Personal Ansoff Matrix

Gauging Risk in Your Career Decisions

Personal Ansoff Matrix - Gauging the Risks in Your Career Decisions

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Before you take the plunge, take a moment to evaluate the risks.

Do you have a burning ambition to try something different?

It's not unusual, these days, to have more than one career. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average American has at least 11 jobs between the ages of 18 and 46.

Famously, Jerry Springer, Martha Stewart and Arnold Schwarzenegger all took a chance, and gave up successful careers to do something dramatically different – and struck gold! But, for every success story, there are many more who didn't quite make it.

So, before you take the plunge, it's a good idea to take a moment to investigate your options and their associated risks. This article explores a career-related use of the Ansoff Matrix, which helps you to assess those risks and take some of the guesswork out of planning your career.

About the Tool

The Ansoff Matrix was first published in the Harvard Business Review as early as 1957. It is a strategic planning tool developed by mathematician H. Igor Ansoff to help organizations assess the risks of adopting a particular strategy. It highlights four ways a business can grow, and helps you to think about the risks inherent in each of them.

With a little adjustment, you can also use the matrix to think about your career. The amended model shown in figure 1 below outlines four possible career choices: Expert Development, Functional Skills Development, Industry Transfer, and Retraining.

Figure 1: The Ansoff Matrix – Career

The Ansoff Matrix


The Personal Ansoff Matrix helps you to assess risks by providing a framework that you can map your options against. Starting at Expert Development, the risk of each choice increases as you move either horizontally or vertically through the matrix.

Expert Development is a relatively low-risk option because you're simply Building Expertise in your current role, while Functional Skills Development, in the lower-right-hand quadrant, has a higher risk, as you're shifting functions and learning new skills to apply to a new role in your existing organization.

Industry Transfer also presents a risk, because it involves applying your current skills to a new industry. Retraining represents the highest risk of all, because you're entering a new industry and building entirely new skills, and you can't take advantage of previous knowledge and experience.

Using the Ansoff Matrix to analyze your career choices improves your understanding of the risks associated with each option. This helps you think about these risks, develop a plan for dealing with them, and make the best choice for your situation.

Let's see it in action:...

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