If you look up the word “risk” in the dictionary, the definition is “exposure to the chance of injury or loss; a hazard or dangerous chance.” By that definition, risk sounds terrifying. But does all risk have to be negative? Taking risks can help you learn and grow, both personally and professionally, however, the key to risk taking is making sure that you are taking calculated risks.
Someone once told me that a calculated risk is a risk with a plan. I love that concept because risk is inevitable so it is important to weigh the possible outcomes to determine if the potential gain is worth more than the potential failure. This will allow you to make more educated decisions, reduce your chance of failure and, at the same time, have a game plan if something does not go as expected. Being too risky without planning and weighing possible outcomes is like gambling, which often does not end well. On the other hand, if you are too risk averse, you can get stuck in planning mode and struggle to make a decision while life passes you by. Calculated risk taking is the perfect middle ground.
The first big calculated risk that I ever took was when I accepted a job in Chicago at age 21 and agreed to move to a city that I had never been to. I had just graduated from the University of Georgia and was leaving my friends and family to start my career in the Windy City. I did not know anyone in Chicago so I got online, found some roommates on Craigslist and had the relocation company drop off my belongings at my new home next door to Wrigley Field. Looking back now, the Craigslist choice sounds a little questionable but the risk that I took with this big move paid off in the end. I had a great start to my career, was exposed to a new city, and made some lifelong friends along the way.
Another calculated risk that many of us are familiar with is changing jobs and/or companies. I spent 7.5 years with my first company working on a variety of teams, across functions and in multiple cities but the biggest risk I took was leaving behind the equity and brand that I had built to start a new chapter in my career at a new company. It was a scary change but the challenge was exciting and the potential gain was far greater than the potential failure. One thing I have found helpful during my risk assessment of job change is to look at the amount of change that will be required as you make the move. Will you need to learn a new company? Learn a new function? Learn a new customer? Learn a new city? Try not to change all of those factors at the same time. The transition will feel smoother when you have a couple constants you can lean on.
So whether you are being offered a new job, thinking about moving to a new city or exploring a different opportunity, don’t be afraid to take risks; instead, be a calculated risk taker.
* Director of Sales – Nestle Coffee Partners
* Title and company of the author reflect their position at the time article was written.
The opinions expressed here by guest bloggers are their own, not necessarily those of Stout Executive Search.