Having to change one’s career is always an exercise in stress, but for Jackie Wright, becoming a meeting planner was a study in the power of networking and leveraging the unexpected.

Now a meetings coordinator for Washington, D.C.’s American Society of Hematology (ASH), Wright found herself looking for a new employment opportunity after being laid off following a reorganization at the accounting firm where she worked as a relationship manager, liaising between different groups in the company.

Indeed, managing relationships turned out to be a skill she would leverage fully through contacts she made while volunteering through her church.

“I had a meeting with one of my fellow church members, and she said ‘I know someone, a neighbor, who you should meet,” Wright said, “and that was [meetings industry leader] Joan Eisenstodt, so we set up an informational interview.”

Wright also volunteered to help plan a variety of local festivals, and in the meantime Eisenstodt introduced her to Bill Reed, senior director of meetings and community engagement for ASH. Reed brought her in for an informational interview and at the end told her about an opening at ASH, which she interviewed for and got a year ago.

“It’s wonderful because I wanted to be in a place with lots of activity,” Wright said of her work planning committee meetings for ASH. “There’s always something going on—I love the level of intensity.

“If someone is contemplating a career transition, talk to as many people as possible,” Wright continued. “My experience was truly serendipity.”