On our career journey, I mentioned earlier that career assessments can open up career possibilities for individuals to think over. Another aspect to look at in our career journey is happenstance in our lives. These are the chance events that pop into our lives. These events have an effect in our careers and life in general. Some consider happenstance as luck or circumstances. Coming at life from my Christian worldview, I see a Creator God guiding life rather than random chance so I view happenstance occurrences as God moments. His special intervention in our lives.
I count it a privilege to have attended a few years ago a training by Dr. John Krumboltz and Dr. Al Levin about Happenstance which was based on their book Luck Is No Accident. I appreciated their thinking that Career Counselors need to have a whole life focus instead of just looking at finding life fulfillment in just a career. Events that come into our lives shape the direction we move in career and our overall life journey. I highly recommend this book if you are exploring career and life fulfillment. Their thoughts helped me to view our life journey as the Beatles song says The Long and Winding Road instead of a straight direct line.
As I read through their book and considered their Happenstance Learning Theory I applied it to my career life journey. What we think we will do in our high school years can vary widely as we react to life events. Drs. Krumboltz and Levin point out that our careers and lives are not a result of just pure chance happenstance. It is the choices we make in response to those events. That is an important factor to consider. As I look at my life, I see turning points of happenstance in the timeline of my life.
For example in my junior high school years in Ohio, I had a high respect for the pastor at my local church. Having grown up in a single parent home I looked up to him as a role model. So in High School I decided I would go to Bible College and be a pastor of a church. Then in my senior year a new pastor took charge who was a real jerk, was abusive to people, and had an affair with the secretary of the church so I became disillusioned. In my disillusionment I looked at my high school career test results. The results listed careers of minister but also engineering. So in my disillusionment I chose engineering. During the first year of college I realized by working with a career counselor I had deeper Social leanings in my career choices and I should not let one poor example of a pastor disturb my move in that direction. So I moved first back home and worked a while at a factory to sort out where to go to school. I selected a Bible College in Chicago where a couple of my friends attended.
After my Bachelors degree in Bible at Moody Bible Institute I went on for a Master of Divinity degree at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School also in the Chicago area. By then I had an interest in Counseling so I took that emphasis in my degree. You would think I would then move into a religious ministry position but that did not happen. Some life events occurred to move me into a job with a Publishing company in the Chicago Suburbs. It was a lower level position keeping track of returned books from bookstores and schools. Being a booklover I thought this may be an opportunity to move into the publishing world. I noticed in my work there, in my small office at the back of the building, workers from various departments would stop by and many would vent their frustrations concerning their lives to me. Especially after a few years as the company was bought out by another company; stress levels rose at work so even higher level managers would come by and they would apologize for “venting”. I would reply “don’t worry everyone does – I’m the company shrink back here”.
At this time I was also doing volunteer work with a Korean minister who was working with college students from different cultural backgrounds. I found I enjoyed tutoring and counseling the students on their life plans. As the publishing company spiraled out of control from the corporate buyout; and I had two deaths in my family, my mother and oldest brother -- I moved into a customer service job at a local suburban corporation. For the next two years I worked customer service in phone order departments. Definitely not my dream job of high school days but it paid the bills. During that time I kept volunteering with the Korean minister as I enjoyed helping the college students. This is when I met my future wife, Susie at one of his meetings. After a year of having met her, she needed to move from Chicago, IL to Texas to pursue her Pharmacy career
As she moved to Texas I had a decision to make -- do I follow her to Texas or just stay in Chicago? Continuing to think about Happenstance or God Moments, (in my high school days I would never have envisioned this choice). I had no desire ever to move to Texas as I did not care for cowboys or the Wild West. Some of my friends echoed that thinking. Other friends of mine told me to look at my life. If I really loved Sook , (as Susie is known in Chicago), I would take the risk and move to Brownsville. It was also pointed out to me that I really did not enjoy my work in Customer Service. So I took the risk and moved.
My move was to Brownsville, TX the southernmost tip of Texas. I landed work in Real Estate while I looked for other types of work as well. With my lack of Spanish skills it was difficult to find other work. I thought back to my volunteer work with college students in Chicago and thought working at a university would be fulfilling. I eventually landed a job as a Student Success Advisor at a Technical College in the area. By then I had married Susie and she encouraged me to go back to school, as I had always wanted to finish a Masters in Counseling. I finished that degree at the University of Texas at Brownsville. After working 5 years at the College, a Career Counseling position opened at UTB so I applied and got the job. This is a job that I am thankful for being a part in opening students’ minds to their possibilities for their futures. But it is miles apart from what I thought I would be doing when I graduated from High School.
As I look over my life and think of the Happenstance Theory I see the life events that I had not planned nor envisioned in my high school life: living in Chicago, working at a Publisher where co-workers would turn to me for their “Venting”, my mother and brother’s death, the stress of the company spinning out of control , meeting the Korean minister through a musician friend where I gained a passion for working with University students, meeting my wife at a Korean church, moving to Texas. All events I did not plan on, but the choices I made concerning them helped shape the present I am enjoying now. Some events were stressful others joyful but looking back I can see them as God Moments, of molding events in my life and career journey.
Take time to look back over your life journey. What are the unplanned events that entered your life to bring you where you are today? Take some time to write your life journey down and reflect over the choices you made in the various turning points in your life. Be thankful for your life journey.