I don’t much believe in luck. By many counts, I have been lucky. I was fortunate enough to stay with the same company for 30 years. For the first 7 years, I was promoted every year. After that, they came less often, but often enough. I had the opportunity to live in several interesting places, including Paris, France and Lausanne, Switzerland. For these reasons, people often tell me I was lucky. I actually don’t think luck has much to do with it. There are three things you can do, however, that can make you “lucky”, too.
First, know what you want and ask for it. It is important to know what you want. Is it more interesting work? An international assignment? Shorter hours so you can spend more time with your kids? A promotion? Better pay? Be careful. As the saying goes, you may get what you ask for. Think it through. What will happen if you actually do get what you ask for? When you are sure, ask. Don’t be obnoxious. Don’t be a pest. Don’t ask every day. Do ask. In my case, I wanted an international assignment. I mentioned it to a senior member of staff in a casual setting. He said, “Have you told anyone?” I said no. He encouraged me to do so. When the opportunity arose, I told my boss. Over time, I mentioned it as a goal to other members of staff. Eventually, the opportunity came.
Second, as Thomas Edison famously said “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” As I said above, the opportunity came. It came in the form of a big, time-consuming project. It was not obvious at the time that it contained any opportunity for me. It did contain a lot of work. It was one of those frustrating projects where everyone involved has a different idea of how it should work. Every time you think you have it finished, it morphs into something else. Eventually, it did turn into an international assignment for me.
Finally, you have to take the whole package. With new opportunities, often come tough choices and “side effects”. International assignments are not for the faint of heart. My first international assignment was in Panama in 1987. We had been there only a month or so when President Reagan and General Noriega got into a fight over the Panama Canal. We fled Panama with our two kids and what we could carry. The company almost immediately sent me to Switzerland. It is very safe. However, we were completely unprepared for service in a German speaking country. Nevertheless, that was part of the package so we muddled through. After a few months, we finally landed in Canada which we loved.
You too can be lucky. Decide what you want and ask for it. When you get that opportunity, give it your all. Know that every silver lining will also have some clouds. Have patience with the process and press through the complications. Best of luck!