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Career Risks You Should Never Take

career risks

Don’t put your career in jeopardy by making these mistakes. (The last one may surprise you.)

Congratulations: You’re awesome at what you do. But don’t prolong the celebration. To continue to learn, sharpen your skills, and advance in your career, you have to push yourself out of your comfort zone and tackle new ground. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself on the equivalent of a hamster wheel.

“Risks are a fundamental part of career progression,” says Denver-based career coach Jennifer DeWall. “If you never take risks, you won’t reach your full potential.”

Furthermore, how can you win big if you don’t play big? “If you’re open to taking risks,” says Jaime Klein, founder of New York–based HR consulting firm Inspire Human Resources, “you’ll give yourself more professional opportunities.”

Of course, you have to be smart—being risky doesn’t mean being careless. Willy-nilly risk-taking can jeopardize your professional trajectory. Read on to learn which risks are never worth taking.

1. Hastily quitting your job because you had a bad week

No job is perfect. “Everyone has a bad day or a bad week,” says San Francisco–based career and executive coach Rebecca Zucker. The important thing is to take a step back and not make an emotional decision to quit your job.

Instead, assess why you’re unhappy and develop a solution, advises Zucker. Had a disagreement with a co-worker? Think about what steps you can take to repair the relationship. Didn’t get that raise you’ve been gunning for? Create a plan for how you’re going to earn a hearty pay bump next time. “Look at what’s within your control,” says Zucker. “What are the levers you can pull to make things better?”

At the same time, you don’t want to stay at a company with a toxic work environment. So, if your job is taking a serious toll on you physically or emotionally, it may be time to find a new employer.

2. Doing something you believe is unethical or illegal

Everyone has a moral compass. If your boss or co-worker asks you to do something you fear could be unethical or illegal, don’t be afraid to push back and let them know you’re not comfortable. If matters are severe, it’s wise to bring your concerns to human resources.

It’s important to trust your instincts. “The first company I worked for had the Wall Street Journal rule,” says Zucker. “Don’t do anything that you wouldn’t print on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.”

3. Taking a pay cut when your living expenses are tight

You obviously want to keep your salary going up—not down. But there are some instances where it makes sense to take a pay cut.

“Maybe you’re dialing down your career to focus on an aging parent or childcare, or changing industries, or trying to re-enter the workforce,” says Klein. In those situations, you may have to take a job that pays below your market value.

However, before taking a pay cut, take a close look at your monthly living expenses and debt. “It may not work financially for you and your family,” Zucker says. “If you need a certain level of income to pay the bills and live without racking up debt, you’re not in the position to take a pay cut.”

4. Overstepping boundaries

Every company has a hierarchy with unwritten rules—and you don’t want to overstep them. “If you disregard the proper chain of command, it can create tension,” says DeWall. For instance, speaking to the press on behalf of your company without first clearing it with your communications department could look like you’re undermining authority.

Similarly, you don’t have to agree with every last decision your boss makes, but you do have to be respectful—of both your superiors, as well as your co-workers—at all times.

5. Avoiding the unknown

That’s right: One of the worst career risks is taking no risks at all. Rooted in fear, this non-approach sees you coasting along the path of least resistance. Problem is, you’ll hit a plateau early on and then you’ll be stuck—and probably bored.

When it comes to risk versus reward, it’s never a risk to look for a better job, and the rewards are too many to mention. This is why you should always be open to new opportunities. Could you use some help taking that first step? Join Monster for free today. As a member, you can upload up to five versions of your resume and cover letter—each tailored to the types of jobs that interest you. Recruiters search Monster every day in hopes of finding qualified candidates to fill top jobs. In addition, you can get job alerts sent directly to your inbox so you can be among the first to apply. What could be lower-risk than a free membership? Go for it!