Taking Smart Risks in Your Career with Janette Barnard of DecisionNext

“I’ve kind of lucked into decisions that helped with my career trajectory –  I wish I could say it was on purpose,” laughs Janette Barnard, the current sales and marketing director for DecisionNext, a software company focused around predictive analytics around commodity industries.


A relatively young venture, Janette has recognized career risks and learned to capitalize on the opportunities provided by them. This has led her to amazing awareness, skill, and intentional actions when it comes to building networks and taking career risks.

Networking on purpose helps combat your long-term career risk.

Interacting with people is going to help you build your network. Careers and taking calculated risks with your career, are all about people and the relationships that you are building with them. Building a relationship must be done intentionally and with a high degree of awareness.


Networking on purpose is about building relationships and understanding others experiences so you can learn from them and add your own value to the relationship. Know your strengths and do not be afraid to volunteer or offer assistance to a potential mentor.

Intentional networking plan of action goals to see actual results

  • Spend one hour a month on LinkedIn networking with individuals.
  • Send three messages to people within your network that you haven’t talked to for a while; ask them what they are working on and how their last project went.
  • Send three cold messages to orchestrate a 20 minute conversation to network and get to know them.

Should you go back to school? How to calculate the risk of leaving your career.

A question many young professionals face in the start of their career is whether or not they should continue on the career path they are on, or leave that financial stability behind and go back to school for a higher degree? This is a decision that Janette had to make. Learn more about making the decision to pursue a professional degree from this AgGrad Live interview.


“It was a really hard decision, even though it was something I had always wanted to do,” recalls Janette. She had been at Elanco for four years in a strategic account manager role before leaving a stable job to pursue her MBA.

Look at the trajectory of your future in the long-term, not the short-term.


“What is going to shift your career trajectory?”


Make decisions that will impact you positively in the long term, thinking even as far as 25 or 30 years out. In order to have success in your career, you must play the long game and, to do so, you have to know where you want to be down the road.  


But, when “push came to shove, I had that trajectory in mind,” says Janette. She realized that while she could learn the information she wanted to know in her current job position, it would take longer than taking the coursework for her MBA and getting to where she wanted to be in a more efficient way.

What kind of company has the least amount of career risk for you?

“I don’t think that people are right for one or the other – it’s all about how you approach it,” says Janette about what types of people are ideal for a large company versus a start-up company.


Depending on a variety of factors, know what your goal is and your trajectory to help establish what size of business is right for you. Stop and assess the attributes of a company, attributes of a work environment, and the specific role that you want to have in your career. Correlate it all to the risk of the position.


“It’s about finding your niche in the ecosystem.”

Find the worst case scenario to understand the career risk.

Understand what the ACTUAL worst case scenario that can happen is. Is it being laid off? Fired? The company goes under? Where will you go from there?


If “X” is the worst case scenario and “X” happens, then “Y” will be what happens next.

  • What are the three phone numbers you will call if X happens?
    • Explain what you learned at the position, why you took the job, and why you are moving forward.
  • What are three jobs that you would apply for now?


Using this formula allows you to create a backup plan that allows you to take risks that you might otherwise feel are too risky.


A backup plan and an understanding of the risk you are taking with your career allows you to show up everyday, large company or small start-up, knowing that you are choosing to be there and it’s not because you can’t get something anywhere else.

Don’t close the door before it even opens up.

Constantly be on the lookout to broaden your horizons, to always have that conversation, and always have that phone call. You never know when the relationship that you built may come back to help you in three or five years.

Connecting with Janette Barnard.

Practice what you learn, you can follow Janette’s professional tips on LinkedIn.


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Katie Schrock