5 Steps to Execute
a Calculated Career Risk
G. Arias, Principal, Arias Solutions
you a risk taker? For many of us, the word risk connotes
feelings of uncertainty, vulnerability or even physical
harm. Its no wonder human beings have a natural aversion
to risk it simply places us outside of our comfort
When it comes to your career, whether
youre thinking of starting your own business, asking
for a raise or promotion, or taking a leap of faith to pursue
a passion, its normal to have doubts and hesitations.
While these concerns are legitimate, you should consider
the potential benefits of taking a risk. After all, the
status quo will rarely lead to the development and growth
necessary to get to the next level and propel your career
Before you take the plunge, its
important to assess whether a career risk is worth taking.
Leadership guru Stephen Covey writes in his timeless classic,
The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, you
need to begin with the end in mind and determine
your goal. Is your goal a new role in your existing organization?
Is it a higher salary or a promotion?
Once you know your goal, you need to evaluate
the risk by asking a series of important questions. Will
this risk get you closer to your goal? Will this risk provide
you with the opportunity to learn a new skill? Will taking
this risk expand your experience and increase your exposure?
What are the consequences if taking the risk fails? Before
any career altering decisions are made, its important
to evaluate the pros and cons. Once youve decided
to take a career risk, there are five steps to set yourself
up for success.
Step 1: Research
Research and preparation are key to successful
risk taking. Research and gather all relevant data and information
related to the risk. For example, for a higher salary, you
can research your industry for compensation benchmarks.
For a promotion, you can conduct a competitive analysis
of the roles you want and document your accomplishments
to socialize with your stakeholders. Decision makers will
know you are serious when its evident you have taken
the time to research and prepare for the next step in your
Step 2: Align Your Allies
It isnt enough to be excellent at
what you do, decision makers will often look into how you
worked with others in previous roles. The second step in
preparing yourself to take career risks is to identify allies.
To find voices within your organization who can support
you, look over your work history to identify colleagues,
mentors, team members and former bosses. These individuals
can help you create a critical support system and provide
endorsements for you.
Lastly, ask your allies to listen to your
pitch and ask tough questions. This step will sharpen your
preparation and help you with step 3.
3: Prepare for Opposition
The third step to preparing yourself for
career risk is to evaluate and prepare for potential opposition.
Its important to be prepared with solid answers to
questions about company policies on raises or promotions,
your past work experience and your accomplishments. Decision
makers want to know that you have a thorough, 360 degree
understanding of the organization, its strategic goals and
most important stakeholders. Having strong responses to
these types of questions can greatly impact the success
of asking for a promotion, higher salary, etc.
4: Create Options
More often than not, the path to your
desired goal will not be a straight line. There will be
road blocks and detours. At times you might even feel like
youre moving in the wrong direction. However, you
need to flexible and willing to realize that what might
have seemed a wrong turn could eventually be a critical
stepping-stone towards your goal.
When taking career risks, its important
to identify options. If you pursue Plan A, but the outcome
didnt yield the results you wanted or expected, youve
got to be prepared to pivot and immediately run with Plan
B. For example, if you asked for a promotion and your boss
said she isnt yet prepared to promote you right now,
ask for specific steps you need to take and timelines. Do
not be afraid to ask what you need to do to obtain your
Step 5: Be Confident
In addition to creating options and getting
specific with the decision makers, it goes without saying
that you need to be confident in your abilities, your experience
and your drive to succeed. True confidence comes from an
internal belief that you are capable and worthy of what
youre asking. Its not to be confused with arrogance.
Being confident doesnt necessarily mean the absence
of fear, but rather moving forward in spite of fear.
Confidence is exuded by standing tall,
making eye contact, extending a firm handshake and trusting
that your unique skills, experience and potential is what
makes you the right candidate for a promotion, raise or
new role. Healthy confidence is attractive and magnetic.
Decision makers are looking to promote and retain confident
employees who will reflect well on the organization.
Learning From Failure Seek Feedback
If youve read this far, I would
be remiss to not touch on the sometimes painful reality
that even when weve taken all of the necessary steps
we fail. We all fail. Failure is not fatal, but a
step on the road to success. As Thomas Edison once quipped
when asked how he felt after over 10,000 unsuccessful attempts
at the invention of the light bulb, I havent
failed. I just found 10,000 ways it wont work.
So, what can you do if the risk didnt work out in
One important way to make the most out
of failure is to garner feedback. If a career risk didnt
work out, dont be afraid to follow up with the decision
maker and ask for specific input on what you could have
done differently. Constructive criticism is essential to
learning and will help you assess and prepare for your next
Soliciting feedback is also a great way
to ensure you will not burn any bridges. As you seek first
to understand, this proactive step will communicate to all
involved that you are sincerely seeking to grow and develop.
Every failure is an opportunity to learn a life lesson.
When you demonstrate resilience, it shows your peers and
direct reports that you have the internal strength they
need in a leader.
Maria G. Arias is the Principal of Arias
Solutions, a consulting firm specializing in diversity,
inclusion and multicultural initiatives. She recently was
the first Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for
Comcast Corporation. In this role, she established the Corporate
Diversity & Inclusion department which oversaw diversity
and inclusion initiatives at Comcast Cable, NBCUniversal,
Telemundo and Comcast Spectra. For more information, visit