Ahh, the comfort zone. A place where we feel cozy and safe with little to no stress. When it comes to being on the job, there’s comfort in sticking to what we know. There’s comfort in surrounding ourselves with people that may be further behind than us or being that person that everyone can rely on for answers. There’s comfort in well, being comfortable.
The thing is though, the comfort zone is nowhere close to where we want to be when it comes to our career. Reason being, if you’re not consistently learning or extending your skill set in your job, it’s going to be much more difficult to reach your full potential. Challenging yourself and pushing the limits of what you can do in your career is ultimately what’s going to set you up for success. Putting yourself out there or in uncomfortable situations is intimidating as hell, but it’s going to help you grow as a professional and lead you to even better jobs or roles.
If you’re afraid of making mistakes or failing along the way, that’s okay. We’re human. We try, we fail, we pick ourselves back up. And we try again until we succeed. You can go so much farther in your career, and in life, if you’re trying, taking risks and pushing boundaries than you would if you’re just sitting in complacency.
You first need to recognize if you’re already in the comfort zone or on your way there. There’s been some close calls for me, but I’ve learned to make moves before I get too comfortable and I credit a lot of that to my success. I’ve shared below some of my experiences and some tips you may find helpful. Are you ready to get out of the comfort zone?
Sharing your opinion and speaking up about your career can be difficult, especially if you’re fresh out of college or new to a company or team. However, this is your career we’re talking about and you have to learn to speak up. If you’re in a position that you’re so comfortable in that you’re no longer motivated or challenged, say something. You don’t want to get to a point where you’re just doing the bare minimum to get through the day. You also don’t want to get to a point in your career where you’re ever bored.
Talk to your manager or direct report and have an honest conversation about it. Know if it’s time to ask for more work or more responsibility. This could help lead to a promotion, as I referenced here. If your current role isn’t cutting it, say so. Talk to coworkers on other teams and ask them what their day to day looks to see if it’s something you’d be interested in. Look at internal job openings. Apply for the ones not only that you’re qualified for, but also ones that intrigue you and that you know will challenge you. Being vulnerable and honest could potentially open doors for you that perhaps you didn’t think were possible.
A perfect example of this was in my most recent role, where I was one of two people at Salesforce servicing our U.S. advertising customers. Needless to say, I was part of a very niche part of the company, which allowed me to master the product I was servicing and become a true expert amongst my team. It was a great feeling, don’t get me wrong, but I knew I had to do something to expand my breadth of knowledge within the company. I saw my peers with much more knowledge across the board and I knew to become a more well-rounded Salesforce employee, I had to branch out. I set my eyes on an inspiring and much more technical role last November and then notified my current manager that I was going to apply.
Your manager is (or should be) looking out for your best interest and should support you in any decision you make when it comes to your career. Mine knew it was a promising career move and completely supported me in it. I ended up interviewing for the role and getting it (after a very intense interview process, might I add). I officially started the role last week, and now find myself being the ‘new kid’ with virtually no experience on this product. However, I’m thrilled about getting out of my comfort zone and am looking forward to growing my expertise within the company.
I encourage you to always be learning. Be curious about how things work at your company. Ask questions when you don’t know the answer. Raise your hand to help, especially if it’s an opportunity to learn something new. Outside of work, look into certifications that may be applicable to your career. Take them. Maybe you’ve been longing to go back for an additional agree. Do it. Learn a new language if you work at a global company. Don’t allow yourself to tell you that you can’t. You CAN. Push yourself to think more, ask more and learn more. Do what you can to put your all into learning something new every day.
A love of learning has always been a part of my DNA. My mom has told me over the years that even at the young age of 2 ½, I was determined to read a book from start to finish. I’d sit for hours going page by page attempting to read Dr. Seuss’s “The Foot Book” out loud. You’d think at that age, it’d be likely impossible to get it right. But I was so determined and stopped at nothing until I accomplished it. To this day in my career, I find myself being determined to do and understand more, even if it’s outside of my day to day role. I dedicate time and effort and take on opportunities to upskill on my own. For example, knowing that I was interested in this other product and role at Salesforce, I raised my hand on one of my past accounts a few months ago and mentioned I wanted to learn more. I asked for a product demo login, watched videos and read material about the product, and followed along on emails the best that I could to understand what the engagement with the customer looked like from start to finish. Taking that initiative is really going to help me as I ramp up on this new team now – or at least I hope!
Leave The Company
A lot of people stay at a company simply out of comfort. Maybe you’re in a position that enables you to get in and get out, with no motivation to do more. Maybe you’ve truly run out of options at your current company or there are no other roles that appeal to you. If that’s the case, now’s the time to recognize it may be time to look at external opportunities and leave your company, if you’re not already. Yes, job searching and interviewing is exhausting and it can be hard to put yourself in that mindset, but you have to think big picture. Will this new job be pushing you professionally? Will this new job be something you’re more interested in? Will this job ultimately help you reach your career goals? If so, focus on that and don’t let yourself get discouraged. Focus on the fact that you’re growing even through that job search process. You’re kicking that comfort zone to the curb.
I realized at the last company I was at before Salesforce that I was no longer feeling challenged, despite doing two jobs in one. I felt like I was on autopilot and no longer was excited about the work I was doing. I looked into my options internally but unfortunately, there was no room to grow unless I wanted to get into sales. I toyed with the idea but ultimately decided sales wasn’t the right path for me. At that time, I also began noticing a shift in the advertising industry (social media advertising was blowing up) and I knew it was something needed to get experience in. As I mentioned in my post about how I’ve acquired my past jobs, it took me a long time to finally land my job at Salesforce, but it was 100% worth it. I was able to get out of the comfort zone and ultimately, I’ve grown more professionally these last 3.5 years than I have my entire career.
Are you feeling too comfortable in your job? What have you done in the past to get out of it? Does this post inspire you to get out of your comfort zone? Leave your thoughts in the comments!
Kelly Nash is a Chicago-based writer, career coach, speaker and founder of Lipstick & Ink®. She also works full-time in technology as a Role Strategy and Employee Engagement Manager at Salesforce and has over 12 years of digital marketing experience. Kelly has been featured in Thrive Global, Chicago Tribune, International Association of Women, General Assembly, Salesforce, and SheFactor. She’s fueled by black coffee, sunshine, a good ink pen, and a bold lip.