I feel like so many times, being in the right place at the right time helps. How did it help you?
+1 for what Chris and Eric have already mentioned. Luck has absolutely helped me out and I wouldn't be where I am today without some wonderfully serendipitous events.
Similar to Chris I owe my first internship to luck. When I was college my parents went on a vacation and met someone who ran a bio lab and was looking for an intern with my skill set. My parents were able to make an introduction which did a lot to help me get my foot in the door, but from there it fell onto my preparation and determination to actually get the internship. From there I was able to turn a one summer internship into a recurring summer internship for 3 years. Similarly, I was lucky enough to have a friend who had an internship during the school year at a lab on campus and he recommend me for one of the spots when there was an opening. That role also turned into a recurring internship which greatly helped me when it came time to look for a full-time job.
I really liked Chris's quote and will add another: "I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel" (Maya Angelou). Having a strong network is one of the best things you can do to increase your chance of a lucky encounter, and one of the best way to grow a strong network is by being someone who helps others feel happy and productive. When one of your friends or a former coworker goes to a new company and needs to fill a position, if you're one of the people that helped them feel positive, then you'll be one of the first people they reach out to.
+1 for making strong connections. Incredibly valuable component of the mysterious luck formula.
Yes, absolutely. BUT you can always improve your odds by networking with great people and keeping your personal career narrative and resume sharp. Also, what looks like "luck" is often really courage -- the willingness to start over, to throw out a comfortable situation, or to reinvent yourself.
At the same time, understanding the role of randomness in one's career is necessary to keep oneself humble and strong. I've seen people who've struck it big and think it was because they were geniuses. Silicon Valley is lousy with one-hit founders and (lucky) early startup employees who believe they can stop listening and keep on talking. It's important to remember that success is a combination of hard work, talent, skills, courage, privilege, and randomness, and sometimes the last two of those factors are the biggest contributors.
Luck definitely helps. But because luck is so random, I prefer to focus on preparation. You can improve yourself each day and consistently make the best decision in the moment so that when luck does strike you're ready to capitalize on that opportunity.
An example from my own life was that I was fortunate enough to get one of the 10 editorial internship positions at Marvel Comics. A lot of people say that it was luck, but in order to land that job I had to have some job experience (which I prepared ahead of time and had a modest writing portfolio), I had to have an engaging application (which I worked on for months), and I had to crush the interview (which I was able to do because I chose to fly out to NYC for a 12 hours trip rather than take the phone interview). Each move individually might have helped a little, but the sum of all those choices made me "lucky" and got me the job.
There's this quote that I live by ,"Luck is the intersection of preparation and opportunity", and I think when it comes to getting a job it's very true. You can't see how luck will affect your life tomorrow, a year, or a decade from now. What you can do is make the best choice today so that you can increase your chance of being lucky later on in life.