Taking that risk to better or change your career can be intimidating, but consider these nine career risks that could be the key to your professional success. (Narrow down your career search, with Top 10 Cities For A Career In Finance.)
IN PICTURES: 6 Hot Careers With Lots Of Jobs

  1. Negotiating
    When you negotiate, there is a risk you may come off as a mercenary employee looking out for your bottom line rather than being dedicated and happy to do your job just because you love it. The little well-known secret is that companies tend to always lowball you on the first offer by about 10-15% on average. Shocked? Don't be. Companies are a lot like people: they don't want to spend more than they have to.

    If you take that risk of losing that job offer (or job!) to ask for what you want, you just might get it; that being said, if you are happy with the initial offer then don't look the gift horse in the mouth.

  2. Switching Careers Mid-Life
    Leaving your job for a new start or transferring into a new department can give you a renewed sense of purpose that will translate into job happiness. Just be sure you have a Plan B and are willing to start at the bottom.

  3. Volunteering for Odd Jobs
    Volunteering for tasks nobody wants, such as taking lunch orders, might seem like a career-killer, but doing so can have less obvious benefits other than looking like a team-player. Imagine walking into a C-level executive's office to pick up her lunch order, and having that coveted five minutes of daily face time in which you can (modestly) mention how your accomplishments can yield a big return. You'll be on top of her mind, and the first in line for upcoming opportunities.

  4. Freelancing
    Freelancing can have big paydays, but not without big risks. To start, build a short-term reserve fund to cover your expenses while you hustle, and do your research to see if there is enough of a demand for your skills to keep you rolling in the dough. If you are still gun shy, see if you can freelance on the side while you build up your reserves and clientèle to be able to take it on full-time. (For more on freelancing, check out Freelance Careers: Look Before You Leap.)

  5. Taking Time Off
    Taking a break can allow you to objectively re-assess where you are at, and explore new career options, just don't forget to keep your networks current. Some companies allow sabbatical, which means you can take time off without pay but have your job waiting for you when you return.

  6. Speaking Up
    Public presentation gives you instant recognition, and while you think it might be your own version of hell, keep in mind that other people are just as scared of public speaking, and will help you feel more at ease - and with practice, it will get easier.

  7. Disagreeing
    Disagreeing with your boss or a colleague may seem risky, but only if you come off as a bull in a china shop. If it's during a meeting, don't be afraid to voice your opinion, and if it's something more serious, take some time to collect your thoughts, then approach your boss with a cool head, and you just might end up seeing eye-to-eye. Either way, you will be established as an assertive professional who knows not only how to contribute during meetings, but how to keep your cool.

  8. Turning Down Assignments
    Saying "no" to something might not make you seem like a team player, but at least you won't be stuck with any undesirable projects that come along.

    If you are overwhelmed, it's better to say no than to deliver a poor work product, and you might just experience career burnout, which causes the stress to spill over into your personal life. (See Top 10 Ways To Avoid Burnout In Corporate Finance to learn ways to avoid stress in the workplace.)

IN PICTURES: A Bigger Salary Or Better Benefits?

The Bottom Line
You may still have cold feet about the above career risks, but doing nothing can be just as detrimental to your career and work-life balance. You don't need to do all of these things; take one of the risks and make it a goal to accomplish this year and ease yourself into the mindset before you jump off the deep end at your year-end review.

Find out what happened in financial news this week with Water Cooler Finance: The New iPod And The Roller Coaster Market.

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