By Suzanna de Baca, president and CEO, Business Publications Corp.

What have you said yes to? 

Once I said yes to a job that paid much less than I had been making, required relocation from a city I loved, and involved personal danger. Why? I believed so deeply in the mission of the organization that I overcame my fears and moved past the feedback from friends who thought I was making a mistake. I took the leap and it was one of the best leadership learning experiences of my life. 

Part of leading fearlessly through your own career is knowing when to say yes to new challenges or even when to seek them out. As women, we are often conditioned to wait for someone to recognize us versus advocating for ourselves. In Business Record Editor Emily Barske’s recent Fearless article, “What do you say yes to?,” she emphasizes the importance of intentionally choosing challenges. It’s not always easy, but it can be the key to growth.

I asked some fearless female leaders about a time they said yes to a professional challenge: 

Rocio Hermosillo, real estate agent and squad leader, Ibarra Realty Group at Keller Williams Realty. I quit my corporate career with a great organization and made the decision to obtain my real estate license to pursue my dream of entrepreneurship. I said yes to the unknown and decided to take a leap of faith and risked it all to provide the best life I could for those in my world and community. I wouldn’t be where I am had I not done so. 

Nalo Johnson, president and CEO, Mid-Iowa Health Foundation. Leaving the public sector for philanthropy was a difficult choice. Philanthropy is a whole new world for me, but I am grateful that I didn’t let fear of the unknown stop me from embracing this opportunity.  I am learning there are additional avenues to address community health issues outside of and in partnership with the traditional public health structure. 

Tiffany O’Donnell, CEO of Women Lead Change and mayor of Cedar Rapids. “CEO? Me? Thank you, but I’ve never done that before. Thanks, anyway.” Seven years later, as the CEO of Women Lead Change, I’m grateful I listened to wise mentors who reminded me of the value of my body of experience and encouraged me to say, “Yes! CEO! That’s me!” Never underestimate your drive and your ability to navigate new waters.

Barbara Sloniker, executive vice president of the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce and the Siouxland Initiative: I said yes to leaving my family trucking company where I had been working for 10 years and applying for a job at the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce to be the marketing director for the Sioux Gateway Airport. I left the familiar business I had grown up in to try something new. Scary at the time but well worth it!

Laura Sweet, vice president and chief operating officer, Des Moines Performing Arts. Early in my career I was thriving in my hometown of Lincoln, Neb. I was involved with nonprofits and loved having family nearby. I then accepted a VP position at the Ordway Center in Saint Paul. It meant leaving the security I had built. While terrifying, this opened new doors and was the right decision for my career and family.

Advice on getting to yes!

Decide to try. “It’s hard to ever be 100% certain or ready, says Hermosillo. “If we wait until we’re ready, we’ll be waiting for the rest of our lives. It all begins with the decision to try.” 

Consider scenarios. “It may feel like a cliff, but it’s really a curb,” says O’Donnell. “Always ask, ‘What’s the worst that can happen?’ You may be surprised to realize that you’re willing to take the leap anyway.”

Reward taking risks. Sweet advises, “By getting to ‘yes,’ you help your colleagues build confidence and grow.”

Be your own advocate. “Trust your skill sets and experience,” says Johnson. “When you show up, you are your best advocate!”

Go for it. Slonker advises: “Gather the most information you can find to help make your decision, take a deep breath and go for it!”