Advice on When to Take a Risky Job

The following post first appeared on LinkedIn. Please feel free to connect with me there.


We place technology transfer professionals exclusively so when I counsel a candidate on taking a “risky” job, I’m not referring to something that places him or her in physical harm. By “risky” I mean something that takes you out of your comfort zone or places you in a geographic spot or role you have never considered before. A risky job is one that’s not necessarily the next logical step on the career ladder, and it can give many people pause, but as they say, “You have to go out on a limb if you want to get the fruit.”


Should I Take the Tech Commercialization Job?

We all have different tolerances for risk. In her book Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg advised, “If you’re offered a seat on a rocket ship, don’t ask what seat! Just get on.” But that sort of grab-it-and-go mentality may not fit if you’re considering moving your entire family across the country. If you’re thinking about taking a risky job, consider the following.


Is There Job Advancement?

When thinking about job advancement there are two things to talk about. Direct advancement in the department or organization and indirect advancement. Many people think if they’re interviewing for an executive director position there’s nowhere left to go outside of provost. But indirect advancement means this position will place you in a spotlight that will let you translate that to a better position elsewhere when you are ready.

Job advancement possibilities shouldn’t be a short-term motivator but no room for advancement is one of the major reasons people leave their positions.


Is There an Opportunity to Acquire New and Different Skills?

Often we see candidates that stay with one organization for decades. It speaks well of their loyalty but sometimes hurts them from an innovation perspective if their current employer hasn’t kept up with the trends and the demands of professional development.

Look for a position that will increase your skill level and diversify what you have to offer as an employee. For instance, your background in tech transfer could be very strong in licensing but not as strong on the marketing side because someone else handled that. A new position that will teach you the marketing end of intellectual property may be just what you need to expand your career possibilities.


Does It Offer Something Other Opportunities Don’t?

Taking a job isn’t all about the money. Money can be negotiated. Raises are given; sometimes bonuses. So don’t think solely about money. Does this position give you an opportunity you’ve been looking for at a world-renowned research institution, even if it frightens you a little? Does it offer something you’ve been waiting for like an opportunity to lead a technology commercialization department? Would it be a while before you saw this kind of opportunity again, meaning is it rare?

Don’t be afraid to step outside of your comfort zone. Taking the job that scares you can be one of your biggest opportunities for growth if you’re willing to face the challenge.

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