What would you risk?

Aug 20, 2010 by

Hope you managed to catch Wednesday’s blog by Richard, Can’t Answer This Question Now? You’ll Kick Yourself Later. Don’t kick yourself about it though if you didn’t. Far more constructive would be to go take a peek at it. Following on from that though, I want to talk about threats and opportunities.

Progress always involves risk.

It’s easy to understand why people are cautious about moving jobs in uncertain economic times. People get hired and fired as companies grow or shrink, and job hunters get buffeted around in the middle of it all. Add to that concerns about bills, mortgage payments, clothing and feeding your children, and a thousand “ifs” and “buts” suddenly make the decision-making process so much harder. Add into the mix some childhood conditioning and stories about who we are and what we are capable of, and headaches often follow suit as we agonise over our choices and what the “right” course of action is.

I spoke some time ago with a chap who wanted to play it safe and stick with his current role, not because he found it particularly satisfying, but because familiarity with his company brought perceived job security. Career-wise, that company represented a comfy old pair of slippers. He really wanted a new pair, but considered it his best option at the time to stick with what he was used to. He took what he thought was the safer option, the “better the Devil you know” approach. But at what cost to his chances of fulfilling his career goals?

Every course of action we take in our lives brings consequences. In fact, it’s a big illusion that truly “safe” options exist at all. The chap above could have ditched an okay job for a new role that promised a particular bonus structure or opportunities for career progression, only to find that all was not as promised. He could have stayed with his old company, only to find out the next week that a new board had been installed, wanted to do things differently and planned to axe his job.

Take intelligent risks.

“It’s generally a bad idea to take dumb risks, where your expected outcome is negative and the potential upside is very limited.  But guess what…  It’s equally stupid to pass up an intelligent risk, where your expected outcome is positive and the potential downside is very limited… The most intelligent risks are those where the potential downside is limited, but the potential upside is virtually unlimited.  Those are the risks you should jump to take.”  Steve Pavlina

Don’t become risk-averse, but do minimise the risks by conducting the simple risk analysis exercise found in the Jobswot Module 2 quicksheets.

Consider what career options are open to you:

  • Progression: getting a better job in same firm or industry.
  • Taking a new direction: getting a job in a different sector or industry.
  • Consultancy or interim work: using your skills to satisfy particular contract needs.
  • Entrepreneurial: striking out on your own.
  • Portfolio career: a mixture of all the above.

Assess the threats and weaknesses.

Now draw up a list of threats and opportunities that each option presents.

Taking progression within the same company or industry as an example, we might come up with the following opportunities:

  • Developing contacts and knowledge in a specific area, becoming an industry expert.
  • Responsibility and higher salaries as you climb the career ladder.
  • Better job security, first in likely to be first out.

And the following threats:

  • Lower and less frequent salary rises if you stay within the same company.
  • Skills might suffer without exposure to working practices at other companies in the industry.
  • Boredom – “familiarity breeds contempt”.

Weigh up the possible pros and cons.

Think about the results of this exercise. Which opportunities appeal to you most? And what threats need to be taken into account? Weigh them up to help guide your decision-making.

Use your head and your gut.

This exercise can never provide definitive answers. Listen to your heart and your head when making career decisions. You may not get them “right” first time, but you’ll have a far greater chance of taking intelligent risks that lead you where you want to go.

And if you’re still scratching your chin working out the best course of action to take, check out the blog Are You Procrastinating? by UbiquitousRat for some further help on making decisions.

1 Comment

  1. Emily, you could have been talking about me in your 2nd paragraph. I had become bored with my last role in 2007 and made some half-hearted efforts to move on, but was hamstrung by the “better the devil you know…” scenario so didn’t approach it at all professionally. When the recession started in late 2008 I used that as an excuse, I decided to stray put and justified it to myself using “last in will be first out” as an argument. BIG MISTAKE.

    My post was made redundant late in 2009 so instead of taking the time to find a fulfilling job whilst still getting a salary, now I have to find a job, quite possibly accepting worse salary than I was on, whilst no one is paying me anything!

    If it feels like its time to move on then it probably is – don’t procrastinate out of fear and lazyness like I did!


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