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How to Use Risk Taking to Help Your Career

Whatever your attitude to risk in your personal life, when it comes to career advancement, the people who move the furthest, the quickest tend to be risk takers. Much about everyday work success, from offering a personal opinion on a key project to suggesting changes that might go against the status quo to nailing the interview that gets you a promotion, involves a little risk. Avoiding risk and sticking firmly in your comfort zone might make for an easy life, but it certainly won’t get you noticed – and if you want to accelerate your career plans, you definitely need to get yourself noticed.

There are those who passionately argue that risk taking trumps job security, because the alternative – and fantastically common – path of clinging to a comfortable but unsatisfactory career is actually not foolproof, anyway. You may stick with the devil you know only to find yourself ultimately facing the sudden loss of your dead-end job. No career path is completely without risk – so getting used to accepting some risk will ultimately give you the confidence to continue working towards a career you really enjoy.

The good news is that risk taking can be a learned habit, as well as an innate personality trait. Like any habit, it relies on small and incremental changes which add together to make a big difference. You could try challenging yourself to complete any of the actions below and track your progress using a handy habit tracking app like Coach.me. You can even hire a coach to help keep you motivated and hold you accountable.


Get started on these ideas, and see how risk taking can transform your career.

See Also: 5 Reasons You Need to Take More Risks

1. Go Talk to Someone New

Do you find yourself hanging out with the same people at work every day? Or go to industry events which are intended to allow networking, and loiter by the buffet with your workmates?

Take a risk and talk to someone you don’t know at work. Building your network is a good way to ensure career progression, as the broader and deeper your connections are the more you can help each other out along the way.

So, make a choice to sit with someone new over lunch, to attend that breakfast seminar or industry networking event. You’ve only got to say “hello”, and you never know where it might lead you.

2. Put Yourself Forward

Very rarely do people actually complete the work that was listed in their job description without ever being asked to stretch themselves, fill some gaps, and undertake other projects. This sort of  “development opportunity” can feel thankless. You probably won’t get paid any more, it might distract from your regular duties, and it certainly feels like a risk. But that’s what we are all about now, right?

So, next time you see that project looming your way, when a new team member joins, or a colleague goes on sick leave, why not actively offer to pick up the slack? It’s coming your way, anyway, so book the time to speak to your boss, explain that you can see an issue in the way the team is currently functioning, and offer to be the one who fixes it.

Instead of being the victim, you’re in control. Instead of having work dumped on you, you’re able to design the tasks your way, and your boss will know you’re proactive and engaged, and just the sort of person that needs more long-term career development.

3. Speak Up

Meetings and more formal work scenarios can leave even the most confident of us feeling a little out of our depth. Publicly stating an opinion or making a suggestion in a meeting can feel nerve-wracking – your pulse races, your voice shakes a bit – but that’s why you know it’s the right thing to do. If speaking up is out of your comfort zone then it’s definitely something to get more used to if you want to progress.

If you have team meetings, plan in advance to make your voice heard. Read the agenda and form an opinion on the topics in hand. Talk to colleagues you trust about your views and you can help each other out when it comes to expressing your ideas. Most importantly, resolve to say something at every meeting. This will help you get noticed, and that’s half the battle.

4. Offer Ideas

If speaking up isn’t a worry, then take this to another level, and come up with ideas to help your team and offer them without being asked. If you can see an issue that you’re all facing but you have a new angle or plan to approach it, talk it through with your boss. Depending on how formal your workplace is, you could write down your thought processes and present them as a business plan. Include details of cost and benefit to really impress.

This can also work if you’re currently looking for work. If you have businesses in mind you’d love to work with, and can see ways to overcome the challenges they face, use this as part of an interview or networking conversation to persuade the hiring manager that you’re the right one for them.

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5. Get a Mentor

One of the most powerful things in developing a great career is having a mentor. A more experienced voice that you trust and can turn to for advice can help in many different scenarios. Finding a mentor can be a risk – what if people you approach say “no”? Get over this limiting emotion, and your mentor could make a real difference to your career trajectory.

Start by reaching out to people within your business you admire. Your mentor should not be a direct manager, so think about more senior employees in different departments. If your company has a formal mentoring program, use that, but if not, a simple email request for mentoring could be all you need.

6. Write and Share a Career Plan

Give yourself permission to consider what you actually want from your career. Apathy (or the appearance of apathy) is the worst possible thing when you’re trying to boost your career prospects. Invest some time in thinking about and writing down what you actually want from your career, and share it with the people in your company that matter.

It will feel like a risk to verbalise these things, but if you want others to help you in your journey, you will have to get used to sharing your proposed destination.

If you’re naturally risk averse, or have had bad experiences that make you anxious about stepping out of your comfort zone at work, then you might be inclined to draw back from taking risks at work. For some people, this could be rooted in a feeling that comfort equals security, and risk taking might ultimately mean you damage your chances of career success. Not everyone has it in them to jack in the day job and start their own business. It’s not right for everyone to throw caution to the wind and resolve to seek career success through following your passions.

But it is equally dangerous to stick too firmly to the other extreme, and refuse to take any risk at all, in work. That way lays stagnation, and given today’s constantly evolving workplace, it is not really accurate to associate comfort with security as we are all likely to experience unforeseen change at work during our lives. It might be more appropriate to say that some measured risk taking can be a source of increased security, as with some risks such as those outlined above, we are able to stay more in control of our own choices and chances at work.

How else can you help your career by taking risks? Share your tips with us in the comments section below!