Everyone knows someone who just seems to attract good fortune. They get the shiny new job that’s just the tiniest bit of a stretch for their skillset, or the promotion that no one else on the team even knew was up for grabs. They rake in big raises when other people get the standard 3 percent.
In other words: they’re lucky. And if you’re one of their coworkers or friends, you’d probably love to know their secret. The good news is that you don’t need to find a four-leaf clover or capture a leprechaun to make yourself lucky, too. For the most part, it’s a matter of attitude. To cultivate luck, try these tips:
1. Believe That You’re a Lucky Person
We see you rolling your eyes, but wait: there’s research behind this advice.
Per Popular Science:
Richard Wiseman, a professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in England, has done a number of studies to figure out what distinguishes a lucky person from an unlucky one. In one study, he asked people who identified as lucky and as unlucky to read a newspaper. On one half page of a newspaper, he wrote in large letters: “Tell the experimenter you have seen this and win £250.” The people who said they were lucky were more likely to see the ad, Wiseman wrote, and the “unlucky” people seemed to demonstrate more anxiety, which detracted from their powers of observation.
Anxiety is exhausting. People who consider themselves unlucky and therefore spend more of their time and energy worrying have less of both to devote to their careers. It makes sense that this would mean seizing fewer opportunities over time. “Unlucky” people may simply miss these chances to shine.
2. Be Optimistic
Beyond thinking that you’re lucky, personally, believing in the possibility that things can change for the better will also help you boost your luck.
“It is a self-fulfilling prophecy: more luck tends to come to those who believe in possibility — to those who see the good in something before they see the bad,” writes Anthony Tjan, co-author of Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck, at Harvard Business Review. “Optimists are givers of energy rather than takers of it. By having a positive disposition, such individuals are more likely to have a greater number of seemingly ‘surprise’ encounters with good fortune.”
Optimists may be more likely to see chances to improve projects, because their belief that things will work out leads them to keep looking for solutions when other people would give up. People who exhibit a positive disposition may also just seem more likable to their coworkers, which can come in handy when you’re trying to get ahead at work.
3. Look for Chances to be Social
That friend who always seems to get amazing new jobs? Chances are, he or she has a lot of connections. The best way to build those connections is to get out there and socialize. The more people you meet, the more chances you have to build your network.
If the word “networking,” makes you cringe, think of it as making friends or building relationships. Human beings are social animals – yes, even introverts — and they need connection in order to thrive. That means looking for opportunities to connect to other human beings in a genuine, authentic way.
If you think of networking as something that only happens at formal networking events or conferences, it’s time to expand your thinking. That mindset makes it harder to recognize the connections you actually have – especially if you’re not someone who frequently attends those types of events. The fact is that anything you do that introduces you to new people and gives you a chance to connect is networking.
“Talk to new people at a party,” advises Deep Patel, author of A Paperboy’s Fable: The 11 Principles of Success, at Entrepreneur. “Broaden your social circle, and build your professional network. Introduce old friends to new acquaintances. One of the fastest and best ways to garner more luck is to put yourself out there and meet more people, because people bring connections and connections bring opportunity.”
4. Make Your Own Opportunities
Do you wait for opportunity or do you make things happen? If you want to increase your luck and be more successful, you have to start creating your own chances.
That might mean suggesting new projects and then offering to lead them or identifying your personal skills gaps and then signing up for the classes you need to fill them. It might mean starting your own business or blog or side gig.
The bottom line is that you don’t have time to wait for someone to notice that you’re worthy. You have to make them pay attention. And the best way to do that is to create movement in your career without asking for permission.
5. Cultivate Resilience
What do Thomas Edison, Oprah Winfrey and Walt Disney have in common? Before they achieved fame and fortune, they all suffered serious career reversals, including being fired (in Edison’s case, twice). Another thing they have in common: they all persisted in pursuing their dreams, even after failing initially.
If you want to make yourself lucky and successful, one of the best things you can do is to cultivate resilience. Being able to regain your footing after a stumble is essential if you want to make progress professionally or personally.
Why is resilience so important? Because it’s nearly impossible to do big things without taking big risks. If you can’t recover after you fail, you can’t move forward. And that means missing out on the next opportunity to succeed.
The American Psychological Association offers several tips for cultivating resilience, including:
- Avoiding “seeing crises as insurmountable problems.” Sometimes in life and in your career, you’ll have control over just one aspect of your situation: your response. Avoid framing every reversal as a disaster.
- Looking for small ways to move toward your goals. The APA suggests: “Instead of focusing on tasks that seem unachievable, ask yourself, ‘What’s one thing I know I can accomplish today that helps me move in the direction I want to go?’”
- Taking care of yourself. It’s hard to do everything else on this list if you’re exhausted, strung out on caffeine and sugar, and burned out from taking on too much at work and at home. So make yourself a priority, too. Leave time in your schedule for self-care.
(For more, see The American Psychological Association’s tips in The Road to Resilience.)
6. Work Hard
“I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.” Thomas Jefferson is frequently — and erroneously — credited with this quote, but it’s good advice, even if it no one seems to be sure where it came from.
It’s nearly impossible to be successful without working hard. There’s just no substitute for it. No matter what your area of focus – business, sports, the arts – and no matter how talented you are at what you do, there’s almost no chance you’ll be successful without putting in the time and effort to make it happen.
Now, that doesn’t mean that hard work alone is enough to get you where you want to go. There are other factors beyond elbow grease that determine whether your dreams become reality. For example, if you have a product to sell, but no one seems particularly interested in buying it, hard work won’t create a market where none exists. But even if everything else is lined up in your favor, you won’t get to where you want to go unless you’re willing to work hard.
7. Align Your Efforts With Your Aptitudes
If reading about hard work a moment ago made you feel tired, the next thing to consider is whether you feel in sync with your job. That doesn’t mean that you have to “do what you love” – not everyone can or will wind up doing a job that gives them passion as well as a paycheck. But it does mean doing something that you’re good at and interested in.
That might seem like obvious advice, but consider the popularity of “hot jobs” lists on careers sites. What’s the takeaway from those rankings? Many readers might be tempted to pick their next career off these lists.
That’s a bad idea for several reasons.
“I absolutely hate when I see stories that advise people to go into certain careers because they are ‘hot,” said career development specialist Dawn Rosenberg McKay in an earlier interview with PayScale. “A few years ago, it was healthcare and more recently, there has been the push toward STEM careers. I see news stories advising everyone to learn coding. While this advice makes sense on the surface, it is useless to someone who would not be successful in those career fields.”
Occupational outlook for a given career can also change as the economy shifts and demand grows and shrinks. For example, 15 or 20 years ago, humanities majors were often urged to consider law school as an option after graduation. Then, the Great Recession happened, and newly minted attorneys found themselves starting their careers in a very different environment than they expected. (Per the ABA Journal, only 44 percent of law school grads between 2009 and 2017 said that they had “a ‘good job’ waiting for them when they graduated.”)
So, if you feel like you’re out of step in your current career, and you’re looking to make a change, think about what you’re good at first. Again, it doesn’t need to be your passion. It’s fine if your day job just pays the bills. But to be successful at it, you need to have an aptitude for the work.
You’d be surprised at how quickly your luck seems to grow when your skills and abilities line up with your job.
Tell Us What You Think
Have you made yourself luckier using any of these techniques – or do you have tips and tricks to add to our list? We want to hear from you. Share your advice in the comments or join the conversation on Twitter.