Don’t Build Your Career

Career and Chance

If you are a young engineer and get bugged about your career planning, I recommend you to forget about it. Because the good portion of your career depends on chance.

John D. Krumboltz and his team found that changes take an important role in a career. It’s difficult to counsel a student’s career because of this. The team compiled the so-called “Planned Happenstance Theory”. I don’t describe the theory in detail as we have a lot of articles out there on the internet. In summary, the theory suggests that we should put ourselves in more chances and prepare to leverage the chances rather than planning the career in detail.

CEO of Walt Disney

I recently read The Ride of a Life Time. The book is about Robert Iger who is the CEO of Walt Disney.

His career started as a TV studio supervisor on ABC Television. He got opportunities that lead him to be the President of ABC Television. Then ABC Television was acquired by another company and then acquired again by Walt Disney. Finally, he became the CEO of Walt Disney. The chain of the opportunity is really outstanding.

Of course, he cannot be in the position just because of the chance. I was really impressed by his patience, his character to care for others, and his passion for excellence. His personality should be the source of success. However, if the chance did not come like the above, he should not be able to be the CEO of the greatest company making dreams to children all over the world. Chances indeed take a major portion of a personal career.

My Career and Chances

In retrospect, my huge portion of my career depends on chances. I am working on engineering team building in a global business. I love my current position. I could not imagine the current responsibility when I was in the university. I can barely speak English. I did not expect that I am in a management role.

I got an interest in working in an international team when I was a new grad employee. I got a chance to jump into the new project. The project started in the US. I was transferred to the US branch and working as an expatriate employee. There are engineers who have different backgrounds. There were very senior engineers who are elder than my dad. They are not only sophisticated but also working hard as experts. I really loved the atmosphere and started thinking that I would like to work in an environment like this for a long time.

Even after I came back to Japan, I got a lot of chances to work with engineering from the world. I also got a chance to take a leadership role in such an environment. As the organization grows, I am officially promoted to manager. Because of those chains of chances, I am able to work on today’s responsibility.

It’s Like a Surfing

I think a career is like surfing. Even if you make a great weekend plan and goes to the sea, you can do anything if there is no wave.

You need to find a beach with good waves. You need to challenge the waves, sometimes you need to fail so that you can eventually ride on a good wave.

I had a favorite phrase when I was a student: “let’s try and fail rather than being afraid”. I tend to be fear. This phrase encourages me a lot and makes me challenge opportunities. This phrase might lead me to a series of challenges and result in today’s career.

As engineers are technical jobs, some people might get bugged for career planning. I would recommend these people to stop being bothered. You are not building your career. Opportunities are the builder of your career.



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Yuichi Murata

Yuichi Murata

Global team builder from Tokyo. Engineering manager to build international engineering organization.