We need to make risk out middle name. We have to be willing to try many avenues so that one works out. Nobody can afford to play it safe anymore. Job security, as everyone knows, is a thing of the past. We need to show that we are essential and can be counted on for our can-do spirit and courage to take action. Some of us have a natural propensity for risk, but everyone can develop the skill. Here's how:
1. Start small. Practice in baby-steps. Social skills count a great deal and are the most dreaded. Begin in a safe place. At the next conference, sit next to people and introduce yourself with a short description of what you do. Ask others to share too. Then after the speaker's presentation, make use of the question period by making yourself stand up, introduce yourself, and ask a question and give a compliment. The question doesn't have to be brilliant; it can just ask the speaker what his/her next plan is. The practice of getting visibility, rather than being "right," is critical.
2. Begin pruning your fears of standing out and speaking in public. No one ever fully conquers these terrifying acts, but your fear should not paralyze you from moving forward. Join a professional association (from your own discipline to Toastmasters) and get involved in a committee. Make yourself present ideas to practice and gain composure. Overcoming as much fear of speaking in public as you can has enormous benefit. So does the confidence boost once you've tried.
3. Stretch the boundaries of what you consider safe. Enroll in an improv class, a foreign language course, or a hiking event. Participation in something that is formidable to you shows you that most limits are only self-imposed.
4. If you want to take action but your anxieties are holding you back, imagine that you are one of the more accomplished colleagues in your workplace. What would he or she do if they were in your shoes? Then act as if you were they. Pretending flushes out false timidity and allows you to push past some of your fears.
5. Make a splash by unveiling an ambitious plan or offering a big idea at the next meeting. Be sure to get support from others who will be attending beforehand so that you will be received well.
6. Give your boss lots of great ideas. Try piggy-backing on other ideas that worked well and may work again. Give credit to others' ideas as you go. Even if some of your ideas are rejected or turn out to be flops, you will gain attention and win confidence through your courage and perseverance.
Taking no risks in your career is the biggest - and worst - risk of them all.
Make your luck happen!
Author of Skills for Success and Launch Your Career in College