Work hard, be flexible – and make your own luck in your career

You can make your own career luck – if you work at it.

Professionals in Japan, South Korea and Australia think they are especially good at it, according to a new LinkedIn survey. Three-quarters of Japanese and more than half of the other two say they feel luckier than other professionals. That compares to 48 percent overall who see four-leaf clovers attached to their laptops. and  49 percent of U.S. professionals, who say they’re luckier than their peers.

The LinkedIn research debuts in honor of St. Patrick’s Day, though the luck of the Irish was only 42 percent, near the bottom of the scale.

Overall, 85 percent of Americans believe in luck in work, virtually the same as those in France, Sweden, Austia, Germany, Italy and Ireland.  Professionals from The Netherlands and Australia were the least likely to count on luck, and believe it influences their careers.

“There’s no question in my mind, there’s luck in business,” said Francine Lafontaine, a University of Michigan professor of business economics. She was among a string of speakers in February 2011 at a Skill versus Luck conference at the University of Michigan and had not seen this LinkedIn research.

Anyone trying to create their own luck will need to work hard – especially in the United States. Worldwide professionals said strong communications skills and being flexible contribute to career luck. But in the U.S.A., 70 percent said a strong work ethic will lure Lady Luck, according to the LinkedIn survey of 7,000 professionals from around the globe.

Here are the top luck-inducing factors for Americans:

A four leaf clover for luck?

1.      A strong work ethic (70 percent)

2.      Strong communication skills (59 percent)

3.       Acting on opportunities (46 percent)

4.       Being flexible (44 percent)

5.       Striving to be the best at what you do (42 )

U.S. women were far more likely to believe “acting on opportunities” and communications skills matter in making your luck;  American men put more faith in their work ethic, LinkedIn’s research shows.

Globally, the luck lures were much the same, with a strong network showing up at No. 5.  Some exceptions: 44 percent of millenials said “learning from my mistakes” was important, while India was the only country where professionals believe “having strong technical skills” contribute and Italians say they make their luck by “being observant.”

Career luck, like any form of fortune, doesn’t show up on the schedule we want. And it doesn’t always measure up to a mean.

Sometimes a run of luck or success starts and just keeps going and going, participants at the Michigan luck conference reported.  “As you get more successful, resources come to you,” said Michael Ryall of the University of Toronto. Then he added another twist: Since so many people are clueless at assessing probabilities and assessing the likelihood of success, “it’s back to a pure luck basis.”

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Read the Harvard Business Review blog post by the Michigan professor who organized the Skill or Luck conference.

Or read my Washington Post Capital Business piece on the array of charms and tokens people keep on their desks.

Or read my post on how to create career karma with kindness.

Or better yet, write me a comment on what you think contributes to career luck in your experience.