06/04/2012 03:11 pm ET Updated Aug 04, 2012

Risk-Taking:The Way To A Career

College career centers are often a graduate's first (and sometimes only) experience in catapulting the start of a career. Most career centers' websites list employers and maintain a relationship with recruiting personnel. Company representatives use these centers and their career fairs to make appointments with graduating students and to publicize their entry-level and lower management positions. While this is not a substitute for making personal contacts, it is a beginning.

But what if you feel completely lost, like Lisa, a newly graduated 22-year-old woman? She had no family, no connections, no job, and no clue what to do with her life. The only TV series she enjoyed was Mad Men, which gave us a place to start. We saw that there was an advertising convention in town that weekend. She had only some slight hope that going would do any good but she agreed to go. After sitting for more than 30 minutes in the crowded conference auditorium she left to wander through the exhibit hall, packed with attendees and people manning booths.

At the last booth in the middle aisle, Lisa struck up a conversation with an older, energetic woman. Over the afternoon they exchanged stories about their lives. The older woman, the assistant to the president of a new, expanding advertising agency, was in a position to help Lisa, who didn't hide her admiration for her newly found mentor. On the spot, the older woman offered her a job and promised to help her along. And indeed she did. She sponsored her moves through several different departments, giving Lisa an opportunity to learn the business.

Then she encouraged her protégé to apply to graduate school, helping her choose where to go. Lisa learned to take full advantage of her mentor's advice, seizing every opportunity in every position she held. After she finished her MBA two years later, she was transferred to a branch office where she could prove herself, demonstrating her talent and team sense. She was then transferred to New York City where she continues to move forward with enthusiasm.

Sound too simple? Or like a fairy tale? You might say that Lisa was especially lucky, but when you think about it, her situation wasn't very different from that of many of us, nor was the outcome so uncommon. It's just that few of us have that boldness to explore the unknown. Few of us are willing to take such risks or openly admire a successful person we don't know. We are afraid to look foolish or unknowing. But if we're willing to take chances despite that fear, we might just get the support and direction we seek and need.

Make your luck happen!