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Build Your Career Get Ahead

5 Career Risks Worth Taking

5 Career Risks Worth Taking
Credit: Sergey Nivens/Shutterstock

It's an old adage, but it's completely true: You'll never know the outcome of an action unless you try it. Taking a leap of faith in any area of your life may be risky, especially when it comes to something as important as your career. But some risks are worth taking, and if you play your cards right, you could achieve more than you ever thought possible.

"We always ask ourselves whether ... we should take the risk now or wait until we have the perfect plan," said Mohamed Elgendy, a project manager at Yale University and author of "3D Business Analyst" (Outskirts Press, 2014). "More often than not, we get stuck with the question, 'What's next?' Clarity comes from engagement, not thought, so you don't need to have everything figured out to move forward. Take a leap of faith, believe in yourself and take action."

Business News Daily asked career experts, entrepreneurs and successful professionals about smart career risks to consider taking if the opportunity arises. [10 Sure Signs It's Time to Quit Your Job]

Choosing a job based on culture rather than salary. It's becoming much more common to take this "risk," especially among millennials. Job seekers today are more willing to sacrifice a big paycheck and a more comfortable lifestyle for a work environment where they are highly valued and given more long-term opportunities.

"When you are happy at your job and you align with the company's core values, you do your best work," said Nate Good, chief technology officer at online ticket sale company ShowClix. "If you find the right culture match, your career — and salary — will ultimately thrive, as well."

Getting a job abroad. If you've ever thought about taking a job overseas (or at least one that requires frequent travel), there's no time like the present to give it a shot.

"Go international if you have the chance," said Douglas Baldasare, founder and CEO of phone-charging kiosk provider ChargeItSpot.com. "The perspective you will build and the people you will meet will stay with you forever."

Working outside your industry hub city. Industries like technology, finance and politics each have their own "mecca" cities with the greatest concentration of jobs in that field. But before you pack your bags for Silicon Valley, you may want to set your sights on a smaller metropolis.

"While it may seem logical to focus on the cities known for your line of work, being a big fish in a small pond can actually have profound effects on your career" Good said. "As a newly graduated computer science major, I was laser-focused on jobs in the Bay Area. But [I] soon came to realize that sticking around in Pittsburgh presented me with the greatest opportunities that I could ask for as a young software engineer right off the bat."

Embracing your weaknesses. While this may sound counterintuitive, focusing on the things you're lacking can force you to come up with creative ways to supplement them, and creativity is a highly prized asset in many companies.

"Embrace your shortcomings, because constraints breed creativity," Good told Business News Daily. "Of course, you should always play to your strengths, but if you're lacking in skills, don't be afraid to ... try creative alternatives."

Pursuing what you love. 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. If there's something you're more passionate about than the work you're doing in your career, find a way to make your passion your work. This may mean taking one of the biggest career risks of all — starting your own business.

"It's never a good time to start a business," said Max Chopovsky, who left a job in real estate to found his company, Chicago Creative Space. "You just have to go for it. Figure out what you love, and go do it. I know that is simplistic, idealistic and a bit impulsive, but that's what I did, and it worked for me. If you go this route, you may very well fail. But in that case, you will never ask yourself, 'What if?'"

As with any other aspect of your life, your career requires risk management strategies in order to thrive, said Joyce Maroney, director of The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated. Taking career risks means being prepared to embrace change, and you need to make sure you're equipped with all the relevant facts before you take that leap.

Before you pursue any career opportunity, Maroney advised asking yourself the following questions, which will help you decide whether you're prepared for it:

  • What is my tolerance for risk right now? Taking a risk creates disruption in your life. When considering any potential career opportunity, you need to think about it in the context of the rest of your life, especially if you are undergoing significant changes outside of work.
  • What are the benefits and costs of making this change? You may not be 100 percent certain of the outcome, but do your best to estimate the positive and negative results — both in your career and your personal life — if you were to take this opportunity.
  • Can I buffer the adverse impacts of making this change? For every downside you identified, think about how you can buffer the negative impact. For example, if the change means longer hours and a worse commute, look into whether the new employer offers flexible work options. 
  • Can I live with this decision if it doesn't pan out the way I planned? Not all of your career decisions will turn out exactly as you expected, but risk drives wisdom and growth when you accept this responsibility, Maroney said.

Travis Furlow, head of client services at recruitment and talent management company Alexander Mann Solutions, recommended simply asking one important question: Will this opportunity help you achieve your ultimate career goal?

"I like to guide professionals to create an 'intention' for what they would like to experience through their career," Furlow said. "If you are looking for growth in responsibility, leadership or income, pay close attention to [an] opportunity and use your instincts to determine if the potential move brings you closer to your designed intention. If it does, then run with it. If it does not, then remain patient and look for that next opportunity that will."

Nicole Fallon
Nicole Fallon

Nicole Fallon received her Bachelor's degree in Media, Culture and Communication from New York University. She began freelancing for Business News Daily in 2010 and joined the team as a staff writer three years later. She currently serves as the assistant editor. Reach her by email, or follow her on Twitter.