By Caroline Hayward (’15, MS ’16), Brand Planner at BBDO Worldwide in Dallas, TX

Caroline Hayward head shot photo

Caroline Hayward (’15, MS ’16)

“Take a risk.” This is a short and simple phrase that I have often heard in my career as an advertising professional – an industry where risk-taking is inherent, from pushing creative work to new levels to pitching a new business strategy. Risks are exciting, inspirational, nerve-wracking, dangerous and life-changing.

Recently, when a career opportunity came my way that required a cross-country move, this loaded word, “risk,” was at the forefront of my personal and professional life. I wanted to take a chance on growing my career and expanding my personal experience. The choice was suddenly right in front of me. Though receiving a job offer is exciting, it can sometimes come with a set of major decisions that require a degree of willingness to take some risks. How do you decide that taking a risk is worth it? How do you know when making a job change is the right choice for you?

The answers to these questions are deeply personal, and can ultimately only be made by you. When I went about making my own decision, the following exercises made the risks less intimidating, and informed my decision to take the job.

Stop weighing the pros and cons. This sounds crazy, right? I’m the kind of person who loves a good pros and cons list. Taking stock of what you have, where you are and what you might gain (or lose!) is a great way to understand the different outcomes of a decision. However, I relied so heavily on weighing my pros and cons when I started my job search, that I became stuck inside of it. What I didn’t realize at the time was that my list was keeping me in the middle of the decision-making cycle, instead of giving me insight into what I actually wanted to do. Step back and think about the following questions:

  • Why you are looking for a new opportunity? What is spurring this desire for change? Get specific here!
  • Will you be content if you choose to stay where you are?
  • If you had no external pressures (e.g., your colleagues, moving expenses, the opinions of friends, family, etc.), what would you choose?
  • Can you feasibly take advantage of this opportunity? If not, what’s stopping you? Are these things deal-breakers in your decision?

The brain and the gut are not mutually exclusive. I’ve found that making any career-related decision relies on both logic and feeling. Researching the city, role, industry or company that you are interested in is key to making an informed choice. When faced with a decision, though, sometimes your gut is the most powerful meter in determining what it is you truly want to do. An opportunity can make sense logically, but it’s important to check in with whether it’s something that makes you feel genuinely excited.

Share your thoughts with the people closest to you. Facing a life and job change can feel like a lonely endeavor – but it doesn’t have to be. Your closest family and friends are your biggest fans, and will care about you no matter what you decide. Leaning on them for support, and staying honest with them about what you’re thinking for the future, will make the decision-making process feel less isolating.

Taking a risk doesn’t have to have a negative connotation. Making a professional change or taking a new job can open the doors for a new chapter of life you never anticipated. Let’s flip the script on what “risk” means: an opportunity and a chance for positive change.