Featured Contributor

The truth about how your risks will define your success. by @sheclimbsladder

I am not throwing away my shot

I am not throwing away my shot

Hey yo, I’m just like my country

I’m young, scrappy and hungry

And I’m not throwing away my shot

by Linda Huth | Featured Contributor 

You probably recognize those as lyrics from the musical Hamilton (which is based on the life of one of our founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton). The whole musical is based on the risks Hamilton and the other founding fathers took for America.

Like Hamilton, you can’t throw away your shot. You need to learn to identify risks and how to approach them to succeed.

Women are perceived as more risk-averse than men.

Did you know that when under stress males make riskier decisions than women? This science follows you to the corporate world and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It’s been shown that having more women on corporate boards can actually increase the company’s financial success. This is attributed to women being risk-averse and better at connecting emotionally. It’s possible that under stress the combined decision making of females and males compliment each other well (although this is a topic that warrants its own study).

So, is being perceived as risk-averse a bad thing? I don’t think so. I think that women are actually taking more risks than we are given credit for, we just approach it differently than men. As Geri Stengel points out, “What if it isn’t an aversion to taking chances but good judgment?”  It’s how you respond to the risks that will define your success.

How you approach risk matters.

Throughout your career, you are going to take risks. Risks such as how to properly allocate your 401K or should you apply for that management position at a new startup company. Here are some things that you can do to prepare for those risks.

Know what type of risk taker you are.

Knowing your own personality and how you approach risks will help you make better decisions. Risks tend to fall into these 8 categories: wary, prudent, intense, deliberate, spontaneous, composed, carefree, and adventurous.

If you are a wary risk taker you probably fear failure and change. To counteract this you would probably want to surround yourself with risk takers and use a mentor to help you weigh important decisions. If you are adventurous you are probably more excitable and impulsive. To balance out your impulsive decisions you may want to implement a structure into making decisions (like waiting a few days before acting or writing down a list of all the pros and cons). Knowing your personality will allow you to approach risks with a better frame of mind and make the right decision.

Surround yourself with good role models.

Surrounding yourself with good role models not only gives you something to strive for but it also aligns you in the eyes of those around you. You’ve likely heard the phrase, “guilty by association.” This applies in the corporate world as well. If you are associated with risk takers it will enhance your reputation as well. It will put you in a position to be close to risk-taking decisions as well as there is a greater chance of a riskier opportunity being assigned to you.

Have confidence and know how to sell yourself.

Don’t sell yourself short. If you do, your accomplishments won’t be recognized. You can’t be afraid to promote yourself to your co-workers and to senior management. It’s not bragging, it’s a chance to highlight your skills and accomplishments. Management needs to be aware of the work you’ve done, the decisions you’ve made, and the challenges you’ve overcome. If they don’t know about a risk you’ve taken their perception about your abilities and decision making won’t change.

One easy way to do this is during your yearly performance review. Everyone I know has at least one. These meetings offer the perfect chance to talk about your work with your manager. It also gives you a platform to officially document your achievements. I’ve found that when I think of it as an opportunity to document for my manager all the reasons I should get a raise (or promotion) it feels less like bragging. I worked hard and deserve to be recognized for it.

Final Thoughts

How you respond to risk will define your success. You need to know what kind of risk taker you are, surround yourself with good role models, and have the confidence to sell yourself.

Don’t throw away your shot.

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