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How to Take Risks – and Make Mistakes – Without Ruining Your Career

It is natural to be cautious when making a decision or undertaking an action that could have a detrimental effect if it fails.

Indeed, being cautious isn’t a bad trait, and those who don’t tackle a difficult decision with care can often end up making things worse if they haven’t considered the outcomes of their actions.

Yet, as a culture, we’re chronically afraid of failure, and our reluctance to make mistakes at best hinders coming to the right decision, and at worst means that a great idea never comes to light. No working woman can have escaped the stomach churn and sweaty palms associated with a corporate clanger. Nothing like making a mistake to ruin your day, right?

That’s why what I’m about to tell you might seem radical: you need to make more mistakes. And you need to talk about them. Don’t shut up when asked about setbacks: own up. For your career to grow, you need to take risks – but taking more risks results in more failure. And that’s a scary side-effect, but it’s also a side-effect that will make your smarter.

If you’re an all-A student afraid to get that C, here are a few facts on why making some “good” mistakes will actually improve your career:

Fact: Taking risks is relative

A fear of failure mindset is one of the big reasons people are afraid to take a risk, as we conjure up all the potential pitfalls and blow them out of proportion. However, as The Muse writes, if an average person lives to 80, and this person takes one year out to try a career-changing move or big bold idea, then the amount of time spent on the risk is only 1.25% of their life. This number makes that huge risk seem a lot more manageable, no?

Fact: You will be remembered for the risks that paid off

If we think about risk in terms of money management strategies, FXCM state that “risk is exposure to danger.” This danger can be anything from the fear of what colleagues will think if you make a mistake to a huge change in the direction of your life. If you are afraid of how you will be received just take a look at the resumes of successful people. You will often find that as well as all those risks they took that paid off, there were many that didn’t, yet they are judged not on the risks that failed but the ones that succeeded.

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Fact: Smart women take risks

Risk taking isn’t a gender thing, either, although it is often unfairly stereotyped that way. Fortune.com reports that a study from Simmons College School of Business found that women are just as willing to take risks as men, particularly when it comes to “learning by doing”.

Don’t, therefore, let perceptions get in the way of your decisions; you don’t have to be an alpha male to make the big calls, just confident in your own ability.

Fact: Owning your mistakes improves your career

So what do you do if it all goes pear-shaped? According to The Telegraph, the best way to move past a mistake is to own it. Attempting to cover up a clanger can lead to even worse repercussions with your employer. Show people that you are willing to learn from the mistake and move past it. Everyone makes mistakes during their career, and often it is those who don’t who find their careers stagnating. In fact, not making mistakes is pretty much the biggest mistake you can make.

If you truly believe that taking a risk might ruin your career, then it would be best to seek advice from a colleague or friend. However, remember that most of the time your reluctance to make a mistake comes from a natural fear of failure, so take a deep breath and tell yourself that it is okay to fail. You will be a better professional precisely because you’re not perfect.

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