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Balancing act: Can you make your own luck at work?

Published: Monday, March 26 2012 1:00 p.m. MDT

According to the LinkedIn survey, 84 percent of respondents worldwide believe in career luck and about 48 percent consider themselves lucky.

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I feel like one of the luckiest guys in the world.

I have been blessed with an amazing family, wonderful friends, a great home and a job I enjoy.

I feel especially lucky regarding the job.

My college degrees are in journalism, and I spent the first 20 years of my professional career as a newspaper writer and editor. Last year, as I considered the challenges facing journalism and my own professional future, I stumbled upon a job opportunity in a completely different field. While I didn't feel entirely qualified for the position, I decided to apply.

Thanks to some kind words from former coworkers and a boss who was looking for someone with a publishing background, I got the job, and it's been a terrific move for me and my family.

Lucky, right? Or is it?

I've been pondering this for the last few weeks after reading about a LinkedIn survey of more than 7,000 people on the role luck plays in a successful career.

According to the LinkedIn survey, 84 percent of respondents worldwide believe in career luck and about 48 percent consider themselves lucky.

"Of the 15 countries surveyed, Japan was luckiest (73 percent of participants considered themselves luckier than others), the U.S. came in at No. 7 and just ahead of the global average with 49 percent considering themselves lucky, and Netherlands finished last (31 percent)," the LinkedIn release said.

More interesting than those results, though, is what people had to say about the source of their luck.

"The factors considered most important to luck and success are strong communication skills, flexibility, good work ethic, acting on opportunities and a strong professional network," the LinkedIn release said.

It said people in the U.S. place the most emphasis on a good work ethic, with 70 percent choosing that factor as most important to their career outcomes.

"One of my favorite questions to ask people, especially in the context of their career, is, 'Do you consider yourself lucky?' A 'yes' or 'no' is highly reflective of whether or not a goal will be accomplished, a promotion granted or a raise delivered," wrote Nicole Williams, blogging about the LinkedIn survey.

She went on to offer three tips to people who want to be luckier in their careers:

— Get working. "Somewhat surprising (considering the serendipitous nature of luck) is that one of the top 5 most universally identified important contributors to getting lucky in your career is this: not sitting back and waiting for things to happen, but to get out there and work for it," Williams wrote.

— Don't be shy. Build strong communication skills and remember to network with people.

— Take a shot. Williams wrote that luck comes to those who act on opportunities.

Those tips sound good to me. I firmly believe that a strong work ethic can help people overcome other shortcomings in a job. Communication is vital, whether you're a manager trying to connect with your team or a person seeking a new job.

And when it comes to acting on opportunities, I know I never would have landed my new job had I not been willing to take a chance on applying for something that didn't seem quite to match my background and skills.

But this leads me back to my original question: If you're making your own luck, is it really luck? Or is it just the consequences you would expect from your hard work and determination?

I believe serendipity does play a role in such things. Call it luck, call it a blessing, call it what you will, but sometimes you're simply in the right place at the right time. You've probably taken previous steps in your life that led you to that place, but that final "stroke of luck" can't always be attributed solely to the choices you've made.

Or can it?

I'd be interested in your thoughts on this subject. Do you feel like you've been lucky in your career? If so, do you feel that you've made your own luck through a strong work ethic, communication skills and the decisions you've made along the way? Or do you feel like your luck has come through little effort of your own, but rather because fortune smiled upon you?

Conversely, if you consider yourself unlucky in the world of work, why do you think that's the case? Have you brought your bad luck on yourself? Or is a cosmic conspiracy bringing you down?

Let me know, and I'll share some of your responses in a future column.

Email your comments to kratzbalancingact@gmail.com or post them online at deseretnews.com. Follow me on Twitter at gkratzbalancing or on Facebook on my journalist page.

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