I've had a lot of time to think lately, and a topic that comes across my mind is, "How did I get here?" Simple answer: by car (yes, my humor is that lame). I'm about to turn 28, living in Florida, and trying to make a living as a freelancer. Aside from getting a year older, never in a million years would I have imagined myself in the other two situations. Freelancing has always been an intriguing option, but realistically I imagined myself getting old in a secure office job. A recent article in the New York Times on those that have quit relatively secure careers to follow their dreams, only to be met by unexpected difficulty, also caught my eye and had me questioning, "Did I make a bad decision?"
In general, I am not a risktaker. I've never been sky-diving, cliff-jumping, or tried an extreme sport. My belly flops just thinking about the high diving board at the pool growing up. I'm not scared of heights, but something about jumping into the unknown makes me a little queasy. But there are some things I think are worth it—putting myself out there on a blog, for example, or moving across the country alone for graduate school.
Not all risks are created equal, however. Some questions to keep in mind when you're making a risky move (geared toward career, but can be applied to other things as well):
- Am I qualified? This could be an educational credential or just years of experience with a trade or hobby. If you can, try to get some experience under you belt before you branch out full time.
- What actions can I take to make this work? Success isn't all that hard to figure out...it takes work, work, work, work, work, work, and a smidge of luck.
- How long will it take? Be realistic. For example, if you're opening a restaurant, don't expect a profit in your first year. This will also help you know when to cry uncle.
- What is the interim plan? Do you have a second income in your household that is enough to live on, will you be living off savings, or are you looking for a part-time job to meet your basic needs?
- What is the worst case scenario? Think about what you could lose if your plan doesn't pan out. Upfront costs, missed payments and risk of default or foreclosure, strained friendships or business partnerships.
- How would I recover from said scenario? If you had a career before you took the risky move, would you be okay going back to that career?
Have you ever taken a risky move that others questioned? How did you plan ahead, and how did it work out for you?