As autumn sets in, my social media feed is becoming clogged with #FallLovers waxing eloquently about PSLs (pumpkin spice lattes for the uninitiated), chunky sweaters, boots, football, fires and, well…comfort. (And the Brangelina divorce, but we digress…)
While finding your fall comfort zone at home is a definite “do,” staying in one at work is most definitely a “don’t.” When you stick with the status quo, your career can stagnate. Opportunities flourish most when you raise your hand to volunteer for something new. Believe me, others take note when you put yourself out there.
I know risk-taking is scary — whether it’s speaking up at a meeting, introducing yourself to a keynote speaker (by the way, we love it!) or volunteering for a new project or task force.
But you’ll see incredible personal and career growth when you stretch yourself at work. I found some articles that discuss why it’s smart to leave your comfort zone and some steps to get you started.
Leaving Your Comfort Zone Can Inspire a New Passion
“How can you know what you love if you’ve never tried it? There’s only one way to find out: Bite the bullet, summon up your bravery and dive in. You have more to gain by trying something new—even if you fail—than staying in a rut forever. For Adam Fridman, founder and CEO of Mabbly, a digital-marketing agency, an assignment to optimize search terms at his old company uncovered a love of SEO that inspired him to found his new startup. ‘I had no idea when I picked up that one-off project that I would find something I loved and excelled at … Now, it’s my whole life, and I couldn’t be happier.’” — Entrepreneur.com.
Risks Can Pay Off in Unforeseen Ways
“Challenging yourself pushes you to dip into and utilize your personal store of untapped knowledge and resources. You have no idea what you’re made of unless and until you venture outside of your own familiar world. … Taking risks, regardless of their outcome, are growth experiences. Even if you make mistakes or don’t get it right the first time there’s always these experiences you’ve had to tap into for the future. There really is no such thing as ‘fail’ if you got something out of the experience.” — Psychology Today.
Stretching Yourself Leads to New Skills
“Network laterally across your company to learn about other departments, and apply your unique perspective to what they’re working on. For example, if your role is more inward-focused (i.e., product, operations, finance), collaborate with the sales team. This will develop differentiated skills such as empathy, storytelling, and public speaking that are keys to growth, particularly as a future leader. You’ll be developing new skills and relationships, and creating equity in yourself.” — The Muse.com.
Be Judicious When Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone
“Say no to projects that don’t align with the personal brand you’re trying to build and promote within your organization. For example, if you want to be regarded as a strong cross-functional project leader, think twice about committing to assignments that require you to work alone. Ideally, the assignments you accept should align with your brand and give you opportunities to showcase your accomplishments and make your value visible to management. Overall, remember that stretch assignments are designed to build your skill set, network, and organizational brand, not simply add busy work to your already busy schedule.” — ChicagoTribune.com.
Take Small Steps Rather Than Big Leaps
“For many years, I’ve worked with people struggling to step outside their comfort zones at work and in everyday life, and what I’ve found is that we often have much more leeway than we believe to make these tasks feel less loathsome. We can often find a way to tweak what we have to do to make it palatable enough to perform by sculpting situations in a way that minimizes discomfort. For example, if you’re like me and get queasy talking with big groups during large, noisy settings, find a quiet corner of that setting to talk, or step outside into the hallway or just outside the building. If you hate public speaking and networking events, but feel slightly more comfortable in small groups, look for opportunities to speak with smaller groups or set up intimate coffee meetings with those you want to network with.” — Harvard Business Review.