Career risks worth taking

Are you looking to progress your career but don’t know how? Haven’t been given the chance to prove yourself? Or, perhaps you work for an organisation where there simply aren’t any progression opportunities. If this is you, and you’re serious about getting ahead, maybe it’s time to consider taking a career risk.

Unsurprisingly, you aren’t the first person who ever found him or herself in this position and you can learn from others. Just look around you, says Gaynor Topham, Vodafone resourcing manager. Many senior employees got where they are by taking risks, or at least calculated gambles.

Vodafone regularly highlights employees’ career stories to motivate others in the organisation to take a leap. Often successful senior people have moved around different parts of the business to get exposure. They get to their destination by following a personal career map, not a linear pathway, says Topham.

There are many worthwhile wagers employees can take in their journey. Start by having a career plan and know what your destination is, says Topham. A written career plan outlines where you want to be in 1, 5, and 10 years’ time and focuses your mind by giving you a structure or scaffold for your career progression. Make sure you spell out the skills and experience you need in that document. This will help you determine which calculated risks you should be taking to reach your ultimate goal.

This will help you determine which calculated risks you should be taking to reach your ultimate goal.

Once you’ve got a plan, have a think about some of these worthwhile career risks:

  1. Make a sideways move. The best next step may not be up. It could be to move sideways in order to move upwards in the longer term, says Topham. You may not get a pay rise with a sideways move but it could pay off by giving you the experience and exposure you need for a significant promotion later on. A sideways move could be to another department or another organisation. It could be between public/private, startup/corporate or to or from a not-for-profit.
  2. Leave a secure corporate job. While it might be a scary thought to give up a role with a super secure employer, a stint in a smaller organisation may well be the way to jump up a few rungs on the employment ladder at super-fast speed. Who knows, you might even come back to your super secure employer in the longer term, once you’ve gained a whole new set of skills elsewhere.
  3. Work out where you can help. Embrace an organisation-wide approach to your work and contribute to projects in other departments as a way to make yourself more influential. For example, you might be a marketer who could assist the IT team communicate and implement a new system or process. Identify a problem faced by the organisation and find a solution or develop and implement new and improved processes.
  4. Promote yourself. Step up to the responsibilities in the role you’d ultimately like to work in. Look for pain points in the organisation, develop solutions, and communicate your thoughts with higher management. By doing this, you’re calculating that you’ll be viewed as someone more senior than your current role suggests, putting you first in line for a promotion. In addition, as you gain more responsbility or learn new skills add them to your SEEK Profile to stand out to future employers.
  5. Go back to school. Do you need a certificate, degree or postgraduate degree to get ahead? Sometimes it’s worth taking a risk and going back to study to get the skills and qualifications that will take you to the next level.
  6. Take some time off to volunteer. Perhaps the answer may lie outside of work. Could you enhance your skills through voluntary work or a board, where you can do the role you’d ultimately like to see yourself in? If your goal is to be a manager, for example, volunteer to manage a campaign or group of people in a charity event.

As scary as it may be, sometimes you need to push yourself out of your comfort zone if you want to see change and as the famous saying goes, ‘no risk, no reward’. So, go on, take a leap.