legal seems to support this thinking. It found that nearly one-third (31 percent) of lawyers interviewed said their law firm or company planned to expand or add new positions in the second half (July through December) of 2013.
So, yes, go ahead and launch your job search. You may actually have an advantage as the year winds down. Here's why:
Lighter competition. Just like you, many job seekers consider putting their efforts on hold in November and December, thinking they'll be more successful at the start of a new year. But if you take a look at job postings, you'll see that many employers haven't stopped looking for talent with key skills and practice area expertise. Especially in the legal field, staffing needs are not necessarily seasonal. And if other candidates decide to put their search on hiatus, you may have an edge when it comes to getting noticed.
Budget surpluses. Some employers accelerate their hiring efforts at the end of the year because they still have funds earmarked for adding staff. In some organizations, there may even be a "use it or lose it" policy in effect, so hiring managers may have to relinquish any surplus funds if they don't put it toward bringing in new employees.
Easier access to interviews. The pace of business sometimes slows at the end of the year as a result of vacations and the winter holidays. With a little less urgency in the day-to-day workload, some hiring managers shift their focus to laying the groundwork for the coming year, and that includes conducting hiring activities. As a result, hiring managers may be less busy than usual and have more time to review your resume or call you in for an employment interview.
Even if some firms wait until the beginning of the year to actually make hiring decisions, that doesn't mean they've stopped reviewing resumes and considering candidates. By submitting your application materials now, you'll be first in line when the hiring process gets in full swing again. Remember that employers are always on the lookout for professionals with in-demand skills. That means there's really no wrong time to look for your next job, no matter what conventional wisdom says.
Submit a career-related question to Charles A. Volkert, Esq., executive director of Robert Half Legal, a leading staffing
service specializing in the placement of attorneys, paralegals, legal administrators and other legal
professionals with law firms and corporate legal departments. Charles will answer one question