Spotlight on Krumboltz's planned happenstance theory

A career adviser and client talking

Applying Krumboltz’s theory of planned happenstance can help your clients turn chance events into opportunities.

Spotlight on Krumboltz’s career theory

The career theory we're shining our spotlight on is Krumboltz's planned happenstance. This theory suggests that everything doesn’t have to be planned, that indecision is okay as long as clients are optimistic and open to noticing unexpected opportunities.

Krumboltz found that people with a particular attitude were more likely to recognise the value of chance events and their potential to be turned into career opportunities. These are people who demonstrate the qualities of curiosity, persistence, flexibility and optimism.

Use Krumboltz’s theory to help clients in times of change

If your clients feel uncertain about their future or their next steps, you can apply Krumboltz’s theory to assist them during a career transition.

For example, when someone is made redundant or leaves a career due to injury, encourage them to see the negative event as a chance to find a new career path. Ask them if there’s something they've always wanted to do. If so, would they consider a complete career change? Or maybe they can invest their redundancy money into a business?

Encourage your clients to turn unplanned events into opportunities. They could:

  • learn an elevator pitch to describe their career goals and skills at social events
  • get work experience, do work shadowing and attend career expos
  • try out different jobs until they find a suitable career.

If you encourage your clients to develop their networking skills, they’ll recognise that their chance of being in the right place at the right time increases. This is Krumboltz’s theory of planned happenstance in action.

Find out more


  • Dean, D, 'When Opportunity Knocks - More Planned Happenstance Theory', 30 March 2017, ( 

Updated 3 Oct 2019