The following is a Guest Post by the talented and indefatigable Noël Rozny.
I was recently a guest on #InternPro Radio, where the hosts and I talked about the steps college students can take to prepare themselves for the working world. One of the main points that came up was the importance of having as many new experiences as possible and getting outside of your comfort zone.
No matter who you are, where you work, or what you do – we all need to shake up the status quo from time to time (my goal is several times a year at least, roughly once a quarter). While wanting comfort and routine is a part of being human, if you’re too comfortable, it can lead to myopic vision and stagnation over time. (We’ve all worked with that person who responds to every new idea with the phrase: “But this is they way we’ve always done it.”)
Getting outside of your comfort zone forces you to evolve, adapt, and add new skills to your arsenal. It’s always tough at first, but the payoff is worth the effort—Once you’ve conquered marathon training, a foreign language, or learning to tutor fourth graders, that new project at work will seem like a cake walk.
So if you’ve been stuck in a job, a way of life, or a way of thinking for far too long, how can you shake things up? How can you gain some experiences that will allow you to approach the world (and your work) with fresh eyes again?
Here are a few ideas to help you get started.
With all of the political tension we’ve seen this year, I decided to start volunteering my time to a cause I believe in. Volunteering has forced me to do things I’m not normally comfortable with – talking with strangers about the organization, passing petitions, and making cold calls. Each time I do it, I feel more and more confident, and I’ve seen it start to improve one of my biggest career weaknesses: public speaking.
If you have the vacation time or the resources, learning a new language and going abroad can be a great way to get out of your comfort zone. (If you’re an undergrad or graduate student, study abroad programs make this very easy.) You can go as a tourist or as part of a volunteer abroad program – whatever you choose, every day and every experience will be a learning opportunity. You’ll be practicing your new language, navigating a new geographical space, and soaking up the local culture. Depending on what field you work in, these skills may come in handy with international clients or partners.
If you’re fairly happy in your job, making good money, and have decent benefits, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut at work. You put yourself on autopilot and power through a day that was just like the 364 days that came before it. Before you know it, five years have slipped by and you’re in the same place as when you started.
The bad thing about this scenario is that if you’re not learning, you’re not growing. So if you’ve been in the same job for a year or more, start to think about what you want next. Is there another position in your company that you’d like to shoot for? Is there a new responsibility you’d like to take on, or a new skill you want to learn? This can be as easy as talking to your supervisor about possibilities and openings.
All of us, myself included, tend to put off change when we’re comfortable. But being proactive about inviting it into our lives is one easy way to stay ahead of the curve (and the competition).
How do you get out of your comfort zone? Let us know in the comments below!
Noël Rozny is the web editor and content manager for myFootpath.com, a free education and career resource. She is passionate about helping students find their dream career, rooting for the Michigan Wolverines, and buttercream frosting.