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Taking Risks in Your Career

It’s often said in business that one must take risks to survive. Is this true? And how much risk is too much?

What is Risk?

Taking a risk is doing anything where there is a chance that the outcome might differ from the expected.

Risks can be big or small, calculated, or reckless. The stakes vary and more often than not, the greater the risk, the greater the return.

When I first sat down to write this article, I read a lot of quotes by people who are successful in their own fields. I found that their opinions on risk fell into one of two camps:

On one side, you’ve got the risk-takers - the throw caution to the wind types. These people have taken big risks in their lives and lived to tell the tale.

"To win big, you sometimes have to take big risks."
Bill Gates

On the other side, you have the calculated risk-takers; the people who do their homework to ensure that they can deal with any fallout should things backfire.

“Risk comes from not knowing what you are doing.”
Warren Buffet

What I didn’t find, however, were any quotes in support of being risk-averse. The collective opinion seemed to be that it is riskier in life, to take no risks at all and that there is a direct link between a person’s success and their risk tolerance.

The Stake

The level of risk we are willing to take is personal and everyone will have their own limits. These limits, however, are subject to change. As our families grow and we gain assets, we can become more cautious; after all, it’s much easier to leap into the void when you’ve got nothing to lose.

“He who has nothing to lose can afford all risks.”
Harriet Beecher Stowe

The richer we are, the more we have to lose – but losing £100,000 would be more financially damaging to a poor person than a rich person. It’s all relative to the individual and how much importance they place on things like material wealth and reputation.

Career Risk

When we relate risk-taking to making changes in our career, the implications can have far-reaching effects. Our jobs impact our families, our finances, and our reputation; whether the eventual outcome is positive or not, it could be life-changing.

So, how do you go about making a risky career decision?

That entirely depends on you, the prize to be won, and what is at stake. I’m a calculated risk-taker, so for me, it’s about being prepared for the possible repercussions. So, when you’re contemplating a decision that involves risk, I don’t think you can go wrong with a good, old-fashioned SWOT analysis.

Highlighting the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats surrounding your situation can not only help you to identify the risks you will be taking but can reveal just how advantageous it would be to take that risk.

In my last article, “Surrounding Yourself with the Right People”, I touched on the thought process I went through when I was considering leaving the corporate sector. I didn’t just leap; I took a little time, consulted people, and weighed things up.

Even then, however, the move was not without risks. Initially, when I left my senior management position at Boots, I was looking to move into another corporate role. By late 2019 / early 2020, I’d reached the final interview stage with 6 different companies, so, confident in my abilities, experience, and the job market, I left the comfort of Boots without a job lined up.

The more astute ones amongst you will have noticed the flaw in that plan.

Two words:

Global. Pandemic.

It just goes to show that even a calculated risk-taker can be blindsided.

So, there I was in Spring 2020, avoiding Covid and watching my job opportunities disappear before my eyes. Thankfully, however, because I am a calculated risk-taker, I had taken into account the fact that I could be out of work for a while.

I now had time to reassess and think about what direction I wanted to take my career in. The risk I had taken when leaving Boots may not have worked out as planned, but it had presented me with a new opportunity.

Instead of continuing to knock on corporate doors, I used the downtime provided by lockdown to formalise my leadership knowledge into coaching and consulting qualifications.

A couple of years down the line and here I am - an Executive Coach and Consultant. Without taking a risk, I wouldn’t be doing what I am today, and I LOVE what I do.

“I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have a life of ‘oh wells’ than a life of ‘what ifs’.”

Not Feeling Confident?

Our confidence, of course, plays a huge part in risk-taking.

Trusting in one’s own abilities, being assertive, and not caring too much about what people think, can all influence how prepared we are to take risks.

Confidence is situational, however, and a person’s propensity to be cautious doesn’t necessarily mean that they lack self-belief. The decision to take a risk depends entirely on an individual and their circumstances at the time.

Planning is Everything

As my own experience demonstrates, if you have a solid plan and the right support around you, risk can be minimised.

When you’re considering a transition or career change, to protect yourself, it’s important that you take the time to identify all the risks associated with making the change, put plans in place to mitigate that risk, and then review these plans on a regular basis.

For example, if like me you were looking to leave your current role before you found new employment, you should make sure you are able to survive for 6 months to a year without pay. Or, if you’re not sure if the move will be right for you, take the time to speak to trusted and informed people in your network.

Don’t take too long, though!

There’s a fine line between being thorough and dithering and most career opportunities have a shelf life. You don’t have to rush things, just make sure you are efficient in your approach; don’t let indecision be the reason an opportunity passes you by.

Coaching can Help

Having a solid plan is great, but you must have the focus to stick to it.

Throughout my own career transition, I consulted with several executive coaches. Career transition can be a very lonely place and the world is full of distractions. My coaches not only offered invaluable insight and advice, but they also held me accountable and kept me on track to fulfilling my goals.

So, how’s your job going?

Are you on the cusp of a career-changing decision? Are you having trouble deciding if transitioning is the right thing to do? Would you like assistance in identifying risks and then drawing up plans to mitigate them?

You don’t have to do it alone.

Let’s have a chat.

Pick up the phone and call me: 07799474776.

Or drop me a message: Email:

Let me help you to be all you can be, in 2022.

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