Maybe your career is stagnant; you feel stuck in neutral. You may feel bored, unmotivated, or you don’t see opportunities for growth or advancement.
Here’s one way to shake things up and inject some life into a “ho-hum” job or career: Deliberately, intentionally, choose a way to stretch beyond your comfort zone.
Choosing to move beyond your comfort zone is distinct from stretching by necessity. Instead of being in a reactive mode to whatever your job requires, you determine a facet of your work life you want to explore or improve. You are in charge.
Some examples: Improve your confidence in public speaking; Update your software skills; Expand your professional relationships outside your job; Discuss a raise or promotion with your boss; Explore the opportunity for a team leadership role; Improve your appearance; Begin to look for another job.
Deliberate stretches beyond your comfort zone can be stimulating, add to your marketable skills, and build relationships — resulting in career advancement, higher pay, increased productivity, and greater satisfaction.
Catherine, a program coordinator in a large non-profit, wanted to improve her public speaking skills. She and a colleague participated in a local two-day gathering of the National Speakers Association meeting in St. Louis. Although the meeting occurred over the weekend, and many who attended were professional speakers, Catherine took the opportunity to speak, receive feedback, and to repeat her presentation. Not only did she learn techniques that will improve her presentations, she also expanded her career horizons.
Ricardo, a commercial photographer, loved auto racing. He decided it was time to pursue his goal of motorsports public relations. He had volunteered for several years at Gateway Motorsports Park, beginning with hospitality tasks. Then he worked in the press room. Ricardo stretched beyond his comfort zone by volunteering at the Long Beach (CA) Grand Prix. He pursued contacts and conversations very intentionally. Ricardo’s connections and sources of information have grown. He has persisted through temporary discouragement. The combination of stretching and persisting mean he’s much closer to his goal of a motorsports-related job.
Morgan felt frustrated at being passed over for a management position in the accounting department. This was the second time in three years she’d been passed over. She stretched outside her comfort zone by requesting a meeting with his boss and asking what actions she could take to position herself for advancement. This took courage, but through the conversation Morgan learned that she needed to seek project leadership opportunities more assertively if she wished to be considered for a managerial position.
In the midst of the many job demands and expectations you face, seeking to move beyond your comfort zone doesn’t make sense at first. However, deciding to develop a new skill or upgrade a current one allows you to act on your own behalf. Ask yourself how you would like to purposefully stretch beyond your comfort zone — in big ways or small — and how you would like to intentionally invigorate yourself and your career. Then as the Nike ad states, “Just do it.”