There are two types of people in the working world (OK, that’s extreme, but work with me): the risk-averse who mind the rules, and the risk-takers who push boundaries to get ahead.
The risk-averse tend to stay in their lane. To be fair, many are exceptional employees and achieve success by being predictable or reliable (or both), but they might not always get the same opportunities as risk-takers, who tend to go beyond what’s asked of them. For better or for worse, they are bold when others are not.
Taking risks at work can be, well, risky. Pouring time into a project that no one asked you to do, floating a proposal that no one asked you to create, bypassing your boss and making an executive decision when you see it’s what’s needed—these things are not safe or easy. But then again, no career worth having is. Here’s why you might want to add a bit more risk into your 9-to-5.
1. You’ll Never Be Bored
You could play it safe. You could show up to work, check your email, update the spreadsheets that need updating, dial-in to the calls that need dialing into, and never step on anyone’s toes.
Or, you could do that and a little extra. You could take the lead on a call with clients or customers. You could buck consensus at a meeting by offering a different point of view. Whether you get others on board may not matter so much because the point is, there’s a bit of a thrill in stepping outside of your comfort zone. And you never know, you could stumble upon something new you love to do that you may not have discovered if you hadn’t taken on that new project.
2. You’ll Get Your Boss’s Attention
Here’s a scenario: Your team is floundering in dysfunction and bogged down by so-so leadership. You could sit idly by and stick it out. Or, you could map out a better team structure. You could commit your idea to a presentation and run it by your boss and his or her boss. Sure, you run the risk of offending your boss’ primacy, and it’s a little unconventional for a subordinate to propose a re-org. But you also stand the chance to gain some attention. And whether your idea is implemented or not, you reveal yourself as a formidable employee with a mind for solutions.
After all, if you take well-intentioned risks that benefit not only you, but your team as a whole, you begin to position yourself as a leader. Too often people are motivated by personal gain, and their actions reveal them as such. But if the risks you take align your advancement with that of your team’s, you show the kind of rare and invaluable leadership that companies are starving for.
3. You Build a Brand of Innovation
It takes creativity to take risks. In fact, one could argue that creativity and risk-taking are pretty similar. Both require you to bypass groupthink and step outside the mainstream by way of original thought.
For example, if you are working on a project or task that others have done before, and you think to yourself, “I know a better way to do this,” speak up. Though it can be tempting to maintain the status quo, even incremental improvements are valuable in the workplace. And as it concerns your career, when you propose a new method, produce a better client deliverable, or simplify a complicated process—boom, you’re an innovator.
It could even spark a chain reaction. The more you innovate, the more you’ll be trusted to propose and implement ideas, and the more value you add as a result.
If you’re content in a career that’s predictable and safe, that’s great. But if you seek to create more opportunities for yourself than others create for you and be creative and stimulated in your work life, there’s no way around it—you’ll have to take risks.
Photo of people at work courtesy of Getty Images.
Heather Freiser is the VP of Branded Content at The Muse. She was formerly an editor for Contently and a producer for Bloomberg News. She's also a news junkie, foodie and very caffeinated mom of two.More from this Author
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