When to Take Risks and How to Identify Which Ones To Take

At work, just like in life, you are never going to be 100% ready to start something new, to take that next risk or raise your hand and volunteer for that opportunity. But what separates those who are successful from the rest? They raise their hand, take that risk with the belief that what they don’t know, they’ll learn and figure out along the way. Let’s shatter the belief that you have to be perfect before you take the next step. Let’s discover when to take that risk.

What risks make sense for you?

  1. Your mind is racing with all of the things you would do if you went for it. Do you have 15 things you would do in that position if you put yourself out there? If you can visualize yourself in that position and more than one path to success, it’s worth a second look.
  2. Will you kick yourself later for not taking it? Hindsight is 20/20, but if you think that you’ll be upset that you were too scared to raise your hand or have that hard conversation, it’s probably something you’ll be glad you did.
  3. The worst case scenario isn’t life-changing. So worst case, you get fired or you fail. Figure out what that looks like. It’ll hit your confidence, which you can rebuild. It’ll probably hit your finances, which you can manage. If you can survive through the worst case scenario, but work hard for the best case scenario, it might be a great opportunity for you.
  4. You’re excited, but a little scared. If you’re terrified, it’s probably not a good idea. But if you’re excited and a little nervous, it’s a good sign that that opportunity is just far enough outside your comfort zone to spur healthy growth. 
  5. You have a support network and supportive leadership to help you succeed. It is imperative to have a mentor or boss who is your cheerleader and will invest and encourage you to succeed. Don’t have one yet? Check out how to find one and what she can do for you here.
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When should you go for it? How ready is ready enough?

  1. Check Perception. It’s important to know how you are perceived in the space before volunteering for new roles or opportunities. Does your boss think you’re the greatest employee? Most likely, they will support you and even help you succeed in that role. But if your manager has a laundry list of reasons why you aren’t ready, it’s important to take time for self reflection and then attack that list and perception first so that any new opportunities are set up for success from the get-go.
  2. Read the Room. When are your peers taking next steps and raising their hand? In a Harvard Business Review study on gender gap in feedback and self-perception, women were able to adjust their self view to feedback rather quickly while men continued to have a higher self image than the level of peer feedback. “Preserving their positive self-views can encourage [men] to seek out new challenges and take advantage of opportunities.” While it’s important to know how others perceive you it shouldn’t hold you back from what’s next. If you have similar credentials and skills, what’s holding you back?
  3. Are you learning and growing in your current role? I always want to be learning and growing. If I’m no longer doing that in my current role, maybe I’ve outgrown that role. It may be a sign that a challenge at a new company or new opportunity in your current company is right on time.
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Still nervous you might fail? If you do, the good news is that many successful people have failed and you’re in good company. “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” is a popular quote from hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. Successful people know this truth and push boundaries (where it makes sense) because they also know that even failure is experience and learning. 

When they asked Thomas Edison about his failures in creating the first lightbulb, he said “I haven’t failed — I’ve just found 10,000 that won’t work.” Edison continued, “Failure is really a matter of conceit. People don’t work hard because, in their conceit, they imagine they’ll succeed without ever making an effort. Most people believe that they’ll wake up some day and find themselves rich.  Actually, they’ve got it half right, because eventually they do wake up.” 

With these tips, you’ll know when to raise your hand and hustle to succeed. Make the effort. Even if you’re not 100% perfect, you’ll succeed because you tried and learned.

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