My college professor, Smith, ignited an ember in me that opened up the world of risk management and made it entirely a fascinating topic.
Before sitting in his class where he would animatedly guide our learning and teach how institutions incubated their own risks with examples of the ways in which major organisations such as National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) ended up with huge crisis due to risks they had not properly addressed, the subject of risk was all too boring and a distant topic in my mind.
Having opened that door, I found myself more and more fascinated about risk as a subject matter. We all now know of risk in an institutional perspective given the risk assessments we need to do for our processes, business structures or products, but rarely do we talk about risk in the career development perspective.
The reality is that the career journey is full of many crossroads that require us to make decisions all the time. Bearing in mind that all institutions are political which means that, there are consequences for both omissions and commissions, it becomes well our worth to think a little bit more about how we can move away from risk averseness to developing some risk appetite.
This topic is actually more pertinent for women in leadership roles because as women, we are socialised to be conservative and that is the one trait that is somewhat limiting in developing a risk appetite.
Now, no doubt unchecked risk taking is hugely career limiting as well, but somewhere in the middle we can find ways to engage the risks we come across in our journeys in a healthy manner. How do we do this you ask?
I would humbly like to share some tips that could aid us in this endeavour;
1. Begin by taking small risks. There will be activities that though you feel totally out of ease doing, you probably wish you had the courage to do. For example, volunteering to make a presentation to peers. This will get you on to the path of getting used to stilling your nerves and you can build on that success.
2. Move on to offering yourself to take on a new challenge in the work environment or outside of your work environment. It has to be some activity that makes you uncomfortable; maybe because you feel afraid that you have never done a similar activity before, or that you are not fully prepared.
3. Do you homework; ensure to give yourself the best chances of success by building up core competencies or skills that will be required for that activity.
4. Figure out fallback plans. This has to be considered in the perspective of how much you can afford to lose, much in the same way that at an institutional perspective there would be set loss ratios for example.
These ratios indicate how much money the business can afford losing without running into operational difficulties. You need to think of what you stand to lose and limit your personal loss ratio in the particular decision that you have made so that the risk you take is calculated and should you fail, it is tolerable and you are able to recover with minimal impact.
5. Find ways to spread the risk – in other words hedge the bets you take in your career moves. This can be done by building deliberate coalitions that will support you in the risky decision or activity you choose to embark on to enhance your career development.
A good example would be, to build strong positive and enabling relations with your boss, this way, you have a partner who would sponsor your moves and ensures that you have better success out of the experience even if, you do fail at some of the attempts.
6. Finally, develop a thick skin that allows for a mentality of failure being part of the game as well as allows one to believe in the legendary phoenix rising from the ashes, to become better and stronger.
Ultimately, this is a key differentiator between going into greatness and not. It calls for a keen understanding of the saying, if you want something you have never had, you must be willing to do something you have never done before.
Just like how a seed must die to spring forth-new life, it is indeed that which scares you the most, which offers the most growth opportunity.
Ms Terry Ramadhani is a senior manager in the Human Resources Department, East Africa Aga Khan University