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The Risky Job Search: Why Playing it Safe May Not Get You the IT Job You Want

Jan 14 , 2016

Searching for an IT job can be fraught with angst, nail-biting tension, and generally uncomfortable moments. When you are in the market for a new position, you may have a tendency to avoid as many stomach-churning incidents as possible by playing it safe.

For instance, you may decide not to search for a job while employed for fear that your current employer will get wind of your plans and take some unpleasant action. Or, you may hesitate to step out on a limb to make a contact that might get you in the door of a prospective employer out of shyness or fear of embarrassment.

Sometimes you just need to jump right in.

If that is the case, it may be helpful to remember the old adage that fortune favors the brave. Playing it safe may be keeping you from realizing your full potential. You may inadvertently be closing the door to a world of opportunity. While it is still wise to look before you leap, failing to risk a leap may be the riskiest move of all.

The Reasons and Costs of Risk Aversion

Margie Warrell, keynote speaker and best-selling author of "Stop Playing Safe", outlines four human tendencies that hamper courage and make it hard to put yourself in what you perceive as a risky position. Humans tend to:

• over-estimate the probability of something going wrong
• exaggerate the consequences of what happens if something does go wrong
• underestimate the ability to handle the consequences of risk
• discount or deny the cost of inaction

These tendencies can seriously impede your ability to land the position you really want. The price for inaction can include:

• stagnating in a position that no longer fits your goals
• losing a dream job to a more adventurous applicant
• dealing with the inevitable "what if" feeling that comes with failing to act

Creative, But Not Crazy

Competition for jobs can be fierce, and risk takers reap the benefit of standing out from the crowd by being creative in their approach. Though risky strategies can backfire if not well handled, taking appropriate risks can yield good results.

For instance, while a cold call to an employer might seem risky, sometimes it may be just the thing to make you stand out in a sea of anonymous applicants. Cold calling is effective if you reach the right person at the right time. Do research to find out who the decision maker is, what his or her schedule is, and then time your call for maximum effect.

Conventional wisdom holds that walking in without an appointment is a risky move. However, once again, timing is key. A walk-in can work well if it is timed appropriately, and if you have something of real value to present in the way of skills. It is unlikely that a hiring manager will dismiss you as a candidate merely because you did not wait for an official invitation to interview if you have the chops for the position.

The same holds true for making contact via appropriate social media channels. While laying everything on the line is not advisable in a public forum, with discreet use of social media, you can often gain a foothold with the decision makers for the company you are targeting.

Go ahead, make that cold call if you have done your homework.

Seeking out a mentor also carries a certain amount of risk, but can yield big results. If you choose an in-house mentor, it is no longer possible to keep your job search a secret from your company. However, choosing a mentor who is truly interested in your success will mitigate the negative consequences of sharing news of your job search with a company employee.

Seeking a mentor outside your current company is also risky, in that news of your goals may become public knowledge. However, a discerning risk-taker may weigh the potential negative consequences against the benefits and decide it is a move worth making.

Each of these methods carries a certain amount of risk, particularly if you are already employed. You can lessen those risks by:

• conducting your job search on your own time
• avoiding listing current fellow employees or supervisors as references
• keeping your career plans off your personal social media page
• requesting confidentiality from your prospective employer
• avoiding the use of job boards to post your resume

The Benefits of Appropriate Risk-Taking

There are abundant reasons to take well-considered risks to advance your career. A kamikaze approach to risk-taking may have a negative effect, but risk-taking done right gets you where you want to go.

Some of the top benefits of taking the right risks are:

• Unexpected opportunities present themselves to those taking bold moves.
• Confidence increases, and you are more likely to stand out because of it.
• Risk is a learning experience, no matter the immediate outcome.
• Embracing risk negates the effects of a fear of failure.

Working with a professional recruiter can mitigate the risk of job searching, while increasing the likelihood that the risks you do take will pay off handsomely. If you are ready to make a move, join our talent network today. There is no time like the present to start moving closer to your career goals.