A character from the popular TV show and book series Game of Thrones once said, “Chaos is a ladder.” Now, we’re not advocating you use any of his methods for achieving your goals (the character had a total lack of moral compass), but the principle still stands: uncertainty is an opportunity to step into the mess and make a difference.

Within your job, chaos doesn’t have to be an extreme situation—in fact, it can be as simple as a project or problem others are hesitant to tackle, or someone unexpectedly leaving their position. Any chance for you to take on responsibility others are shying away from and create a solution without your manager’s prompting can be a big leap for your career. It may lead to a promotion at your current company or perfectly position you for a completely new career.

Another avenue through chaos to career opportunity is to become the expert on a topic or skill set. This could be something your team has already identified a need for answers to, or it could be something only you see on the horizon. Either way, taking the initiative to be the expert when the time comes to fill that knowledge gap will put you a step ahead of the chaos!

Chaos theory applied to careers

Chaos theory is another way to think about unpredictable change and your career. Chaos theory is a branch of mathematics that examines complex systems that are highly sensitive to changes in external conditions, which means that small actions can lead to large consequences.

If you think about it, chaos theory can be applied to our careers because our lives are so complex and interconnected—a conversation you have with someone at a neighborhood BBQ could land you an interview or recommendation for a new job down the road.

Being mindful of chaos theory in your career enables you to identify the unpredictable (small and large) changes that have the ability to impact the path of your career.

Below are steps to embrace the principles of chaos theory in your career and make the most of it:

  • Stay open-minded. Curiosity and a proactive attitude combined with exploration can lead to game-changing discoveries about yourself, your current industry, and where to go next.
  • Growth comes by taking risks. Say “yes” to challenges at work and then work hard to live up to solving the problem.
  • Small steps can effect big change, so don’t underestimate meaningful conversations; short, appreciative emails to coworkers; and sharing interests at work.
  • Be open to constructive feedback—and make sure your manager(s) and coworkers know you’re looking for it!
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