A new year often brings new ambitions for career growth. Maybe you’re looking for a promotion. Maybe you want to make a career pivot. Or maybe you need to rekindle passion for your work.
No matter what your aspirations are, you’ll probably need to take some risks to achieve them. It doesn’t mean you have to throw caution into the wind, quit your job and risk it all to follow your dreams… but you will have to take some calculated risks to be successful.
According to Anne Kreamer, author of Risk/Reward: Why Intelligent Leaps and Daring Choices are the Best Career Moves You Can Make, the people who advance the farthest in their careers take more risks—and they take them earlier and more often than others.
Not a big risk-taker? Don’t worry. Here are some simple risks anyone can take this year to move their career forward.
Start Trusting Your Gut
While plotting your next career move, it may seem prudent to weigh all the pros and cons and project whether the change will pay off in the future. But the best indicator may be your gut. Kreamer believes that the best risk-takers make career decisions by combining gut instinct with critical thinking.
“When you learn to trust your gut, you learn when to quit something,” Kreamer said. “You just know when you’ve learned what you can in a position and when it’s time to get out. I think [some people] stay with some things well past the sell-by date.”
Work-life balance can seem like a fantasy in some tech circles. Workaholism is just part of the culture in places like Silicon Valley. That’s why working less can be a big risk, and it’s a risk you should take, according to Kreamer: The most successful risk-takers know that downtime is critical to making the right career moves.
“It’s culturally difficult to do. It’s hard to develop the emotional muscle to take a break,” she said. “Risk-taking people learn that you need to have downtime to fill your creative well to be able to see the right opportunity when it comes.”
Develop New (Non-Tech) Skills
One way to expand your career prospects is diversifying your skillset. While gaining deep expertise in your field may seem like the path to growth, adding a greater breadth of skills and experience can open up more opportunities—and accelerate your career.
For example, if you’re a developer, consider attending a sales training seminar or join a sales rep at a client meeting. It will not only help you improve your presentation skills, but also give you a better perspective of client needs when developing products.
Expand Your Influence in Your Company
In many corporations, business units and departments operate in silos, focusing solely on their own projects. “It’s all too easy to focus on work you’re doing without knowing the whole dynamic of what the company is doing,” Kreamer said.
Break out of the mold this year and become known as a collaborator. It can be as simple as going to lunch with someone from another department and finding out what their needs are and how you can help, or volunteering for a cross-functional committee. Those small efforts can go a long way in making your name known throughout the organization.
Make a Lateral Career Move
Switching jobs isn’t always about a bigger salary or better title. Sometimes it’s just about finding a new opportunity to learn or a better environment in which to work. And the solution may be a lateral job move.
Whether you transfer to a similar role within your company, or take the same job with a competitor or a startup, sometimes moving sideways is the fastest way to move up.
Fix Something Everyone Complains About
Nearly every company has processes, practices, or systems that people complain about, but never elevate the issue to senior management. This is your year to change that.
Be proactive by proposing a solution to longstanding issues in your organization. Whether it’s a more efficient process, new software, or a way to make meetings shorter and more effective, speak up.
“If you go in complaining, you’re never going to be able to effect change,” said Jody Miller, a corporate culture and employee engagement strategist. “But if you come with a solutions mindset, then you’ll be heard and be able to make that change.”
Get Out of Your Career Bubble
You know that networking is essential to finding career opportunities. But are you limiting your network to people in your industry or your college alumni club? “Research shows you don’t get your next job by your closest acquaintances,” Kreamer said. “You get it by a loose network of people by which you associate.”
That means your next job recommendation may likely come from someone at the running club you joined or your yoga class rather than the local tech meetup. “Create the discipline to get out of your silo,” Kreamer said. “It’s not a waste of time; it’s incredibly beneficial to your future prospects.”
No matter where you are in your career, taking small, calculated risks can pay off in the long run. Start to build your risk tolerance by stepping out of your comfort zone this year.