Putting Serendipity and Chaos to Work: The Chaos Theory of Career Development

Graduating university was the most confusing and stressful experience of my life. There are so many opportunites, it can be easy to crack under the pressure and make no decisions at all.

This post is about embracing your post-grad confusion, that random job you ended up landing and the opportunity to travel overseas.

The Chaos Theory of Career Development argues that we are more likely to find career satisfaction when our career is a result of chance occurrences rather than strict career planning.

The Chaos Theory of Career Development is actually quite complex. Taking into account science, research conduction, theoretical ideas, concepts and how this translates into career counselling, I quickly found the Chaos Theory of Career Development to be a little confusing. Here’s my take on this very interesting theory.

In summary, chaos theory tries to give a scientific account of self-organization and change.

The Chaos Theory of Career Development was created on the basis that the 21st century workplace is quite different: evolving quickly, using new technologies, needing continuous learning and requiring faster and more frequent communications.

Career counselling has and still does aim to correlate a person’s strengths, personality and characteristics with a corresponding career. Chaos theory experts would argue that choosing a career based on the person and the career environment is not the best way to achieve career success and happiness.  Modern job environments demand too much complexity and people are too dynamic to match personality and job environment successfully.

For example, one study that surveyed university students found 70% of students reporting that unplanned events had significantly influenced their career. Another study found that people with similar personality outcomes over time did not have predictable career outcomes, as a traditional career test would suggest.

How I’m Applying Chaos Theory in My Career Search

Choosing a career post-graduation can be very stressful and consuming. If you’ve recently graduated, you know what I am talking about. Nearly everyone you talk to will ask you what is next and how you are going to get there. Reality is that no matter how great your resume or education is, you can’t control who hires you and you can’t plan for random opportunities that come your way.

What I like most about the Chaos Theory of Career Development is that it reminds me to stay away from tunnel vision.

The Chaos Theory of Career Development reminds me not to set my sights on one specific career. Whether it is a career I have always thought about doing or a career I have chosen simply because people keep asking me what I am going to, the Chaos Theory of Career Development reminds me that the best and most fulfilling opportunities are likely to present themselves naturally.

This is not to say that I am going to wander the globe mindlessly until a career lands in my lap. I’m still learning, reading and networking in areas that interest me, all the while keeping my mind open to any opportunities that come my way.

How have chance occurrences and opportunities affected your career outcomes? Did you end up in a totally different career than you planned for?

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