I was taking a train back from New York yesterday after finishing the Avon Breast Cancer walk (thanks everyone for your contributions) and I met a savvy young woman who made me think a bit differently about job searching.

There’s so much job-hunt advice out there today that we forget about how luck plays a pivotal role in the process. That’s not going to make many of you feel great. It’s easier to think that if I do everything right I’ll end up with the gig I want. Alas, sometimes the stars have to align just right before you get your big break.

duru.jpgThat’s just what happened to 24 year old Vivian N. Duru.

Duru, who was seeking a job that was related to public health, went to a job fair a while back and realized it was going to be hard for her to distinguish herself from the long lines of job seekers. So, she decided to run over to a dollar store nearby to find something she could use to make herself stand out. She found a roll of Sesame Street wrapping paper that had pictures of ambulances and the fuzzy characters dressed as medical workers, and used the paper as a background for her resume.

“I figured I had a 50-50 chance that it might work,” she told me.

If she had asked me my opinion on whether to do this I probably would have said I didn’t think it was a great idea. I’m also not a big fan of job fairs but they do have their place–as Duru has found.

Well, she went back to the job fair and ended up at the desk of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services where she met a director at the agency. It turned out the director had just used that exact wrapping paper to wrap her one-year old son’s birthday present. Instantly, the two had a connection…an odd one, I know, but it did the trick.

“It was crazy and so random,” Duru recalled.

She landed a job as a program analyst for the department soon after that.

Well, luck again dealt out its hand to Duru, but unfortunately, this time it was bad. The agency announced a hiring freeze and she ended up jobless yet again.

Now you know I wouldn’t end this story on such a bad note. Good fortune shined itself upon her one more time thanks to a contact she made during a networking event she went to that she wasn’t sure would ever lead to anything. The contact was from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, NAACP, and she ended up with an offer to become the program coordinator of health for the group.

Clearly, Duru worked hard to connect with people, attending networking events, job fairs, and what ever else she thought might give her a line on a job. But in the end isn’t it all about timing and good luck?

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