Leaving Your Comfort Zone Can Enhance Your Career Prospects

By: David Ross

Comfort. In theory, we have the tendency to gravitate toward things we are comfortable with or perceive as known commodities. Sure, it can be easy to stick with what you know and focus on perfecting your craft until you have your routine down-pat. Given this inclination, sometimes we can forget the importance of stepping outside of our comfort zone and the possibilities that go along with that.

At some point in time, we may have contemplated our career trajectory – enamored with those visions of assuming positions with greater responsibility and oversight. Perhaps you have a schematic or plan of your career direction. But have you stopped to think about how you will move from one opportunity to the next? Are you working on expanding and enhancing your existing skill set to prepare yourself for the future and new opportunities? Avoid falling into the trap of assuming that just because you’ve “put in your time” or “paid your dues” that you will seamlessly progress or move on to a more challenging role with additional responsibility. Don’t focus solely on obtaining the years of experience for the role you seek, but carefully consider the additional skills and qualifications needed for that desired position.

Whether you work as an intern or maintain part-time or full-time employment, think about the things you are comfortable with in your job, consider the tasks you struggle with and challenge yourself. Seek opportunities to stretch or expand your skill set and knowledge. Volunteer for projects or assignments unlike everything you’ve grown accustomed to – the more you develop your skills and abilities, the more flexibility you have to assume different employment opportunities in the future. Be confident in your ability to learn something new and trust that you are prepared to grow.

Remember, “new” and “different” is not always bad. When working outside of your comfort zone, you may surprise yourself and accomplish things you never would have imagined while simultaneously enhancing your career opportunities.

Author: David

David Ross is a Senior Associate Director of Career Services for Wharton undergraduates and occasional blogger for "Penn & Beyond."