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Updated Apr 18, 2024

4 Career Risks Worth Taking

Considering taking a big career risk? Ask yourself these questions beforehand to determine if it’s worth it.

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Nicole Fallon, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Analyst
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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Taking a leap of faith is risky, especially with something as important as your career. But some risks are worth taking. If you play your cards right, you could achieve more than you ever thought possible. Although a career risk may not be easy, here are four that are often worth taking.

4 career risks worth taking

If you’re thinking about making any one of these big career moves, it could be well worth the risk.

1. Choosing a job based on culture rather than salary

When choosing between two jobs, you might be tempted to take the one accompanied by the higher salary. Although you want a job that pays enough to cover your expenses, money isn’t always the most important aspect of a job and you shouldn’t accept a role based on salary alone. A higher salary often comes with higher demands and that doesn’t always equate to a good working experience. [Related article: How to Get Hired With Little Experience]

Instead, it’s becoming more common to take the risk of prioritizing company culture. 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, former chief technology officer at Idelic. “If you find the right culture match, your career ― and salary ― will ultimately thrive as well.”

Did You Know?Did you know
In a Glassdoor survey, 77 percent of adults said they would consider a company’s culture before applying for a job and 56 percent said company culture is more important than salary.

2. Getting a job abroad

Getting a job overseas is a major undertaking. It’s not as simple as sending out a job application. You will need to obtain the proper certifications and visas, of course. Additionally, it is important to consider the company you will be working for, whether there is a language barrier, where you will live and how to move your essential belongings with you. 

Working abroad can require a massive effort, but it comes with great rewards. Moving across international boundaries (or even frequently crossing them for business travel) is daunting but offers a great deal of personal and professional growth. Traveling internationally for business is a great way to expand your network as well.

“Go international if you have the chance,” said Douglas Baldasare, founder and CEO of ChargeItSpot. “The perspective you will build and the people you will meet will stay with you forever.”

If you are an immigrant looking to work or start a business in the United States, check out our related article on how to become an immigrant entrepreneur.

3. Asking for more responsibilities

Many people find themselves unhappy with some aspect of their current job but do nothing about it. Whether you deserve a raise, want more challenging projects or need professional development opportunities, asking for more can be intimidating.

As the famous author Nora Roberts once said, “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no.” Employees should keep this in mind when managing their careers. If there is something you need to feel successful in your role, don’t be afraid to ask for it. Prepare the proper materials to back up your request and arrange a meeting with your manager to discuss the matter. 

If the answer is still no, figure out alternative ways to get to where you want to be. A good manager will be willing to help you grow professionally and achieve what you deserve.

4. Quitting a job that you hate

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. If you find yourself at a company with a toxic work culture or in a role with no room for professional development, you may need to take one of the biggest career risks of all — quitting your job. Quitting a job can be scary and uncomfortable, but there’s no sense in staying with an organization whose values and goals don’t align with your own. Learn how to navigate a midlife career change smoothly.

Don’t compromise your professionalism or reputation when you resign from a job. Even if you hate the job or employer, there are ways to quit on good terms tactfully.

It’s always wise to have another job lined up before quitting your current job. 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 job. This may involve working for another company, venturing out on your own as a freelancer or starting your own business.

How to evaluate potential career risks

As with any other aspect of your life, your career requires risk management strategies to thrive. Taking career risks means being prepared to embrace change. Make sure you’re equipped with all the relevant information before you take that leap.

“We always ask ourselves whether we should take the risk now or wait until we have the perfect plan,” said Mohamed Elgendy, co-founder and CEO of Kolena. “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.” 

Before you pursue any career opportunity, ask yourself the following questions to help you decide whether or not 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, 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 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 identify, think about how to cushion 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 like remote or hybrid work.
  • 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.

Keep your overall career goals in mind when identifying and evaluating career risks. If the potential risk will bring you closer to achieving your goals, seriously consider it. If not, remain patient until the next opportunity comes along.

Great risk can sometimes bring great reward

In business and life, taking risks can sometimes pay off in a big way. Of course, it’s important to take calculated risks and not reckless ones. If you’re preparing to make a big move in your career or entrepreneurship, ask yourself the above questions and do your homework beforehand. If you believe the time is right and you’re ready, take the leap and hope for the best — it may result in a big success.

Tejas Vemparala and Skye Schooley contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.

author image
Nicole Fallon, Business Ownership Insider and Senior Analyst
Nicole Fallon is a small business owner with nearly a decade of experience overseeing day-to-day business operations. She and her co-founder self-funded their company and now lead a team of employees across multiple disciplines. Fallon's first-hand experience as an entrepreneur running a staffed business has given her unique insight into startup culture, budgeting, employer-employee relationships, sales and marketing, and project management. Fallon's business expertise is evident in her work with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, where she analyzes small business trends. Her writing has been published in Forbes, Entrepreneur, and Newsweek, and she enjoys collaborating with B2B and SaaS companies.
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