Friday, May 24, 2013

Taking Risks

I've written in previous posts about the risks that you undertake when you become a manager. I caution caution, as it were, at every turn. 

However, I want to also suggest that you do take risks; both with your professional life as well as on potential people in your life. Since this blog is work and career focused, I won't go into your personal life or attitudes on taking chances on other humans, but concentrate on the overall affect of taking chances on (and with) your career and with other people that you work with.

A brief caveat to the "not talking about risks with people in your personal life": if you find someone in the office attractive, the company allows you two to date (ie: you aren't their boss or they or your boss or the company allows fraternization), and there are no complications (ie: whatever you think of as a complication--for example, if they're married, that would be a complication for me), there are specific risks you are taking by trying to go out with them, beyond the "sexual harassment" worries I write about; there are potential issues with what happens if it doesn't work out (which most people consider), but there are also issues if it DOES work out, which most people don't consider. You will see each other every day. No matter how much you grow to love that person, distance sometimes does make the heart grow fonder. You are basically risking an unpleasant work situation if things don't work out, and if they do, you're risking your relationship with that person every time you go somewhere together because you see each other every day at the office. So think about that. 

Myself, in the past, have vetoed going out with co-workers. Maybe I was just not being asked out by the right ones, or maybe I was too cautious. That, however, was a risk I don't regret not taking..

In your professional life, you're going to take risks in terms of commitments you make to do the daily job such as scheduling specific things and delivering them, or hiring a specific person instead of another (or even getting the company to agree that someone should be hired when that budget could go somewhere else). You are also going to take risks on decisions you make regarding your professional career: stay at the company where you are, or go somewhere else? Take the promotion and the new responsibilities, or stay where you are comfortable and good at what you do? Wait longer before enhancing your skill set to learn more about what you're learning now, or leap into a new skill set entirely? 

I have always based career decisions on these things: 1) how old am I (no really), 2) how will it affect all parties involved, 3) is this a step in the right direction for me?

When I wonder how old I am, I am actually thinking that, as a younger person, I'm likely to take more risks as I have a lot more time to make up for any stupid mistakes I make (and I made some, you will, too). As I get older I realize the window to recover from the stupid is smaller, but, as I get older the fewer (I hope) stupid mistakes I make. 

When I review how it will affect all parties involved, not only am I considering the company, my boss, my co-workers and my team, I'm also considering my family. In fact, my family gets more weight than any of the other parties--including me. I never want to burn bridges in the professional world, but sometimes that is a risk that can be taken. I suspect that if you're reading this, you never would casually blow up your team or company, but sometimes you might think of it spitefully (even if you never do it). You want to make decisions  that don't hurt the people with whom you work, or the potential checked reference that is your company, but you also want to make choices that fall into line with the third question: is doing what I'm doing a step in the right direction for me?

I left a job that started at 8 am and ended when I sneaked past the VP of Engineering (he would intercept and send people back with just one more thing), typically around 9 pm. It was fabulous experience. I learned a ton of stuff. It was my first job as a QA Manager (and, technically, project manager, technical writer, customer service manager, and general cat wrangler). Awesome people to work with. But weirdly, I wanted to go home and see the new boyfriend (who is now my husband). The VP was not happy. He never wanted to see anyone leave. In addition to making him very unhappy, the team was very unhappy; it was a start up, and I was part of the glue holding it together. My leaving and a few other key people and the company dissipated relatively quickly, which I anticipated. Finally, I took a position LOWER than the manager position: I became a lead. It took me years to regain my managerial spot (and I missed that a lot), but at the time it was the right decision for me to go to a better paying job that would actually be only 8-9 hours a day. 

The point is, in the heat of the moment of a potential transition (which always has a lot of risks, whether it's willing or not, or an opportunity or not), these three things--how much time do I have to make it right, who all is affected and how, and is it in the right direction for me--is not as obvious as it is at this particular moment in time. So think it over, and maybe refer back here (if you like) when you need to.

I'll write more on taking chances with people in a future post. Until next time!