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Six Ways to Be a Smart Career Risk Taker

Posted by Beth Banks Cohn PhD and Roz Usheroff on Thursday, December 16th, 2010

To be highly successful in your career requires that you engage in risk taking. But risk is accompanied by fear–fear that you’ll screw up, fear that others will judge you, and fear of the unknown. Confront your fear and use it as a motivator!

The benefits of being a courageous risk taker are many. If you make a mistake, you’ll become wiser. If you succeed, you’ll learn something about your capabilities and potential. Either way, being a risk taker at your job will position you as a leader and an innovator. The key is to learn how to be a smart risk taker. Here are six ways to do it.

Trust your instincts.

Don’t wait for complete certainty on an issue before making a decision; it often arrives too late if it arrives at all. Once you get a good idea, don’t incubate it–act on it and work to make it happen.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

If you’re in a job or doing a project for which you lack experience, have the courage to tough it out and ask for help. If you operate on fear instead–the fear that asking for help will diminish you in the eyes of your boss or coworkers–you’re setting yourself up for a disaster.

Unleash positive energy.

Fear, stress, and uncertainty can be friends, not enemies, as long as you use them as motivators rather than as energy or action blockers. Get used to tolerating these uncomfortable feelings. Remind yourself that progress won’t happen without taking a step forward, into the unknown.

Anticipate and act.

Not making a decision is actually making a negative decision. Think like an athlete, and learn to position yourself where the action is likely to take place.

Learn from failure.

The most important lessons we learn in life are those that result from failure. People are very forgiving as long as you’ve tried to do your best and acted with integrity.

Be realistic.

While wild dreams and outrageous ideas may look good on paper, the working world doesn’t play on paper–it plays on the field of life. When you’re ready to take a risk at work, check it for “reasonableness.” Being viewed as a maverick is good; being seen as reckless or off-the-wall isn’t.

Beth Banks Cohn PhD is a leading expert in change management and leadership development. Roz Usheroff is an internationally recognized communication expert and personal branding executive coach. They are coauthors of the new book, Taking the Leap: Managing Your Career in Turbulent Times…and Beyond (BookSurge Publishing, 2009).

 

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