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Via Forbes : 4 Hidden Ways To Take Risks — And Propel Your Career Forward

“Have big dreams. You will grow into them.” — Unknown

If you’re looking for a way to interrupt a linear career trajectory and take a bold leap forward, risk-taking is it. Yes, it requires placing a bet on yourself. But when you commit to pursuing a worthy but uncertain outcome, take action, and persist beyond the point of comfort it changes you. And when others see you acting decisively with imperfect information and no guarantee of success, it registers as leadership.

So why do people avoid risk-taking? Pamela Stewart, Group Vice President – National Retail Sales at The Coca-Cola Company, says one reason we fail to take risks is that we fear being the target of scapegoating if something goes wrong. We’re afraid that someone will ask, “Who failed?” and then point to us. “The most important thing you can do for yourself and others is to take risks,” says Stewart, adding that it’s a common opportunity for growth she’s spotted in the emerging leaders she counsels.

Her own experience with risk-taking and audacious goal-setting pre-dates her professional career. When Stewart was entering high school, her Mom had just gotten a divorce, and the family’s finances were tight.

At that time, no one in Stewart’s family had ever attended college, and there were few African American female leaders as role models in her life. “I didn’t have a prototype or a mentor whom I could call up, so I defined and envisioned who I wanted to be,” recalls Stewart. “When everyone else wanted to be a doctor or a lawyer, I decided I wanted to be one of two things: U.S. Secretary of State or a United Nations ambassador.” As Stewart mapped out her plan, she realized it would require a full-ride scholarship.

The next four years required a lot of hard work, including applying herself academically, participating in extra-curricular activities and doing well in sports. But it paid off. Stewart entered college on a full-scholarship, becoming a first-generation scholar.

Sometimes opportunities to take risks are hiding in plain sight, so it helps to become adept at spotting them. As I reflected on Stewart’s personal story and her other talking points from a webinar about leading boldly, I realized she was naming four scenarios that are ripe for risk-taking.

1. When You Lack Mentors And Role Models

Sometimes, taking risks involves not seeing a prototype or role model before you,” says Stewart. In high school, Stewart didn’t see a whole lot of African American women in the roles she wanted. The same is true of being a female in a high-level role. “But, I knew that I would not let myself fail nor would I let myself down,” she says. “It takes understanding yourself and taking a risk. If you can see your vision and stay focused, you certainly can achieve it.”

2. When You’re Setting Goals

“I would also encourage you not to define your boldest dreams by the evidence or history. Dream bigger,” says Stewart, who presses mentees to expand their vision of who they can become. “If you feel 50% or more confident that you can achieve the dream, you’re not dreaming big enough.” The trick, she says, is to envision the possibilities while developing the innate belief you can achieve them. “Ma­ke sure that it is truly bold and aspirational, then apply your unique capabilities to the hard work that will close that gap.”

3. When The Going’s Good

Once you can do your job in your sleep, it’s time to take new risks, Stewart says. “You start getting enamored by the credibility and respect that you have in that role and it just becomes second nature,” she adds. “If you wake up every day, and know what to expect, and you’ve learned all that there is to learn in your role then that’s the moment where you have to step out of that complacency and go build impact elsewhere.”

4. When You Can’t Change Jobs

Taking a risk doesn’t necessarily require getting a new job, says Stewart. “There will be life circumstances where it’s not the right time,” she explains. Perhaps you’re newly married, supporting a family or caring for aging parents. In those situations, take a fresh look at the work you do. “Are you pushing hard enough?” she asks. “Is there another way to look at this role? Is there non-productive work that you’re doing or your team is doing? Is there another way to unlock the growth and impact in this role? Look for ways to take a new approach by turning the role on its head.”

It’s rare to come across a proven short-cut for advancing your career. Now that you have a starting point, what’s the next big career risk you’ll take?

Via The Ladders : Here’s how to get more out of networking events

Buy tickets to a networking event. Get there, buckled up for a cookie-cutter experience of going from one panel to the next. Only talk to other attendees during breaks and cocktail receptions, then rush to the next session.

Instead of doing the same thing you always do, we’d like to call your attention to a piece Humanyze CEO and co-founder and MIT Media Lab visiting scientist Ben Waber, PhD wrote for Quartz at Work about his approach to networking.

Unimpressed by a Fortune 100 CEO’s talk that he was looking forward to at a conference, he had a conversation with someone feeling the same way afterward — someone, as it turns out, who became a future client.

Waber notes that the chance to connect with and be of service to others who are “like-minded” is the most crucial part of these events, as opposed to the content. Then he writes that at another conference, which was wasn’t as long ago, he spent 12 hours going to talks all around the area, taking a small shuttle to each location. He decided to talk to a fellow rider every time.

So the following day, he just rode around instead of going to talks — and met dozens of people, some of whom have helped his career.

With Waber’s example in mind, here are some strategies could help you stand out for all the right reasons when everyone is trying to make a name for themselves at conferences and networking events.

Take a page out of Waber’s book

Yes, we know: You’re most likely paying good money to learn from the featured panelists at conferences, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for more innovative approaches for getting what you want from the total experience.

So do as Waber says he did, and have the guts to say “no” to talks, so you can spend more time getting to know other attendees instead.

“As you go to conferences, try to create these opportunities for yourself. Skip a speaker session and instead resolve to talk to one new person every 15 minutes,” Waber writes. “Hang out by the coffee pot and strike up a conversation. While you can’t be assured that every one of these conversations will be useful to you both, chances are it’ll be more valuable than going to a talk that you’ll forget in a few weeks.”

Reach out on social media beforehand

I tried this once and it really worked in my favor.

One summer, just before attending a conference for my four-summer internship program at CNBC through The Emma Bowen Foundation, I reached out via Twitter to speakers on the roster.

While asking a question at the microphone during a panel with a CNBC media personality I reached out to, I introduced myself to her, and she announced that she’d remembered me from Twitter.

We’d never met, so I gave her my business card afterward during our conversation, and I’ve considered her a mentor ever since. I shadowed her in the field on multiple occasions during my internships at CNBC, and we still keep in contact.

Use a compliment as an icebreaker — but mean it

This just might break you out of your comfort zone.

U.S. News & World Report staff writer Laura McMullen features icebreakers from Michelle Tillis Lederman, author of “The 11 Laws of Likability” and CEO of the professional development firm Executive Essentials, among others, in the publication.

One of them is “great shoes!”

“If you notice something you admire about these new contacts … tell them! (Who doesn’t like receiving a compliment?),” McMullen writes.

Via NerdWallet : 3 Ways to Invest in Your Career This Week

Take time to become a more confident and qualified professional.

Investing time in your career is like investing money for retirement. If you forget about your career once you clock out, you’re essentially stashing savings under the mattress (there’s little opportunity for growth in either scenario). Commit extra time to it, and, well, you know about the miracle of compound interest.

“Seeing [your career] as something you invest in is the only way to make it fruitful, enjoyable and successful,” says Andrea Kay, author of “Work’s a Bitch and Then You Make It Work,” and several other career books.

So get started. Here are three ways to invest in your career this week.

1. Learn about yourself

What better time for self-reflection than the new year? Silence your phone, and commit time to considering what your preferences are in different aspects of work. What types of coworkers and managers do you enjoy working with most, for example? What kind of company values and culture matter to you? Also, assess your strengths, skills and areas of expertise.

This week’s to-do: Kay says you should be able to list about six functional skills that you’re good at and enjoy doing. If, like many of her clients, you can’t come up with six, she suggests looking to the past. Reflect on a successful, enjoyable project, and list the skills and talents it required. Do the same exercise for four or five achievements. Next, Kay says, look for patterns. What words show up in multiple lists, and which of those bring you joy? Voila: Those that make the cut are, as Kay puts it, your “most joyous skills.”

The payoff: You will face less guesswork the next time you consider a new project, job or career path. “You’re in a much better position of strength when you have all this information and can feel confident about what you have to offer and what you’re seeking,” Kay says.

2. Become an expert

This step involves “developing your knowledge [and] your reputation as the one who knows the most,” Kay says. Reflect on what you need to know more about, like the current state of your industry and its future. Or maybe you need to master a skill, like public speaking. Next, research what resources will help you gain that expertise.

Think: classes, trainings, conferences, retreats and professional associations. Using those resources, Kay says, “commit to doing something every quarter that makes yourself more valuable.”

This week’s to-do: “Part of your investment in yourself is having a daily routine that encompasses reading whatever it is that will help you be better that day,” Kay says. Read books, online articles and professional journals about your industry and the skills you’re working on. Need a place to start? Ask your manager what he or she reads. Keep up with daily news events, too. They can affect you, the marketplace and just about every industry, Kay says. “I cannot overemphasize the importance of having a broad understanding of the world and where the world is going,” she adds.

The payoff: Over time, you’ll likely become more hireable and promotable, Kay says, particularly if others notice your expertise. You’ll also feel more confident and fulfilled. “To feel you are developing into an expert that really knows your stuff … that is just an incredible feeling,” she says.

3. Build relationships

Kay suggests aiming to meet with at least one person a week to discuss each other’s industry and career. Get to know people now, and you may be able to lean on them later. “It is so, so joyous to know that other people are there for you,” Kay says.

This week’s to-do: Schedule a coffee meet-up or phone call with someone you already know, like a coworker. If this step seems awkward or intrusive, Kay suggests telling the invitee that you’ve made a goal of developing new relationships this year. Chances are, he or she will be eager to help. “We really are creatures that are kind of built to scratch each other’s back,” Kay says. As for the conversation itself, aim to learn more about what the person and his or her company does.

The payoff: For one, these conversations will boost your networking skills. You will also make connections that may lead to new jobs, projects and board positions, Kay says, “because people know people.” The relationships you nurture can also become your personal think tank — people who can help you navigate problems.

Via Fast Company : 4 Common Assumptions That Kill Your Job Search Before It Even Starts

You might not even realize that your complacency is stopping you from taking advantage of better opportunities.

You hate your boss. You haven’t had a decent raise in years. You’re seriously underappreciated. Or maybe you’ve actually been doing amazing work and feel you deserve to do more of it at an equally amazing company. And yet, after giving it some thought, you still fall short of actually looking for a new job. Here’s what might be holding you back, and what it takes to shake yourself out of it.

WHEN “I’M COMFORTABLE” CONCEALS COMPLACENCY

Complacency is a career killer that can strike at any level, stifling your growth and making you miserable, yet can prevent you from doing anything about it.

According to a recent survey by my company, Korn Ferry, executives who are passed over for a promotion are far more likely to stay put (67%) than take immediate action to look for a new job (10%). Of course, missing your chance at a title bump isn’t always cause to cut and run. But while there’s nothing wrong with trying to improve your performance and increase your chances of promotion the next time around, there’s a real risk of rationalizing your way out of pursuing a better opportunity.

Steve is an executive who started getting calls from an in-house recruiter who wanted to talk to him about a big job with room to grow and a potentially major salary hike. At first, Steve is intrigued. Then he thinks it over and begins to talk himself out of exploring it: “I guess pretty I’m comfortable where I am. I’d have to work longer hours and travel more than I do now. Plus, I’d be the new guy and have to prove myself all over again. If things don’t go well or the economy goes south, I’ll be the first one out the door–and I’ve got a mortgage to pay.”

The next time the recruiter calls, Steve says, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

The thing is, Steve’s decision to stay put isn’t the result of analyzing his opportunities–seeing where he’d have the best chance of stretching himself, learning more, and resetting his career trajectory (which could also be within his own firm). Instead, Steve’s fear of failure leads him to inflate the potential risks of trying something new, cutting an otherwise promising, well-timed job search off at the knees.

Avoiding the complacency trap–and figuring out how to climb out of it once you are ensnared–all comes down to identifying four common assumptions that you may not even realize you’re making.

FALSE ASSUMPTION NO. 1: “ALL THE BEST OPPORTUNITIES ARE OUTSIDE MY COMPANY”

Many people automatically assume a job search must involve looking beyond their own company’s walls. But there could be great opportunities right under your nose that you don’t see! You’ll just have to do some work to uncover them.

Network within. Ask your boss for bigger assignments, especially something with higher-level exposure. Get on cross-functional and interdepartmental task forces and teams. The more you broaden your sights within your company–beyond the same hallways you walk every day–the more opportunities you’ll find.

FALSE ASSUMPTION NO. 2: “UPDATING MY RESUME IS MORE THAN HALF THE BATTLE”

You may think that the biggest hurdle to kicking off a job search is polishing up your resume. So maybe you do that, then send out a few resumes and wait for results. When nothing happens, you conclude the timing isn’t right or it’s not worth the effort to do more.

To escape this trap, you need to recognize that your resume is maybe 10% of it. The real 90% is knowing yourself–your strengths, weaknesses, passions, and motivations, and how to talk articulately about those things. From there, it requires carefully targeting new opportunities and networking to get warm introductions to recruiters and hiring managers. In other words, a job search is a process, not an event. Give it time, and diversify your efforts.

FALSE ASSUMPTION NO. 3: “THE BEST JOBS WILL COME TO ME”

The bad news here is that landing the job you really want takes longer than you think and involves a lot more effort. A single position can attract literally hundreds of applicants. You might decide that going through the front door, so to speak, by applying to job listings, is pointless, holding out hope that the best opportunities will come directly to you. But it’s not either/or.

You can network in a way that uncovers opportunities that would never have landed in your lap otherwise. Look at the career paths of people you know with similar backgrounds. Where are they working now? Ask a former boss or colleague where they could imagine you working. Rinse, repeat.

FALSE ASSUMPTION NO. 4: “I JUST DON’T NEED THE STRESS OF A JOB SEARCH RIGHT NOW”

Whoever does? Some forms of career-related stress are necessary evils, and just unavoidable. Thinking afresh about your skills and what you want out of your professional life is sometimes difficult and uncomfortable, but the challenge can prove invigorating–and make you happier in the long run.

But it just feels too exhausting, and you’ve already got so much to do! So you decide that your boss isn’t that bad, you’re comfortable where you are, and you can do your job without breaking a sweat. The choice is always yours: You can give into complacency, or you can decide to take charge of your career.

Via DNA : Strategic career planning: 4 lessons

Arjun Khanna waved his hand at me from a distance. Weddings are a great excuse to meet a lot of people. Shaking hands with his left palm, carefully not tilting the plate full of food, he straight away asked if I could help his close friend Anil. Apparently, Anil had left his previous organisation without serving the notice period. The new employer asked him to leave without finishing probation. The old employer was not too happy with his ungraceful exit. Tough situation? Or bad strategic planning? The buzz word strategy is present in each organisation and every individual’s life.

What is it to have strategic planning at the organisational level? It is the process that defines how your company will create ongoing value for your stakeholders.

A project has a defined beginning and end, but the strategic plan is weaved through the organisation and is part of the entire lifecycle of the business.

Strategic planning helps to take the high-level concepts described in mission, vision, and values statements and have them brought to life by the activities and attitudes of every member of the organisation.

Now let us weave this into personal life.

To plan your career move, you need to look at four strategic points.

Achievement: Look through a magnifying glass and see for yourself for two pillars in your career graph. Competence and Challenging Problems are two highlights of the journey so far. Note each good point down. Remember that this is what you have earned. In any career move, these are non-negotiable for you.

Economic Security: Your expertise, fame in your field and influencing skills are your stanchion. See very critically, if the next opportunity has an option to use all of them. If not, will it leave you frustrated?Will the financials keep you motivated? If you are moving to entrepreneurship from a salaried job, even more, crucial to look at future potential then the current flow.

Status: Will there be any compromise in power and authority that you have today?The scope of personal development needs to be factored in as well. At a certain stage in life, one looks at getting a more meaningful work adding value to CV. What are you looking at in the move? A word of caution here, sometimes at an old job, the situation may not be bad enough to call quits but the temptation is an alluring bauble.

Culture: Sachin Ghosh soon decided to shift back to Goa where he had come from. “Goa and Bengal are very similar ma’am but not Surat. No fish in canteen here and no alcohol either,” He politely responded in the exit interview. The environment, people, food, and everything around plays a role. Look before you leap and do your research well.

Beyond these four points, incumbent Success is important for me. I will ask myself, how many people have succeeded or failed in this role and why? Higher success means more competition and failure means lack of innovation.Whatever it is, strategize well and the sky is yours without the glass ceiling.

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