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Five lessons I learned from taking career risks

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When I was growing up, I had this idea that there was a ‘right way’ to do things.

I believed there was only one path you had to follow and if you strayed from it, you were doing something wrong, your life was falling to pieces and the world would explode (dramatic, I know). Now, at the ripe old age of 25, I’ve realised that’s a load of BS.

Up until a few years ago, I was following that ‘right way’ to do things.

I moved from Canberra to Melbourne for university immediately after graduating from Year 12, telling myself I’d do the Gap Year after I finish my degree. After I completed uni, I found a full-time job because “if I have a Gap Year now I’ll be unemployable in a year!”.

While I was working at my first full-time job, my best friend and I had discussed moving to London to work and travel—two single women tearing up the streets of the big smoke—but it never felt like we were being serious and so we never got around to it. Not together anyway…

Lesson One: If you’re not happy, make a change (and make it a big one)

I hit a turning point at the start of 2018. After almost a year of working at a company with no mentorship, no development opportunities and starkly contrasting values, I had exhausted the abilities and experience I had at the time.

I drove to KFC one lunch for a cheeky twister combo and called my mum, telling her, “I need to get out of here, I’m losing my mind”.

A month later, I was on a midnight flight to London—just me, a suitcase, the money I was saving to buy a new car, and the Sims 4 installed on my laptop for 24 hours of straight gameplay (the dream!). I was making the big move!

I’m not sure the reality of what I was doing actually hit me until I was buckled in and the plane was taking off.

Lesson Two: Ask yourself ‘why not?’ rather than ‘why?’

Even though I’d toyed with the idea previously, I was always asking myself “why should I do this?”. The moment I asked myself “why not” I came up short—there was nothing stopping me from taking this risk.

Moving to London was the most impulsive thing I’d ever done. It was also the best thing I’ve ever done—I was on my own in a country I’d never been to, with no job, no friends, and no help. It was scary, but anything worth doing is going to be.

After a year of gallivanting around Europe, riding Santander bicycles across Tower Bridge and drinking at Wetherspoons far more than I’d like to admit, I was ready to come home. I felt self-sufficient, I’d developed lifelong friendships, and I was more driven than ever to “just do it” (thanks for the motto, Nike).

Lesson Three: There is no right time to take risks

I arrived home to Melbourne at the end of 2019, ready to find a long-term job, save for a house and start doing more ‘adult’ things. But life has a funny way of reminding you not to get too comfortable (read: COVID-19).

Two months into a new job in corporate events and travel, our office closed and our hours were reduced. In the coming eight months, the future of our business and the industry as a whole would continue to be tested and challenged by the pandemic.

In the lull between the first and second COVD-19 wave in Melbourne, I packed a suitcase, hopped in my car and drove up to Canberra to visit friends.

Lesson Four: You can’t plan for opportunities but you have to be ready to take them

What started as a two-week visit has now become four months, a lease and a full-time job at Canberra based agency.

My friends teased me because I always said I’d never move back to Canberra but I found myself with a decision to make:

  1. Go back to Melbourne’s Stage 4 lockdown for a while but have the security of home and regular life once restrictions eased, or;
  2. Stay in Canberra with just my suitcase and car and accept a full-time marketing job (in the middle of a pandemic!) at a growing business.

I certainly didn’t plan for it, but circumstance had created a new opportunity and I was ready to accept.

Lesson Five: You will make it work

Yes, you absolutely can do it. Whatever it may be.

You don’t have to be ‘brave’ or ‘adventurous’ or whatever category you’re deciding you’re not a part of. There is no game plan or path or structure you need to follow. If you want to do something, find a way to make it happen.

And even if you make it happen and things don’t go according to plan, you’ll find a way to make it work and you’ll have amazing experiences along the way.

You might end up somewhere you never saw yourself, but it could just be the best thing you ever do.

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