Five risks smart job seekers​ should take

February 28, 2017

Sometimes risks are worth taking. I’m a firm believer in the fact that always following the standard, predictable path doesn’t necessary get you to where you want to be. However, where your career is concerned, taking risks can seem stupid. After all, so much is riding on the career that you’ve spent years building, for instance- your financial situation, your happiness and much, much more.

Yet sometimes, and more often than you might think, taking a risk when job seeking can be the best decision you’ve ever made. It can often be worth the gamble, and sometimes, you’ve just got to go for it and not look back.

Take me as an example; I remember when I was first offered the opportunity to move from the security of a management position in the well-established Hays business in the UK to join a tiny Hays start-up in Lisbon.

I was unsure whether to accept and asked a Director in the business for advice, explaining my concerns surrounding the fact that I would be managing a smaller team within a much less supportive environment. Her view was that I needed to assess the risk and potential reward, if I succeeded in the challenge then I would acquire a skill set that set me apart from my peers, creating a fast-track growth path for myself. Thankfully that proved to be the case and I’m very grateful for that advice.

In my experience, you can really drive your career forward by having the courage to take calculated, smart risks. So what are these risks, and how you should decide whether they are right for you?

1. Considering a temporary role

Many job seekers will avoid temp or contracting work through fear of their CV looking too “jumpy” and the hiring manager thinking they can’t hold down a job. Times are changing, and the number of temp workers being hired to take on certain projects or provide cover in the event of staff shortages is increasing by the minute. In fact, whilst estimations vary, it is thought that the amount of temporary workers being hired is set to increase by up to 40 percent by 2020.

Therefore, temp work is a growing trend which any smart employer is fully aware of. Taking advantage of this trend won’t reflect badly on you. In fact, it could be just what you need to give your resume a quick boost. Why? Because as my colleague Nick Deligiannis mentions in a recent article, “given the short-term nature of temporary assignments, your success in achieving each outcome allows you to add several quantifiable results to your CV in a short period of time.”

If you are looking to learn new skills, achieve some quick wins and experience a new working culture in the near future, then temp work could certainly be for you.

2. Taking a pay cut

This is often the risk that job seekers are the most averse to. I would say that this risk needs to be assessed on a case by case basis. Yes, this opportunity needs to be financially feasible. Yes, ideally you would move to a role which offered more money than your current one. Yes, most of the time the prospective employer will understand this expectation.

However, there will be occasions where a pay increase isn’t being offered, but the opportunity is too good to miss. For instance, you may be passionate about switching career paths and pursuing something completely different, but you have no experience. This prospective employer may be willing to take a risk on you and provide you with the training and experience you need, but for a lower salary.

In these situations, I urge you to look at your long-term goals and see how they weigh up compared to your immediate financial priorities. You should also consider how much you could potentially earn once you have more experience. Can you afford to continue working for the same, or even slightly less money for the time being, for the sake of your long term progression and workplace happiness? If so, then this a risk worth taking.

3. Relocating for your career

Relocating for your job is one of the most daunting career prospects out there and certainly not a decision to be taken lightly, especially if the move is overseas. There are many factors to consider and questions you should ask yourself revolving around who you are bringing with you, what the local economy is like and which cultural differences you need to be aware of.

In a lot of cases, however, you may find you have a lot more to gain than lose. Once you expand your search remit geographically you will find that there a wide range of opportunities, some of a much more senior level, which would not be available in your immediate country.

Your skills may be more in demand in certain locations, and therefore you would be able to attract a much higher salary. You will also be exposed to an entirely new working culture and way of business, adding a new level of experience to your resume and plenty to talk about in an interview room.

If a promising role slightly further afield becomes available, look into how the company on-boards new starters and accommodates the people moving with them. If the opportunity could propel your career and lifestyle in ways you couldn’t have imagined, whilst also ensuring a smooth and supportive transition process, then this risk seems like a no-brainer to me!

4. Switching industries

You may be an expert in a certain sector, and the thought of getting to grips with a completely different one can feel strange and intimidating. At first, you won’t know as much as your colleagues. You will need to do your homework and ask lots of questions in order to fully immerse yourself in the industry. However, I believe that this is a risk worth taking for the sake of keeping your knowledge fresh and diversifying your CV.

Having a wide range of jobs in your career history will also help you to understand your strengths and the elements of the working world that bring you joy. Take me for example; although I have enjoyed working at Hays for many years now, I previously spent time as a photographer’s assistant, a paperboy, an English teacher, and working as security on a Michael Jackson tour! All of these jobs brought me a range of experience, knowledge and a better understanding of myself.

Involvement in a variety of fields will show that you are a fast learner, open-minded, adaptable and resilient when faced with unfamiliar challenges. These are all soft traits that I hold in very high regard when hiring.

5. Changing company size

Perhaps you have noticed some opportunities to work for a company that is either much smaller or conversely, much larger than your current one. Both situations can be beneficial to your career, and this is something that I go into more detail in in a previous blog.

Just to recap, if you are thinking of making the move to a much larger organisation, you are likely to be given greater global mobility prospects, networking opportunities plus company benefits such as healthcare and pension schemes. If these types of factors appeal to you then it could be time to make that move. 

On the flipside, you may have noticed some opportunities at a much smaller organisation. In many instances, this can be a very strategic career progression step. For example, if you are looking to take on more responsibility, have more autonomy in your day to day role, and move quickly to a more senior position then this could be the right move for you. Just be sure to do your research and scope out the opportunities available at this smaller organisation before taking the jump.

In sum taking a career gamble will always be scary, and at times, not worth it. However, I believe that risks involving; pay, location, duration of role, industry and company size, are far less black and white. The risks need to be carefully assessed against the opportunities each will bring you, as well as your personal circumstances. Once you do this, you may find that the risk is, in fact, a smart one which will pay dividends for your career. Even when it doesn’t, you should never regret making the best decision you could with the information you had at the time. The trick isn’t to avoid the fall. The trick is to always get back up.

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