I’d like to think I’m a fairly successful person. I have a beautiful family and a fulfilling career. I live in a nice house, spend less than I earn, and have put some money away for a rainy day. Things have turned out pretty good for me so far.
Yet when I’m asked how I got where I am today, I struggle to come up with an answer. I wish I could say this was all part of a well thought out plan, built on years of hard work and sacrifice. But the truth is there were a lot of lucky breaks along the way.
Related: How a career change improved my life
I worked in the hotel industry for 10 years, literally starting at the bottom of the totem pole carrying bags and running errands for hotel guests. Due to the nature of the industry – there’s a lot of turnover each year – I was able to work my way up to a supervisor role at the front desk just by sticking around for a couple of years.
When the front desk manager left I decided to apply for that job. I was finishing up school and ready for my first crack at a leadership role. Unfortunately, I had a terrible interview and clearly wasn’t ready for that position. Thankfully, the hotel manager saw some potential in me and asked me to transfer to a supervisor position in the food & beverage division. There I would get a broader range of experience in the industry, which would help prepare me for the next step.
I wasn’t cut out for the restaurant business, and after nine months I was ready to give up, but then I caught my first lucky break. A sales manager at the hotel was going on maternity leave and recommended me for her replacement. This time I was ready for the interview but I still had very limited experience and thought I didn’t stand a chance. Somehow I got the job, and I was so excited to get hired that I jumped at the low salary they offered me. Oh well, my foot was in the door.
Nearly a year went by and I was excelling in this role, but I still didn’t have any job security. The next lucky break came about 10 months into the job when my boss quit to start-up her own business. The previous sales manager returned from maternity leave to take the Director role and I was hired on as a full-time sales manager.
Another year went by and I was doing a good job hitting my sales targets and developing some leadership skills. I was ready for more, but this time there was nowhere else to go. My boss would have to leave, or I needed to go. Incredibly, right at my breaking point, my boss left for another opportunity and I was promoted to Director of Sales.
At 25 I had reached a position that was typically filled by a 40-something with a couple of decades of industry experience under his or her belt. Yes, I worked hard and was good at my job, but without those three lucky events I would have certainly ended up on another path.
I work at a University now and talk to a lot of young people who are looking for the secret to a successful career. They ask, how do I get to where you are? My advice to them is put yourself in the right situation to succeed. Rather than jumping from job-to-job, stick around and make your own luck by being in the right place at the right time.
Have you had a lucky break propel you to where you are now?