When it comes to our careers, we hear it all the time — Don’t be afraid to take risks! Step out of your comfort zone! But what do we mean by risk? And why do we have to take risks? Shouldn’t we be trying to avoid risk?
The truth is, when it comes to our careers, risk taking is crucial to growth. That doesn’t mean, however, we should dive into a situation without first accessing our surroundings. It’s crucial that we plan and prepare for risk. Much like finance, when it comes to our careers, it’s not about taking the risk, it’s about how we manage it!
Throughout my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to live on four different continents, which has provided me with a unique perspective when it comes to managing risk. While living in Budapest during the Serbian War, my husband Daniel and I had an exit plan in case gas was dropped on Central Europe. Planning for your life provides you with great perspective not only when it comes to managing business risk, but also, what’s important when starting a business and hiring employees. The people of Budapest had a certain survivor’s mentality that made us realize there is more to life than just work.
Living abroad also provided me with people skills that I may not have developed if I’d only worked with people who looked, talked and acted like me. While working in Hong Kong, I worked with and managed a diverse group of people from all different backgrounds. As a way to promote good energy, some members of the staff wanted to slaughter a pig for lunch, which was part of their everyday culture.
As you can imagine, not everyone at the company was comfortable with this, so, as management, I had to walk a fine line. I couldn’t alienate those employees who wanted to slaughter the pig because to them, it was completely normal. On the other hand, we worked in an office, not a butcher’s shop.
After much back and forth, we eventually decided on a way to appease everyone involved by bringing a previously slaughtered and cooked pig in for lunch, while giving others the opportunity to take their lunch at nearby restaurants and cafes. Obviously, this is an overly unusual story, but it was these types of experiences abroad that provided me with the necessary skills to work with and manage all types of individuals.
“Stepping outside of your comfort zone” does not mean you have to live abroad. While it can provide career-defining lessons, there are other ways to push yourself career-wise. At some point, you may take a job where you don’t necessarily meet all the qualifications, but just because you don’t know something, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take the opportunity. Sure, there will be times where you’re overwhelmed, but it’s all about how you approach and work through each situation.
My mother, who owned her own business during a time when there weren’t many women-owned businesses, always told me to walk into a room like I owned the place. That advice has stayed with me throughout my career. From the time I began as a sales assistant with Morgan Stanley, to being named a vice president at Lehman Brothers in Hong Kong, through co-founding six different financial services businesses (where I actually did own the place), I’ve always approached every situation with confidence, knowing that I belong.
Sure, finance has historically been an industry dominated by men, but women have just as much ability to break in and drive the industry forward — it’s about confidence!
Moving jobs, accepting promotions and getting outside your comfort zone are risks that lead to career success, but it’s imperative that you properly prepare to approach each situation with confidence. Planning for risk results in confidence that will enable your career to flourish.
Carol Wildermuth is Co-Founder and CFO of Wildermuth Advisory.
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