Assessing the Risks of the Next Step
post # 166 — August 18, 2006 — a Careers post
You’ll read in lots of places that, in business, the right strategy is to “fail often, fail fast, fail cheap.” That way, you learn, innovate, and develop.
It’s good advice for an organization, but not necessarily for an individual. While I like to be encouraging, urging people to stretch to fulfill their capabilities and dreams, the truth is that the world can be an unforgiving place, and you do have to choose your “next challenge” with care.
For example, if you are aiming for a big promotion, you had better make sure you want that responsibility before you try to move up. If it turns out not to work out well (for any reason), a company will most likely NOT put you back where you came from, but move you out. (It’s happened to me.)
Actually, the same is true when companies take on new client work and deals: take one on that runs into trouble, and you don’t go back to the market reputation you had before, but to one with a big black mark. (That’s happened to me, too.)
Be sure to think through what it means to move up in an organization, because it is hard to go back. The higher you climb, the more responsibilities you get that you simply didn’t know existed when you were a naive junior. With promotion comes incredible responsibility and narrow career choices.
Life doesn’t get any easier as you move up the ladder. All you ever do as you progress is trade one set of problems for another, hopefully higher class, set of problems. One set of stresses for another.
Am I counseling anyone to not be ambitious? No, what I’m saying is that you don’t accept or pursue “promotions” or “challenges” “or “glamorous client assignments” just because they are there. They’ve got to be the right ones for you.
You’ve got to go through life recognizing that, if you fail at new challenges, you’ll have rebuilding to do.You have to weigh both the benefits of succeeding and the risks of failing before you decide.
As you progress, life does get more interesting, but it doesn’t get easier.