CXO

Five ways to risk failure and improve your career

Failure can be a great motivator, and an even greater teacher. According to Dal LaMagna, it pays off big time to take career risks early and often.

If there is one thing I've noticed after writing for this audience for a few years, is that many of you are risk-adverse. When I write a piece about taking risks in your job to get ahead, I hear quite a bit of feedback about why that is not a good idea.

So I was intrigued when I heard about a new business book called Raising Eyebrows, written by Dal LaMagna, in which risk is again recommended. I spoke to Mr. LaMagna on the phone and here are some points he gave for using risk (and sometimes the resulting failure) to further your career:

When I was young, I worked in lots of jobs — from restaurant work to parking lot attendant. And then it hit me. I didn't want to work for other people. I wanted to be my own boss. So I became an expert at starting businesses, most of which failed! When they did, I shook it off and moved on.

Whether you're a job seeker, an employee trying to advance your career, or a budding entrepreneur, the same concepts apply. Failure can be a great motivator, and an even greater teacher. Take it from me: It pays off big time to take career risks early and often.

Here are some ways to use failure to advance your career:

Don't let it sting.

If you try something new and difficult — such as applying for a "reach job" — and then you miss the mark or get rejected, don't think of it as failure. As my mother used to say, "Failure is just a perception." Pat yourself on the back for taking the risk, and move on.

Find a problem.

If your job feels unfulfilling, find a problem at work that needs solving. Then work on finding the solution. This is also a basic recipe for identifying new business ideas. If you don't succeed, figure out why and try again.

Get unstuck.

If you hate what you're doing, fix it. Take on new tasks at work, for example, or learn a new skill. The worst thing that can happen is you'll fail. More likely, though, you'll figure you why you're stuck.

Surprise yourself.

Do something completely out of character. Apply for a job in a foreign country. Sit in on a meeting in a different department. Open your mind to new career possibilities by taking a chance at something unfamiliar.

Easy does it.

Many people get all worked up trying to come up with ways to forward their careers. Great ideas often come when you stop trying so hard. Pay attention to your daydreams and the things you read or see on TV that really interest you. There might be a future career or business idea there.

Bottom line, the fastest way to succeed in your career is to allow yourself to fail — early and often. The more new avenues you try and the more often you try them, the more you'll learn about your passions, talents, and ambitions.

About

Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.

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