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Plan Your Career

How Do You Handle Career Risks?

You can’t go through life without taking some risks. Learn about the way you take risks and how you can become better at it.

Career risks break down into 3 categories: physical, emotional, and financial.

  • Physical risks involve your work environment. For example, you will have more physical risk if you work with power tools than if you work in an office. But if you sit down for 8 hours a day at an office job, your health could also be at risk.
  • Emotional risks involve other people. For example, you may feel an emotional risk if you ask your co-workers for help. You may worry they will think less of you. On the other hand, not asking for help could create bigger problems.
  • Financial risks involve gaining or losing money. For example, you face financial risk if you are thinking about quitting a job or investing in an education program. But if you find out as much information as possible about your options, you may be able to reduce the risk.

3 risk-taking approaches

Risk-taking comes in 3 basic forms: impulsive, extremely cautious, and calculated.

Your approach likely varies with the kind of risk. For example, you may feel comfortable taking a financial risk, like spending money on clothes for job interviews. But you may not be comfortable with an emotional risk, like joining in social activities with co-workers.

Or you may be quick to take an emotional risk, but cautious when it comes to taking a physical risk. Think about your style of risk-taking.

  • Impulsive risk-taking involves making decisions very quickly. You probably make little or no attempt to reduce the risk or consider the possible negative outcomes.
  • Extremely cautious risk-taking involves taking a long time to make decisions. You probably do everything possible to prevent negative outcomes. But by the time you decide on something, the opportunity may have disappeared.  
  • Calculated risk-taking involves knowing the chances of success and the likely outcomes of failure before taking the risk. Calculated risk-taking is often the most successful approach.

What's your risk-taking style?

What kind of risk-taker are you? For each kind of risk, select your usual risk-taking approach. Which style gets the most checkmarks?

Become an effective risk-taker

Now that you know what kind of risk-taker you are, check out our tips for the different styles of risk-taking.


  • Realize that any risk can result in a loss. Never risk more than you are willing to lose.
  • Reduce your risk by researching your options. To make informed decisions, look at the likely outcomes of each option.
  • Consider all possible outcomes. One option is to decide not to take a chance. But doing nothing can also be risky.

Extremely cautious:

  • Most big decisions are made up of many smaller ones. Think of big career steps as a series of smaller steps that you can take one at a time.
  • Practise taking small risks before you tackle big ones. For example, you might think contacting someone you don’t know for a job referral is an emotional risk. To prepare, you might start by talking with friends or family members.
  • Practise risk-taking. If job interviews make you nervous, go to as many as possible. The more you do something, the easier it gets.
  • Keep track of the risks you take and the new things you try. Review your list when you need to boost your self-confidence.
  • When you risk and lose, try seeing your loss as a way to learn how to succeed next time. Let’s say you were unsuccessful in a job interview. Think about what you learned that can help you in your next interview.


  • Have a clearly stated preference or goal.
  • Research and know the options available to reach your goal.
  • Gather up-to-date, accurate information about each option. You want to know the chances of success and the consequences of failure.
  • Choose an option for reaching your goal based on the available information.
  • Assess challenges, such as possible negative outcomes, and plan how to deal with them.

By becoming an effective risk-taker, your career will benefit.

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