I Wish I Was One Of The Lucky Few – By Narelle Hess

Stephen Bradbury was a four-time winter Olympian whose story may have ended there had it not been for luck. In a race where he seemingly had no chance he won the gold medal. Not any old gold medal, Australia’s first gold medal at a winter Olympics. How many opportunities are you creating for luck in your career?

It turns out the luck of Stephen Bradbury is not the exception. So often I hear from clients “I just wish I was one of those people who know what they want to be, like nurses, or doctors, or teachers”. Personally I have had many moments when I too wished I was one of those people. It turns out that while these people may seem to be in the minority we are all in fact just as lucky. Over the last decade empirical research has consistently shown across populations, age, socio-economic backgrounds, race, and gender that upwards of 80% of us state that chance or luck has paid a significant part in our career .

So I took this question to you, our cross-section of the Australian population and you replicated this finding, with more than half of you stating that your career was decided by chance:

  • “I was temping and only supposed to fill in for one day. I was asked to stay on and apply for the full time position which has taken my career from strength to strength.”
  • “I originally wanted to be a hairdresser, and then decided to become a teacher! Neither of those careers worked out so I was looking for a job and started as a call centre rep, working my way up and am now Program Ops Manager 15 years later – and in finance no less. A career that was never on my radar!”

Of course it is not luck alone that leads to career success. Stephen Bradbury didn’t get to that dais purely by chance! Stephen Bradbury represented his country at four winter Olympics because he worked extraordinarily hard and made many personal sacrifices. This hard work was what led him to that day where luck played him a card. He owned his role in creating that luck:

  • “Life can take you in many directions, circumstances and plans change, unexpected opportunities arise.”
  • “Patience, resilience, dedication, seizing on-job courses opportunities, diligence but above all great relationship building skills.”
  • “I was employed by this firm in 1963– I’m still here — I now own it!”

Stephen Bradbury didn’t idly stroll across that finish line; he raised his arms in the air and owned his success, owned his hard work, and owned the part he played in that lucky day. Isn’t it time you too owned your career success – the chance, the luck, and all the hard work?

We would love to hear your career stories – how has chance, luck, and hard work played its role in your career success?

Did you know that Challenge Consulting helps clients with Career Guidance? Contact Susan Kealy at [email protected] or 02 9221 6422 or visit the website to find out more.


Bright, J. E., Pryor, R. G., Chan, E. W. M., & Rijanto, J. (2009). Chance events in career development: Influence, control and multiplicity. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 75, 14-25.

Chen, C. P. (2005). Understanding career chance. International Journal of Educational and Vocational Guidance, 5, 251-270.

Guindon, M. H., & Hanna, F. J. (2002). Coincidence, happenstance, serendipity, fate, or the hand of God: Case studies in synchronicity. Career Development Quarterly, 50, 195-209.

Hirschi, A. (2010). The role of chance events in the school-to-work transition: The influence of demographic, personality and career development variables. Journal of Vocational Behavior, 77, 39-49