Dumb LUCK or GovLoop Awesomeness: A 60 Second Question for the Senior Exec

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    Candace Riddle

    I listened to the General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service commissioner Jim Williams’ comments today at the NGG10 conference. One thing that he said stuck with me. When introducing himself and speaking about his career he mentioned the word “lucky”. This really struck me. I think a lot of us have a misunderstood perception of senior execs’ “journey to the top”. I’m beginning to believe that most of them are in the place that they are, not only because of their passion, dedication, and intelligence; but also because of a little bit of chance and … well… luck.

    How true is this for today’s generation? I was thinking of my own career when Jim mentioned luck; or as I call it, “random chance”. I was a poli sci major who was planning to join the CIA or go to law school. Following undergraduate, I embarked on that course when…well life happened. I spent the next five years obtaining a real estate license, a Series 7, Series 66, insurance license, and switching jobs 4 times (obviously the economy played into this). Each day I left work wanting something more. I wanted to do something I was passionate about, but had spun my career in a direction far from my original intentions. My resume was a train wreck and I now had all the credentials for Wall Street and no one to hire me (simply put…there weren’t too may paying jobs for a new financial advisor). When I decided to switch careers, no one would even begin to consider me for commercial contract administration (not even an internship). At a complete loss, I went back to grad school and started to network on GovLoop.

    As LUCK would have it, or random chance, there were actually really AWESOME people in government who were willing to help and excited about mentoring a fresh face. Needless to say, I found a mentor through Young Acquisition Professionals here on GovLoop. That mentor, Tina Borger, at NIGP noticed my background and saw what I couldn’t. Tina thought I would be a great fit for NIGP (I thought she might be crazy…turns out she is just innovative and super COOL).

    In a whirlwind process, I found myself packing my bags and leaving South Carolina behind. Scared…yes. However, now that I am here I am certain that this is the best decision I’ve ever made. My job compliments my graduate studies, I am passionate about it, and I am surrounded by really COOL people who are EXCITED about what they do and their mission.

    So, listening to Jim comment on a feeling of “luckiness” today made me think of two questions that I would ask an exec if I had just 60 seconds:

    1. Did you really set out to be where you are now or picture your career here?

    2. At a time when random luck seemed to take over and redirect your career away from your goals, what is the key decision that you made to put your career back on track?

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