Why Risk Is A Necessary Component To A Successful Career — And How To Balance Risk With Reward


I believe that taking at least some risk is necessary for your career.

Former General Electric CEO Jack Welch wrote, “Companies cannot promise their people lifetime employment. Global competition is too fierce and economic cycles too frequent for any such guarantees. But they can promise their people every chance for employability — skills that will make them more attractive if they are forced to part ways.”

In the time since, Welch’s claim has become even more relevant. The speed of change in our workplaces has made it necessary to learn new skills and be proactive about getting them. Just think about the amount of new software you’ve had to work with in your office. In mine, we’ve been through implementation of SharePoint, Office 365, Outlook — and the list goes on. Consider all the devices you have at home. What happens if we don’t update our software, or replace a laptop after five years?

My point is that if we just do our jobs and wait for great things to happen, we’re taking a risk. I would argue it’s a fairly big risk: of not having the skills to excel, advance, move up in — or even change — our careers.

Here’s why: As Welch said, no employer can guarantee lifetime employment. Long gone, for the most part, are the days of spending 20 to 30 years at one job. I don’t think people should wait to get downsized, outsourced, or stuck in an unfulfilling job or career.

Is the job you have now going to be the same — or even be there at all — in five years?

First and foremost, recognize that it’s scary to contemplate a career change. There’s an emotional and financial component to switching jobs and industries. It’s OK to ask questions like, “After all these years investing time and money for education in my field, how can I move on to something else?” or, “How will I afford changing careers, or shifting to a new sector, from profit to nonprofit?” “Can I take a pay cut? Will I start at the bottom again?”

These are all valid, good and healthy questions to ask because there is risk in changing careers or shifting jobs or sectors. So, how do you minimize these risks? Here are some tips and tools to consider: