Risk Management for Your Career Success

You might be familiar with the concept of risk management, which is a frequent topic of conversation in businesses. However, you might not have considered how this concept could be applied to your career management, including job searches and career changes.

What is Risk Management?

A search online will turn up numerous definitions of risk management. Wikipedia describes it like this: “Risk management is the identification, assessment, and prioritization of risks…followed by coordinated and economical application of resources to minimize, monitor, and control the probability and/or impact of unfortunate events or to maximize the realization of opportunities. Risk management’s objective is to assure uncertainty does not deflect the endeavor from the business goals.”

Key elements of this definition include identification, assessment, prioritization, and resource coordination/application. Obviously it’s not enough just to identify a risk looming on the horizon.

So What’s Risk Management for Career Success?

Life is full of uncertainties and potential risks, and your professional life isn’t immune to those. As I’ve said before, anyone can make career missteps through various factors. The question is, how can you apply the principles of risk management to your career management activities and at least minimize your risk exposure?

Let’s take the key elements mentioned by Wikipedia and look briefly at each one:

Risk Identification. Possible risks you might identify include the following (this is not an exhaustive list):

  • Challenges posed by rivals (competitors) both within and outside your organization that might put you at a disadvantage.
  • Lack of time or funding to pursue education that would enhance your career prospects.
  • Problems your company is experiencing that could limit your growth or even cost you your job.
  • Office politics that put you on the “outside” with regard to influencers and decision-makers.
  • Family challenges, including possible forced relocation due to another family member’s job, that could interfere with your career plans.
  • Health issues that affect your ability to perform at the needed level in your chosen or current career.

Risk Assessment. You need to take a careful look at each risk you have identified, in order to determine (a) how real the risk potential is, (b) how important it is in terms of your career success, and (c) what you can and should do about it.

Risk Prioritization. You need to prioritize the various risks in terms of whether to take definite action and, if so, in which order to tackle them. Practically speaking, it’s probably not effective to try addressing more than one or two potential risks at a time. For each risk, you can try asking yourself, “if I don’t take any action on this, what’s the worst that can happen? Can I live with that?”

Resource Coordination & Application. You might be able to choose from diverse resources, depending on the particular risk you’re addressing and what your applicable resources are. Resources could be “must have” or “would really like to have,” which will tell you something about where you stand. Those you label as “nice but not essential” can probably be held in reserve while you focus on the others.

For example, if you determine that an advanced degree is critical to your career success, you might need to marshal multiple resources, including money to finance your education and time to do the necessary academic work. If you’ll be attending school full-time to get your MBA, finances could easily become a big issue. On the other hand, if you’ll be working full-time (or even part-time) while you’re pursuing the degree, time could be almost as big a challenge.


Although this post is an over-simplification of the situation you might be facing in terms of risk management for your career success, I hope it will give you at least a boost in the right direction.

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