Book Giveaways

Risk/Reward: Why Intelligent Leaps and Daring Choices Are the Best Career Moves You Can Make

June 22, 2015


Anne Kraemer tells us that job security is a thing of the past, and that we must all now approach our careers with an entrepreneurial mindset.

We all know that to be successful in business involves taking risks. What we may not know, or want to acknowledge, is that our careers require the same.

Anne Kreamer's new book, Risk/Reward: Why Intelligent Leaps and Daring Choices Are the Best Career Moves You Can Make, offer some compelling reasons why:

  • The average job lasts 4 years—or less.
  • If you are in your will have 11 jobs over the course of your working life.
  • If you are in your will have to change careers 2 more times.
  • If you are in your will likely have to work for another 10-20 years.

That is startling. If you're the kind of person that gets excited by those numbers, good for you. You are less risk-averse than most in your career and greatly suited for this new reality. But most of us were brought up to believe in a different one, that we should get a secure, stable job and then hunker down. Kreamer, unflinchingly, declares that "Job security for almost anyone at any level is a quaint twentieth-century artifact."

The working world has become a place where risk runs rampant. Secure jobs are becoming obsolete, the industries in which we've worked are disappearing altogether, entirely new kinds of business are arising overnight, pensions and other retirement benefits are disappearing, we are under constant pressure to stay technologically current, demands on out time in and outside the workplace are expanding—suddenly all these concerns are universal, chronic, and stressful. Even if you're someone who can reasonably expect to stay in one discipline over the course of a lifetime, the need to respond and adapt to technological and organizational upheavals means your work is transforming at a rate similar to those who career-hop.

So, rather than looking for "a steady job," Kreamer urges us to think more like entrepreneurs when approaching our careers, to broaden our scope and skill sets, to try different things, and diversify what we're able to deliver—hopefully landing somewhere in the end, or with some mix of things that earns you a steady income while also aligning with what you truly want to do. And it turns out this approach is literally paying off more than traditional career tracks.

What once was viewed with skepticism—going wide and doing a variety of things versus going deep into one profession—can absolutely be a competitive advantage today. Particularly when we're young. A 2014 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research discovered that the younger workers who sampled more occupations—viewing each successive job hop as a chance to discover the kind of work they find most satisfying—tend to be more financially successful in their thirties and forties. Henry Siu, a professor at the Vancouver School of Economics, University of British Columbia, and one of the authors of the study, reported, "Job-hopping is actually correlated with higher incomes, because people have found better matches—their true calling."

One thing I love about Risk/Reward is that it is scattered with great quotes about work, from Dick Cavett's admission that he "always felt alienated by friends who know exactly what they wanted to be" because he's "still wondering," to Albert Camus declaring that "Without work, all life goes rotten, but when work is soulless, life stifles and dies." Kreamer's advice and actionable ways to go about implementing it will help remedy the sentiment in those two quotes. But there is one quote I did not see in the book that I think perfectly sums up the point at the heart of it, and it comes from Helen Keller:

Security is mostly a superstition. ... Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

I reviewed Adrian Woolridges's The Great Disruption last week, a book that pulls from his Schumpeter columns in The Economist and puts them a larger, shaped argument about the state of the modern world and business world. As he writes in that book, "[Joseph] Shumpeter once said that the average firm stands on ground that is crumbling beneath its feet. The ground is more treacherous than ever." The same can be said today about the average career. Risk/Reward holds out a helpful, steadying hand, encourages us to survey new landscapes, as helps us all navigate the treacherous ground along the way.

We have 20 copies available.

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