How to take the right kind of risks early in your career
Learn when to go for it—and when to play it safe.
Risk-taking. It’s one of those terms confined to entrepreneurs and CEOs, right?
Not at all. Taking risks early in your career can help you learn valuable lessons, move ahead more quickly—and possibly reap financial rewards.
But without a lot of experience taking calculated career gambles, it can be tough to know when to go for it—and when to play it safe. Monster asked career experts to weigh in so you can make an informed decision before you take your next leap of faith.
Good risk: Telling your manager how you’d fix things
Why it’s worth it: If you notice something’s not working, and you have a way to fix it, there’s no downside to telling your manager, right? Well, it depends whether your manager came up with the process or program that you’re looking to fix. And it also depends on how you state your case.
The best way to approach this kind of risk is to come prepared with a way to solve the problem. “If you think your way could really improve things, be sure to approach the person in charge with your suggestion in a pleasant, helpful manner,” says Miriam Salpeter, author of Write and Speak Like a Professional. “Be proud of your suggestion, especially if they decide to implement it, but try not to take a holier-than-thou tone to ensure you don't step on anyone's toes.”
Good risk: Negotiating a job offer
Why it’s worth it: What you don’t ask for, you won’t get. Very rarely will a company renege on their offer if you ask for more, especially if it’s within reason. What’s more likely is that you’ll enter into a conversation and find something that works for both parties.
“Employers expect you to negotiate,” says Monster career expert Vicki Salemi. “They’re more surprised when you don’t than when you do. So even when you get an offer you’re completely excited about, negotiate. Chances are, the employer has more money left on the table—and you will only get it if you ask for it.”
Good risk: Volunteering for inconvenient projects
Why it’s worth it: You might know this situation. You’re sitting around a conference room table, and your department head asks for a volunteer to lead a project. No one puts their hand up, because honestly, it’s grunt work and inconvenient. It’s going to take time—probably outside your normal work hours.
“This is a win-win for you,” says Gregory Serrien, author of Engineer Your Success After College. “You get bonus points with management for pursuing the tough problems, working the extra hours and being a solid team player and leader.”
Bad risk: Taking a job just for the money
Why you shouldn’t do it: It might seem tempting to take a job with a big paycheck early in your career—especially if you have a lot of college debt—but money can’t buy sanity, so be sure to make sure the job fits more than just your wallet. Ask yourself some important questions before accepting the offer, Salpeter says.
Does the organization share your values? Will your boss or team value your insights and ideas? Will you have the flexibility you desire? Will you be able to take a class and enhance your professional development?
“If the job isn't a good fit in these or other ways that are important to you, you may be making a mistaking taking the position,” says Salpeter. “You may be better off turning down a job if you see red flags and seek a position where their needs and what you offer match well.”
Bad risk: Taking too much credit for a team effort
Why you shouldn’t do it:
This one is about the importance of being a team player over a solo flyer. Sure, we should all tout our accomplishments, but there’s more downside than up when you overstate your role in a group project.
“If the team members all took equal roles in an accomplishment, be generous in sharing credit and never try to oversell your role,” says Salpeter. “No one likes someone who tries to hog the spotlight. You’re better off allowing team members to sing your praises than trying to sing them yourself.”