3 Ways to Take Risks for a More Fulfilling Career

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When was the last time you took a career risk? If you can’t quite remember, consider taking even a small leap today, in celebration of Take a Chance Day. To apply the spirit of the day toward your professional goals, try these three approaches to help you take healthy chances for a more enriching career.

Lack the experience? Apply anyway

If you’ve ever decided not to apply for a dream job because you didn’t meet some of the requirements, you may have also unwittingly limited your career growth. In our careers, it’s not always clear what the natural next step is, and sometimes when we don’t take a risk, we derail future professional growth. So, even if a position sounds like a reach, what’s the worst that could happen if you go ahead and apply anyway?

Don’t just shy away from an opportunity that requires five years of experience if you only have two or three under your belt. Simply acknowledge that you don’t match all the requirements, but be sure to cite clear examples that support why you’re up to the challenge.

If a job description asks for proven team management or project management skills, consider including examples of:

  • Any interns you have managed
  • Committees, fundraisers, events, associations, or volunteer groups where you held a leadership position
  • Have you managed a big project at work? Include that, too!

If you can’t show evidence of the specific experience, point to applicable skills that demonstrate your leadership and organizational abilities:

  • A specific instance where you solved a problem
  • How you successfully organize your tasks
  • Your record of meeting deadlines and exceeding expectations
  • Your ability to lead by example and drive a project and/or a project team

If you’re able to illustrate your enthusiasm and your transferable skills, you may turn out to be a promising candidate! And to think, you would’ve missed out altogether if you didn’t take a risk.

Don’t settle for being comfortable

Professional risk-taking doesn’t only relate to job searching; you should employ the same mindset when considering your professional development.

Perhaps you enjoy your current role as a communications manager, but you know that pursuing an upper management role on your team would involve more networking and public speaking (two things you tend to avoid). Even if you’re doing excellent work, you may also be limiting your growth by avoiding professional tasks that intimidate you.

In order to steer clear of complacency, challenge yourself to:

  • Attend a networking-specific event that requires you to to represent your organization
  • Try some low-key networking with former colleagues or through volunteering
  • Practice public speaking by taking the lead at a team meeting

Risks like these can feel less dramatic, but can yield big rewards in the way of longer-term career goals.

Be your own best advocate

It’s your responsibility to ask for what you want (and what you think you deserve) at work. But sometimes this is more difficult than simply raising up a concern, idea, or request.

Advocating for yourself could mean confronting something you’re unhappy about—such as a difficult working relationship or lack of opportunities for professional growth—or proactively seeking a professional development opportunity. Take the time to create and execute an action plan to ensure that your voice gets heard.

  • If you’re considering asking for a raise, create a plan for when and why you’re asking for a raise from your manager. Strategize how you’ll propose the meeting, what evidence you’ll offer as to why you deserve the raise, and how you’ll follow up with the result.
  • Maybe you’re navigating an interpersonal conflict at the office. Take a step back to reflect on the situation and maybe even write down your perspective and consider where that other person may be coming from, too. If you feel comfortable enough to address the situation with your coworker, practice what you’ll say and approach the conversation calmly and with an open mind. If that’s not an option, seek help from a trusted colleague, your boss, or a member of the HR staff. It can feel like a gamble, but it’s important to speak up and make sure you feel safe in your working environment.
  • If you’re searching for ways to kick up your enthusiasm for your job, take action! Maybe that means drafting a proposal for an intensive professional development opportunity—why you think you deserve it and how it will benefit the organization—or perhaps you’re interested in a more fitting job title, want flexibility with working remotely, or need to adjust your working hours. Whatever it is, advocate for yourself by raising concerns and offering solutions.

You may be surprised how these small acts can create ripple effects and lead to more professional fulfillment.

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Are you planning to take a professional leap? Tweet us at @idealistcareers about the chance you’re taking (or would like to take), however big or small!

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Yoona Wagener is a freelance writer and WordPress developer who believes in the value of nonlinear career paths. She has experience in academic publishing, teaching English abroad, serving up customer support to software end users, writing online help documentation, and mission-driven nonprofit marketing and communications.
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