Career Opportunities

The High-Tech Career Handbook

A weekly ComputorEdge Column by Douglas E. Welch

5 small risks to take today

July 29, 2005

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Career growth comes from challenging your own limits – stretching yourself and reaching for new knowledge and new capabilities. Despite all the benefits, though, many of us avoid challenges or situations that make us unsure of our own abilities. Instead of letting fear slow down or stop the growth of your career, you need to take a few small risks each and every day.

There are an infinite variety of ways to take small risks, but here are 5 methods I have used over the years. Whenever I feel that my career is slowing down, I turn to these methods, and others, to get things moving again. Of course, the most interesting aspect of taking a risk is that it doesn’t have to be work-related at all. Every risk we take helps us take the next one. All of the methods listed below have one thing in common, they are extremely easy to do. Risk taking begins with small steps. This makes it all the easier to get started

1. Start a Blog

If you don’t already have a blog, I strongly suggest you start one. There is something freeing about having a place to share all the neat items you come across in your life...the great software, web sites, parks, restaurants and more. You could just as easily keep a paper journal or diary, but I figure that if other people can benefit from your knowledge, put it out there where people can find it.

Additionally, a blog can operate as a sort of “outboard brain.” There are many times when I can’t remember a particular web site or product, but a simple search of my blog takes me right to the information I need.

2. Install New Software

Even as high-tech workers, we can get very narrowminded in our software choices, especially operating systems such as Windows, Linux and Mac OS. Take a small step tp break out of your rut. If you are a Windows expert, setup a test system with Linux or Mac. Play around with different types of software. Have you ever tried mind-mapping, download and install Freemind, a open source mind-mapping program that is available for many different platforms. It matters little what new software you try. The benefit is in the act of trying new things, and building your flexibility.

3. Apply for a new job

Even if you aren’t looking for a new job right now, check out the classifieds every so often. You never know what you might find. Take the next step and apply for the job, even interview for it, if you are asked. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. You might end up finding a job much better than your current one. Even if you don’t, you will be opening your mind to new opportunities and getting a feel for the possibilities.

4. Write for a local publication

Do you have a strong opinion about something? Why not write it up and send it to your local newspaper. I never thought I would be published in the Los Angeles Times, but there have been 2 or 3 occasions when some news story has caught my interest and prompted me to write. If I hadn’t taken the few minutes to write the piece and send it in, I wouldn’t have some of the great clippings I have in my portfolio and would have missed an opportunity to have an effect beyond my everyday life. Again, the risk here is low. You only risk being rejected by one editor, but you might also have hundreds of thousands of people reading your words, if you only take the chance.

5. Pick a new place for lunch

This might sound a bit silly, but sometimes just getting out of your neighborhood and finding a new place to eat can help to clear the cobwebs from your mind. Get away from the chain restaurants. Find some small diner or cafe that looks like it has a lot of character. Even if the food is only so-so, the experience will kickstart any number of ideas. If your experience is like mine, you will find much more than just another restaurant. You will see new stores, new neighborhoods and meet new people that you might never have met otherwise.
It doesn’t matter what you do, only that you do something new to you. The act of taking a risk, no matter how small can have a dramatic effect on your career. You will find yourself one step higher than those who are stuck in the daily grind. You will see more and know more and bring those new experiences back to your work. What a great and simple way to improve your high-tech career.

For more information on taking risks, check out Feel the Fear...and do it anyway by Susan Jeffers. She has a lot to say on the subject.


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