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How to Derisk Your Career

In 1999, I left my lucrative, coveted spot at a management consulting firm to do a stint as Luce Fellow living and working in Asia. I came to Hong Kong as a pit stop to meet my boss on the way to Beijing to start Internet World magazine in China and Asia. 

Sorry, the joint venture has fallen through and you have no job but you can stay here and help me do the event side of the business.”

Sound familiar to you? 

Maybe not the industry or moving abroad but everyone I know has:

  • lost a job, started a new one that they knew in the first month they couldn’t stand 
  • agreed to move with a spouse to a new place 
  • taken time off to be a caregiver for their own health needs or for others
  • or gotten bored, anxious or depressed with the lack of intellectual stimulation in their job

This is the reality of our careers these days at a time when uncertainty is a given and agility is a career skill and a necessity for our sanity.

I was reminded of this when prepping for a talk and listening to Parag Khanna’s talk on how we will need to fundamentally reconsider our place on the planet due to climate change and mass migration (did you know there are over 75 countries who now have nomad visas, btw?)

I was reminded of it after a flood of emails responding to last week’s newsletter on the Portfolio Life ranging from, “yes, please help me craft a portfolio life” to, “it all sounds aspirational but what they don’t tell you is that you HAVE to do this these days for your career”. 

Which is one of the reasons I wrote Future Proof.

All of us need to be ready for the future. The people most at risk are those who have not prepared or been extended a helping hand to bridge to the future.

So, what are some of the ways I’ve seen people derisk their careers?

1. Broaden Your Identity

One of the deeper issues we discuss in our cohorts is the idea of identity foreclosure. Even if you hate your job or your company, chances are it gives you a sense of identity that is explainable to others. It may also confer status on you via the brand or your title. You can find a lot of comfort in being part of something bigger than yourself. 

When it goes away, people feel like they are nothing. It’s one of the reasons job loss is right up there with death of a loved one or health scare on the stress scale. 

How do you derisk the emotional derailment of job loss, break or retiring from one industry or role to focus on other things?

Start an early exploration of the kaleidoscope of values and attributes that make up YOU. 

Zoom out and get some perspective by doing a life map of your experiences so far (it’s one of our exercises in the personal branding with purpose course). Then begin reassembling the pieces into a new story that builds on the past.

2. Activate Your Network

I’ve worked with some very senior people - CEOs, business owners, people who own houses around the world - and these people often have exceptional networks. They also fail to use them because it feels so uncomfortable. Even more so for those I work with who have no networks and less status. I’m no different! I love to help. I loathe asking for help. 

Activating your network is not the same as having a network. It’s about reaching out to proactively grow your garden. Our Future Proof community has the 50 coffees challenge to solve or deepen your thinking on any problem and ask questions like:

“I’m trying to figure out my direction, can we take twenty minutes to share what we’re doing?”

“I’m considering a board role and would love to hear what key considerations you had when you did your evaluation.”

“I’m trying to narrow in on my ideal client. Can I ask you a few questions?”

3. Create Wealth

One of the things that drives our sense of anxiety around careers is, of course, the financial aspect of having an income (or, more to the point, not having one!). 

My daughter started a future investors club at her school. She said almost none of her girlfriends talked at all about investments. It really concerned me because women in particular outlive men, earn less and invest less. All of which adds risk to your life and career. 

Even people who are high up in their careers and earning often find themselves in a situation where they are barely earning enough money to make ends meet. It’s harder to make money from your savings as well, especially in this inflationary environment.  

As my friend Todd Miller explained to us in his Future Proof Masterclass and book, Enrich, you must consider how to create net worth outside of your job in order to get and retain the best job on your own terms.

What tips and tricks have you used to derisk your career?


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