154: Intelligent Career Risks That Make You More Valuable

Mindset

Welcome friends to Episode #154 of the Own Your Best Life Podcast. If you could have one wish fulfilled, what would it be? One of the answers I get the most is that people wish they could have unlimited money so they can take career risks. When we think about risks, we usually think of losing something like money. Do risks mean that you’re forgoing money? Not necessarily. Today’s podcast will be on how to actually make yourself more valuable by taking intelligent career risks.

I’ve just finished creating a large body of work around careers and developing yourself professionally. It will be released soon and one of the biggest things I noticed is that you don’t always know what’s going to happen, financially, when you make certain decisions with your career. Most of the time, we can pinpoint certain careers that will make a certain range of money – but it’s still up to you and the situation you’re in – what you make and how much money you want.

If you find the idea of taking risks to be unpalatable, welcome to the club. I don’t like gambling – it feels like a waste of money and time to me. Sure, I get the idea that there is the thrill and the enjoyment of betting – but my idea of a good time is getting something I enjoy for the time and money I spend. If I pay money to eat food, I enjoy it. Wondering if I’ll make money when I know the house always wins is not enjoyable.

There is a place, however, where your odds are better than in Vegas. It’s your work and career. While you will never be perfect and you will always fail at something at some point, you also have the ability to increase your value to your clients and the organization. The first tier of our careers, we spend a lot of time just figuring out what people and organizations care about and how to solve those problems. We get paid to solve problems. For those of you who want no problems at work, this is a good thing. Problems mean getting paid and making money. Problems are a good thing to a certain degree. Especially, when you have a reputation for solving problems. You find bigger and better problems to solve. You make your mark as the person who gets things done.

The next tier of your career is becoming really good at what you do. This is where many people come to see me. They’ve become really good at what they do but they don’t really love what they do or the way they’re doing it. They don’t want to just be the person telling people what to do – or they want to be the person not doing all the things anymore. Wherever they are, they see that their growth is somewhere else. They want to see progress in the places that matter.

When you get more specific, you will be taking on more risk in your career. You having to define what industry or function you want to play in next will make you less of a generalist and more of a specialist. This is a risk because you don’t just say you can do everything. You start to say what you can do well. You start to realize what you’re not so good at. You spend time doing things you’re not so good at – and it becomes apparent that you aren’t as skilled because in comparison to what you’re an expert at, the difference is much bigger.

Visions close the gap between risk and reality

There also comes a time when you realize that you’re not just getting specific, you’re diving into places where you don’t have very much experience. You stop thinking about what you’re already good at, but what you want to excel in. What matters here is not how good you are, but how much of a talent this is for you and how much you want to excel in this area. I want to be best-in-class at what I do. I know that I might not be starting as early or that I might have less experience than other people in certain areas, but I also know that I am standing on a strong foundation of talent and expertise. I also know how good I want to be.

I remember a book that I picked up called, “It’s not how good you are. It’s how good you want to be.” The title of this book more than the contents is what inspires me to do hard things. The hard thing when you start out is not being good at something. It’s like asking for help. Asking for help is one of those hard things because asking for help presupposes that you might not be that good at something yet. People who have a vision and are willing to work hard and intelligently towards that vision are not so afraid to ask for help. When you don’t have a vision you may not be willing to take career risks because reality and desire is in the status quo. Visions close the gap between risks and reality.

Working towards a vision is the most pragmatic thing you can do to protect your money-making potential and to expand it as well. What career risk would you have to take in order to be even more valuable in your career? Would that be to actually set targets that feel hard to reach – and to work towards meeting them? Would it be to do less and focus on delivering what you have at the highest level? Is it doing the thing you’re not so great at, yet? What’s the thing that makes you squirm? 

Take the one-foot risk

A risk is only a risk if there’s a possibility of a loss. Loss of reputation if you fail. Loss of income if you never recoup the investment. Loss of a job if you don’t do this new thing well. I don’t want you to pretend there is no risk. I also don’t want you to just do things that will risk everything for the sake of taking a risk. I want you to take intelligent risks that make you more valuable. 

Most people miss setting themselves apart and becoming outstanding by a small measure. They say that the last mile is never crowded. You don’t have to go a mile, you can go one foot or one meter to set yourself apart. What are the one-foot risks that leave the other foot on solid ground?

Here are some of the things I’ve done as an example:

  • Take roles I have no experience with but am supported in
  • Worked in industries I’ve never worked in before but have access to industry knowledge
  • Worked for people who are challenging but depersonalize it
  • Post on LinkedIn and on social media where people could see and gasp, judge – but don’t expect approval
  • Launch a podcast but create focused content for clients
  • Gone back to school but took out loans
  • Left jobs and took a paycut – but not beneath my non-negotiable amounts
  • Made career changes but kept building upon strengths
  • Said no to promotions to deepen my expertise but worked to exceed expectations
  • Leaving toxic work environments but also working on myself and how I co-created that experience in the process
  • Said yes to projects that I’ve never done before but not at the expense of my core work
  • Launching retreats but made the financials work
  • Started my own business but kept other corporate work

Each of these things made me more valuable. From no experience to experience in projects, industries and careers. From one stream of income and no business to making money in a business and multiple streams of income. Even though I didn’t superficially want to do these things, I did. 

I wanted to keep doing the easy thing which is status quo, but I knew like you know that there comes a time when you just know it’s time to make a move. You just don’t want it to risk everything in the process. The good news is that you don’t and you won’t. 

This is why I’m passionate about my work. For the longest time, I thought I had to make these huge sweeping changes that would upend my life for my life to feel on fire again. It wasn’t the case, yet when I thought that’s what was needed – I felt so stuck. I knew I was responsible for not just me but my family as well financially, so I didn’t want to be in a place where I took risks I couldn’t come back from.

Each time I had to make it all work with my current workload, responsibilities and demands. It was a risk to show up more boldly and to do things I didn’t know how to do. I am intensely aware that it may look like I just knew how to do all these things, but I didn’t. I really didn’t. I cared a lot about what other people thought and what they thought of me. I spent a lot of time working in just whatever I had, let alone taking on more responsibilities and projects. I didn’t ever feel like I had a lot of time or money to make all these things work. Every time, I lost money and time. Yet, the risk is that I will gain it back – not from everything but from some, especially if I keep getting better and refine how I make decisions and take risks.

This is a skill. To not be afraid of risks but to mitigate them. To not think about things as just all or nothing but to find the middle ground. What makes you scared but also excited? That’s a career risk to ponder taking. Maybe it’s talking about what you want and even that feels scary. This is a personal process so know that your risk isn’t the same as someone else’s – yet, we are all humans whose day to day life is a filled with inherent risks. The difference is that you’re used to the ones you’re used to – and these new ones are just out there for you to take. They will make you more valuable. More value is more money and protection from the layoffs and income drops that people are always concerned about. 

It’s not about keeping what you have though, it’s about knowing you can always go out there and get what you need.

If you like this blend of both practicality and mindset, you will love coaching. You can schedule a consultation at www.mayempson.com/contact  to learn more about working together and joining this community of like-minded, open and curious seekers. It is the powerful group and private coaching hybrid experience for achievers who want to expand their vision of what’s possible. 12 months of support, individualized guidance, community and retreats. We will help you build your confidence, trust your intuition and make decisions that you love.

I’ve also just created a free masterclass for you. If you’re ready to figure out what’s next, you’ll want to sign up for the replay of my most recent masterclass, “Figuring out What’s Next.” Go to the link here in the shownotes to sign up and learn the 3 phases of where you’re at in your career/life crossroads and what to do in each phase. 

That’s it for this week. Have an amazing one and I’ll talk to you next time.

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