Take a Leap of Faith: Career Risk-Taking Can Pay Off!

Happy Leap Day! To celebrate this event, which occurs once every four years, we will take a look at what taking a career risk that represents a "leap of faith" can do for your professional trajectory.

Alexandra Levit, writing in the Wall Street Journal's online edition, asserts that it is often entrepreneurs who have taken big risks to net proportionally high rewards. Such people often advance their careers more quickly than those who are cautious.

She adds,

"How do you go about deciding if a career risk is necessary and will bear fruit? "First, it helps to think long term. Where do you want your career to be in five years, and what actions will you have to take to make sure you get there? Next, clearly define the challenge and the opportunity -- or the upside if the risk goes well. "Then, consider the downside. Will the worst-case scenario be career-ending, or something that can be overcome?"

Laura Marcus, writing for the British publication The Guardian, provides a handy list of reasons to "stay or go" when pondering the timing of leaving a job that's no longer serving your long-term goals.

Should you stay or should you go?


  • You've always had regular work, what you do won't easily fit into freelance or self-employment and there are few vacancies in your line.
  • You've only become unhappy recently. Like parties, if you stay a while longer, it could get better.
  • You have debts and/or large commitments and responsibilities and your job is secure.
  • You live in an area of high unemployment.
  • You're the family's sole earner.
  • You hate insecurity, need routine in your life and you're not very flexible.


  • Your job is making you ill.
  • Your skills are in demand.
  • You've started a business while employed and it's going well.
  • You have plenty of savings or an inheritance.
  • You have a working partner who's prepared to support you – and means this!
  • You have great contacts, you love networking and you have strong self-belief.
  • You've done your research, you spotted a gap in the market and know you're the one to fill it.

Sun Devils Making the Leap
We asked our network on Twitter if they had ever taken a leap of faith in their career and what the results were. Here is a sampling of responses:

Christena Ruiz-Lewis: @Christena71
My biggest "leap of faith" is the forming of my pet sitting co. I'm learning daily & struggle, but I am proud of what I've done.
Alita Hawksworth: @achgcs
Looking over resume, I've worked for small pop/mom, start ups, etc. All have panned out well.
Ashley Womack: ‏@Ash_Wo

Quit my job in Dec. moved 2 SF (from AZ) & just landed my dream job in #PR
Ruth Carter: @rbcarter
I opened Carter Law Firm 8 months after graduating from @ASUCollegeOfLaw bit.ly/x8fwdc
Jedi ASU:‏ @JediASU
2Wks after graduation, with $750 in the bank and a u-haul, I moved to the SF Bay Area to find a job. Blessed to still be here.

Kathy: @citykitty1978
Yes, I didn't want to commute, but I was laid off from city I worked & lived in, turns out I started a carpool in 08 w/3 cowrkrs

The questions to you

  • Have you ever taken a big risk with your career? What were the results?
  • What advice do you have for professionals thinking of making a career "leap of faith"?

~Liz Massey, Managing Editor, ASU Alumni Association