10 Risky Career Moves That Can Pay Off


 If you're not so thrilled about getting up and going to work each day, you're not alone. Most Americans have some degree of unhappiness with their jobs. According to a November 2020 CNBC/SurveyMonkey Workforce Happiness Survey, when respondents were asked about how satisfied they were with their job, 37% said they were somewhat satisfied, 14% said they were not satisfied, 10% reported as somewhat dissatisfied and 4% were very dissatisfied.

But what can you do to change things? Sometimes, making a risky career move is the only way to get where you want to be. "Without taking any risks to get closer to your end goal, dream job, happier life or more successful or aligned truth, the only person missing out is you," said Mason McSpadden, vice president of WELD Recruiting.

But taking a risk doesn't mean abruptly quitting your job with no Plan B. Instead, here are the details on 10 risky career moves that have a chance of paying off.

Write Your Own Job Description

Jeff Harry of Rediscover Your Play offered this risky career move suggestion for people who have been in their current position for a while.

"A risky career move that might pay off big time -- if you have been part of an organization for quite some time (i.e., three-plus years) and are bored -- is to write your own job description based on your Ikigai/Zone of Genius," said Harry. "Present that to upper management, explaining how not only could this bring in greater revenue for the company, but also create new markets that they hadn't even considered ... I did this when I came back to a job after a one-year sabbatical, and I was able to write my own ticket."

Be Willing To Make a Career Pivot To Fulfill a Need

Thomas Vibe, the founder of Stone Wizards, shared how pivoting to meet a widespread need among his clients paid off.

"I started out as a freelance interior designer until most of my projects narrowed down to doing kitchen and bathroom makeovers," said Vibe. "The constant negotiation with clients about materials to use on their countertops gave me an idea to set up a countertop installation business. Although I was already stable doing commissioned projects, I took the huge risk of getting my business idea off the ground. I dealt with managing finances, hiring employees, monitoring operations, and processing demanding entrepreneurial paperwork. It was so stressful but it paid off. This career move turned me into a better interior designer and a thriving entrepreneur."

Start Investing In Stocks as a Career

Jim Pendergast, a senior VP for AltLINE Sobanco -- a company that helps small businesses succeed financially -- suggested investing in stocks as a risky career move. Caution: You'll want to put some time and effort into educating yourself before diving in if you want it to pay off.

"Investing in stocks can be a full-time gig, and you can make a lot of money if you study the market," said Pendergast. "Most people that fail in the stock market rely too much on luck, but you can often spot trends that will give you the break you need."

Follow Your Passion

"The biggest misconception that people think about choosing your passion as your line of work is that it is not always enough to support your lifestyle," said Stephen Light, co-owner and chief marketing officer of Nolah Mattress. "Although you might have to do part-time jobs or side hustles to support yourself, it can't beat the happiness you feel to live your life doing something you love.

"If you have a high-paying job but don't experience a sense of happiness with it, it will not fill the void in your heart. Many people shared their experiences about moving from a high-paying job to a low-paying one to pursue their passion. It's no surprise that these people reported a happier and more fulfilling life despite the lower income."

Invest Time and Energy in a Side Hustle

Caroline Lee, the cofounder of CocoSign, acknowledged that starting a side hustle while working full time isn't easy, but it can be worth it.

"Starting a side hustle with your 9-5 job is also a big task," said Lee. "It needs focus and dedication. But once you set your heart and mind in it, you can have a good source of side income, which can quickly turn into an active income source."

Share Transformational Ideas With Your Boss

"A risk that I always promote as worth taking is every time you have a transformational idea, sit down with your manager and explore how it could be implemented at your company," said Jenna Carson, HR director at Music Grotto. "It's risky because ideas for change can sometimes be perceived as if you didn't like what's happening already or it could be seen as if you're insinuating your management is doing it wrong.

"But it's worth the risk! In 2021, employers want their staff to be flexible, resilient, and willing to step outside their comfort zone. Post-pandemic, it's this attitude that will help companies grow. For women looking to advance and take on new senior roles -- it could be riskier to not take the risk!"

Pass on a High-Paying Job If It's Not an Ideal Fit

Passing up the opportunity to make more money could be considered a risky career move. But it's one that could pay off in the long run.

"Don't take a position just because it's high paying," said Ronald Samson, a research analyst with CreditDonkey. "A high-paying job can quickly become a nightmare if it's not an ideal fit for your skills. Instead, choose a job that offers career advancement opportunities so that you can keep on moving forward with your career."

Take a Less Desirable Position To Devote Time to Other Career Goals

"Two years ago, I switched into a role that is much less demanding so that I could free up more mental energy and spend more of my time working on my online business," Kristine Thorndyke, founder of Test Prep Nerds. "I was able to put in closer to an additional 15 hours per week on my own business and have since been able to grow its revenue by 300%.

"For me, working on my own project and having something to show for all my hard work is extremely rewarding and worth the risk of switching into a less desirable (by many) positions."

Take a Mini Retirement

Taylor Westergard, a certified financial planner, accredited financial counselor, and financial coach at Evolving Money, suggested a mini-retirement as a risky career move, which she said can pay off by helping you regroup, refocus and go into your next job with more energy and determination.

"Save enough money to cover your expenses during your retirement, and set a time frame so that you know when you need to start job hunting," Westergard said. "Do some volunteer work or join an organization to fill your resume gap. It will look awesome to your next employers.

"If you go into your next job still feeling bitter or resentful about your last position/company, the interviewer can sense that attitude and won't want to hire you. Take some time to yourself to remember why you are working. Your job doesn't have to be your life, it just needs to provide you income in order to live your life. Find the reasons you need again to come back to the workforce with vigor."

"I look for a break from my successful career after letting the stress get to me too much. Since that break, I started my own business and decided to never go back. I am so glad I took the time that I need to rediscover my purpose and reevaluate my priorities."

Change Fields Mid-Career

Chris Gadek, head of growth at AdQuick, said that one of the riskiest things you can do in your career is change fields after you've already established yourself in another field. However, he acknowledged that it can pay off under the right circumstances.

"After working in a field for years, it can be tempting to jump ship and try your hand elsewhere," Gadek said. "Although I think that this is a great experience, it can cause a lot of issues. If you are lacking experience it can be hard to find employment right from the get-go and it can be hard to adapt early on to somewhere completely new. I recommend taking that risk as early on in your career as possible. But if you feel confident in your abilities, then take the leap of faith and trust yourself to stand out in a whole new field."

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