Career Change by Taking Smart Risks

Risk taking has a bad name and is synonymous with recklessness for many people.  Taking sensible risks once opportunities have come your way is quite different and is the way you will beat the competition for the best opportunities. Successful entrepreneurs and professionals take risks that they have intelligently assessed and managed so that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Risk is the opposite of opportunity and is a constant in career changeat40.  If there is no risk involved, it is probably not the great opportunity you expect it to be.

Dynamic World

Anything you do is risky, for example, driving a car or flying an airplane.  But inaction is also risky.  Many people decide to take no action on their careers due to fear but this itself is inherently risky as everything is changing around them.  The world is dynamic and risky. The market, the economy, an employer’s financial stability are some of the factors in constant flux. Taking intelligent risks gives you the competitive advantage.

Worst Case Scenario

Risks are often over-rated by many but it is possible to manage risk. As humans we became hardwired to overestimate threats, underestimate opportunities and underestimate resources to deal with the threatening environment back when we were cavemen. Psychologists call this a ‘negativity bias’ and you must overcome this if you want to succeed and lead the life of your dreams.  

Clearly, there are some risks no one should take, such as those that would lead to you losing your home or all your financial assets. In other cases, you need to ask what the worst case scenario is during your career change and take the risk if the implications are not as serious.  If you are unable to take a risk, you move to your back up plan and go into a different direction. However, you may wish to hedge your bets and reverse this decision if circumstances change and the advantages outweigh the risks.


Do not confuse risk with certainty as there is uncertainty in all risks. Not all uncertain matters are risky however, such as an unknown holiday destination. Professor Frank H Knight (1921) proposed that “risk” is randomness with knowable probabilities, and “uncertainty” is randomness with unknowable probabilities. Risk is often associated with age and length of career in the premise that young people are more likely to take risks in their careers as they have fewer responsibilities. I believe this is less the case today as many people over 40 are willing to take more risks for career change due to the precarious nature of the employment market and fears about the value of future pension pots.


In this era of double dip recession and volatility in finance and employment markets, there are no industries that are immune.  People working in formerly ‘stable’ professions such as government, engineering or education are now finding themselves suddenly redundant and less able to manage as they did not plan for the risks of losing their jobs.  People who are flexible, expect and manage risks are more likely to survive nasty surprises. The only answer to risk is resilience. In your career change, ensure that you are resilient and plan to stay that way.

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