Taking a Career Risk

Taking a Career Risk


You’re almost certainly familiar with the tale of the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady wins the race goes the moral, and sometimes that’s true. But there are other times when taking a risk and making a bold career move is the only way to get out of a rut. If your career is stuck in neutral, and your engagement is at an all-time low, it could be time to consider a change.

Change can come in many forms. Whether you’re considering quitting your secure corporate job to build your own business, or interested in moving to a new city for an opportunity you can’t pass up, for example, change will always be confronting. But stretching your comfort zone and doing something different is the first step towards playing bigger in your career and finding professional fulfilment.

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing

No one wants to be stuck in a job they hate, but many professionals do end up taking jobs that don’t let them reach their full potential, at least initially. As human beings, we are wired to resist giving up the known for the unknown. But when considering a new career direction, for example, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. And this is perhaps the biggest impediment to change in our working lives – the sense that any significant change has to be all or nothing.

If there’s something you’re more passionate about than what you’re doing, plan how you can integrate it into your life without sacrificing what you currently have. For example, if you’re considering a move from finance to marketing, seek opportunities for a temporary secondment within your company. If you’re passionate about the non-for profit sector, volunteer some time on your weekends to immerse yourself in the on-ground activities. And if you want to start your own business, build it on the side while you continue to work in your current job. Then, armed with real-world experience, you’ll have more clarity around the correct next steps for you.

The financial weight

Whether you’re taking a year off to travel around the world or starting your own business, the act of stepping away from a regular income and losing the safety net is probably what’s making you hesitate. But risks don’t have to mean staking all you have financially without a cut-off point. Sit down and work out what the costs of your risk actually are. Create contingency plans for all possible outcomes, discuss the risk with your support network, connect with mentors who have taken a similar path, and really do your research.

If the dream is to work for yourself or the risk is entrepreneurial in nature, work out what you can afford to spend and how long you’ll give your new venture before looking for another source of revenue. Do you have savings that you can use, or partners who can invest in the early stages? Even the smallest nest egg can represent a lot of freedom if you use it wisely, and whether your adventure is financial or spiritual, it’s likely to pay you back in spades.

The risk you take by not taking risks

By being closed to change, there is great risk too. In today’s marketplace, where jobs and job categories are being destroyed and invented at an accelerating rate, it can be argued that the riskiest move one can make is to assume that your industry or job is secure. In many fields, there is no such thing as job security, and if you lack passion for your job, your results can reflect this. Not taking action has costs that can be as consequential as taking risks; it’s simply less natural to calculate and pay attention to the “what-ifs” of inaction.

When your career is affecting your health or happiness

The biggest gamble you can take is with your health. If your career is making you stressed, over-worked and unhappy, it might be time to step back and reevaluate. Whether you want to take a leave of absence, go back to study or consider a new path altogether, it’s worth risking a high flying job with a salary to match if it comes at the expense of living your life.

Read more: Career Change: Why You Shouldn’t Fear It

What do you think?

Of course, taking a career risk can be stressful, making it tempting to stay in your comfort zone. But at the end of the day, which risk would you rather take: the risk that a new adventure might not work out perfectly, or the risk of staying stagnant in a job you don’t love?

This article was written by Megan Baker and Tanya Ashworth-Keppel on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: Forbes, The Muse, Business News Daily, Harvard Business Review

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