By now you are probably familiar with the adage: the real magic happens outside of your comfort zone. The implication is that you need to experiment and step outside of your traditional viewpoint in order to make real progress; staying inside your comfort zone is a one-way ticket to averageness. How much truth is there to this? How much does it apply to your work life?
Well, in short, it applies entirely! The key to success in your personal life is no different than that to success in your work life. Being uncomfortable should be embraced as a good thing in pursuit of furthering your career. Now, this is not to say that remaining in your comfort zone is a bad thing. In fact, for most people, achieving a level of comfort and safety in work translates to a much happier personal and family life. For those who want more out of their careers, becoming uncomfortable at work is the key ingredient.
Here is another adage to help illustrate the importance of embracing discomfort: ‘you should never be the smartest person in the room.’ This is essentially a metaphor for surrounding yourself with people that are more successful than you and problems that are beyond your current grasp. If you are “the smartest person in the room”, then you are most likely not being challenged enough, if at all. The best way to progress is to push beyond your current limits.
Okay, so how is this accomplished at work then?
Looking for a new job?
When exploring new job opportunities, you are probably going to consider location, hours, working conditions, and pay among other things. These things should, of course, be on your radar, but just as important should be the intensity of the work. Are you walking into another job just like your last, or are you taking on a new job that involves your previous experience but also demands more? If you want to further your career, looking for jobs that check the latter box will be more rewarding.
Taking a job where you are a ‘perfect candidate’ might have good benefits and pay, and if that is what you primarily interested in then that is, of course, a great thing. But, remaining in the same line of work with little challenge can become redundant and counterintuitive long term. There are several factors that will go into taking a new job; the degree of challenging work should be among them.
Already got a job?
You may already have a great job with ideal benefits, hours, and pay. However, the work becomes redundant and the benefits might not seem worth the lack of interest you have in your work. You are ultimately faced with two alternatives: seek out new challenges in your current position or revert to looking for a new job altogether. If you are opting for the former, there are several things you can try!
Acquire new skills
One of the best ways to further your career is to always remain a student. Learning new skills and strengthening current ones throughout your life is good for both personal and work-related reasons. Having a stronger skill set will help you not only take on larger projects but also succeed in them. You may want all of the challenges, but if are not equipped to handle them, then you are going to struggle. Work on skills that apply directly to your current job as well as add new skills that are both interesting and relevant to furthering your career. Additionally, it is always a good thing to work on your leadership skills.
Success is determined in large part on your ability to network and engage with the right people at the right times. Networking opens up doors for new opportunities and helps foster new relationships that may become valuable years down the road. Do not hesitate to tell people about your career interests. Let it be known that you are up for a new challenge and desire discomfort. People are generally receptive to such people and actively engage in helping them.
Talk to your boss
If you feel that you are ready for new challenges, then you should start asking your boss for more responsibility. Again, it is important to prepare yourself to handle greater responsibility, and if you are, then the challenge will be rewarding. Let your boss know that you are interested in those new challenges. The timing might not be perfect within your company; major projects or slow periods might demand your attention elsewhere. But, making it known that you want more responsibility will be taken warmly and will open up doors down the road.
Whatever your position is, if you want more, you need to embrace discomfort and prepare for new challenges!