Wondering what career to choose? Needing a change? Downsized, outsourced, or otherwise laid off, and without a clue what to do next?
When student loans hover, mortgage bills bully, and mouths demand to be fed, it might seem like a luxury to consider following in the footsteps of a character you once saw on television, and whose career you have yet to regard as a source of income. Research shows that chance events play an important role in career development, especially in the face of personal challenges and/or limited educational opportunities (Hirschi, 2010).
For example, while reading Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor’s deeply moving and uplifting autobiography, My Beloved World, I was struck by the role that chance events played in her career choice, i.e., how watching Perry Mason as a child led her to think she could be a great lawyer or judge, and how her lack of knowledge of how to become either -- given the lack of professional role models in her family -- meant that both seemed utterly reasonable options. There was no internal censoring in which some of us engage, either as children or adults, e.g., “I could never do that”.
Yet for Justice Sotomayor, the trajectory from Perry Mason viewer to Supreme Court Justice was not a direct one. As a 10-year-old child sitting in a pediatric diabetes clinic, Justice Sotomayor was given a pamphlet about choosing a profession. The pamphlet declared that a career as a police officer was off limits to diabetics.