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If Not Now, When?

At a bar mitzvah I attended yesterday, the boy spoke eloquently about the idea of serendipity. He described his favorite place in New York City to drink frozen hot chocolate (Serendipity, on E. 60th Street), and how he had just recently come to know the meaning of that word.

Some people believe more actively in serendipity than others, including a great many job seekers, as well as active daters, who spend a lot of time waiting for the phone to ring. When you’re looking for a job, or a mate for that matter, it’s pretty seductive to think that something will happen without any real, sustained action on your part.

So how to encourage serendipity? The rabbi who followed the bar mitzvah’s talk spoke about one of the great Jewish sayings, “If not now, when?” He spoke about the notion of waiting for the phone to ring as counterproductive to the idea of serendipity. Because, it seems, serendipity can be encouraged by activity in a particular direction. We all resolve to do certain things, and some of us are better at getting on with it than others. The rabbi’s point was that the motivation to move ahead should be a powerful incentive in and of itself, without having the person at the other end of the phone (or the email, or any other form of communication) make the decision of when and how something is going to happen for you.

So resolve to take an active role in deciding what you want to do about your work life, and put a plan in place to make the right changes. Why wait for the motivation of the New Year’s Resolution to propel you forward, or the friend who calls to ask if you want to start a business together? You won’t be able to make the right decision if you haven’t done your homework and planned what you need from your work to feel happy and fulfilled.

As I’ve said in other posts, it’s not a great time to make a career move. But it is a good time to explore your values, interests and potential opportunities so when the call comes–or when Obama’s economic stimulus plan takes hold and companies begin hiring again–you’re prepared for serendipity. If not now, when?

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