Career risks aren’t always obvious. What seems to be a high-risk move may actually turn out to be the most likely to assure your future. What seems to promise job security turns out to be a myth.
Your mother or grandmother probably grew up hearing, “Become a secretary and you’ll always have a job.” Or even, “If you can type, you’ll be employable.”
Look where that would get you today!
Each risk has to be evaluated independently. For example:
Risk #1: Going Back to School.
Even if you don’t heed a degree you may find that the experience gives you access to a new network. However, I find many professionals (especially those who have achieved success by degrees) feel lost in transition. They want the degree or piece of paper to signify, “You’re ready!”
Often you have a two-sided risk. First, you invest tuition expenses and lose salary you would have earned. Second, your educational experience may not lead to the outcome you had hoped.
When I returned for my Ph.D., academic jobs were plentiful in business schools. I earned a good living even while I was taking classes and writing my dissertation. Although I was an “older student,” I had a choice of jobs when I graduated.
Five years later, the world looked different. One of my colleagues applied to business school while jobs were plentiful; by the time he graduated, the job market had dried up. He got a job but it wasn’t one he liked.
Risk #2: Leaving a job you hate.
Sometimes changing careers actually is less risky than staying where you are. Quitting before you have another job – well, that’s almost always risky. But embarking on a career change while you are employed may be a wise decision.
On the other hand, if you’re really miserable in a job, you may inadvertently sabotage your future. You’ll make a critical mistake or blurt out an indiscreet remark. You’ll wonder why…but you knew all along.
Risk #3: Saying “no” to added responsibility.
Sometimes turning down a promotion just means you live with less money and prestige. But you encounter other risks.
When you are overqualified, you get bored and restless. You may find it hard to follow directions that you know – from experience – are misguided. I’ve talked to many mid-life workers who accepted a lower level job to avoid stress. Inevitably, they encountered more stress as they dealt with the disparity between their skills and their recognition.
Risk #4: Leaving the corporate world for self-employment. Sure, this option is extremely risky – especially if you’ve never had a sales career and you lack entrepreneurial experience. But sometimes starting your business will bring you rewards faster than if you keep applying for corporate jobs.
One of my clients was fired from a high-profile position in her city. She couldn’t land a job: she was too well known. Hiring managers were intimidated.
She also experienced subtle age discrimination. A corporate move just wouldn’t be in the cards.
When she put out feelers for a new consulting business, her phone began ringing.
Bottom Line: I don’t recommend viewing choices as more or less risky. I’d recommend instead that you ask, “Does this move make sense for me at this time in my career path and in this era?” Sometimes the answer will surprise you.
To discuss your situation one on one, see https://midlifecareerstrategy.com/services.html