Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone at Work

Anthony Balderrama, CareerBuilder.com writer

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A key rule in Writing 101 is that a writer should show, not tell. Don't say, "She looked sad." Describe your main character performing an action or speaking dialogue that proves to the reader how sad your protagonist is.

Admittedly, workplace advice often fails to live up to this guideline. You have undoubtedly read the following advice:

· Think outside the  box.

· Be a  self-starter.

· Dress for the corner  office.

· Go to the boss with solutions, not  problems.

Sure, the words make sense and you get the gist of the advice, but vague phrases don't help you. When you're planning your career or preparing for a performance review, you want specifics.

One piece of professional advice that falls into this trap is the one instructing you to "get out of your comfort zone."

Great. Thanks for the help.

"There was a time when companies were responsible for pushing employees out of their comfort zones through development programs and job rotations," says Kurt Weyerhauser, managing partner of international executive search firm Kensington Stone. "Instead, it's now up to each of us to get outside our comfort zones if we are interested in moving our careers forward." According to Weyerhauser, you need to identify your current areas of weakness and potential areas for development that will allow you to advance.

Of course, that brings us back to the question of what breaking out of your comfort zone means to you and to your boss.

"More often than not, the talk about getting out of the comfort zone is just management lingo for change," says Vlad Zachary, CEO of CareerConceptZ.com. When bosses and employees sit down to discuss breaking out of the comfort zone, they often fail to get specific enough and the employee isn't left with solid guidelines. The employee should ask for direction and not just guess. "Sometimes just being a little more proactive and creative would do it. Other times the boss might have a variety of very specific expectations," Zachary says.

What you can do

Because getting outside of your comfort zone at work is beneficial to you and to your career, we want to give you some concrete examples. Even if you decide to follow Zachary's advice and ask your boss for direction, you should approach the conversation with your own examples of broadening your current parameters.  We asked experts to give their advice on how you can get out of your comfort zone so you can put their words into practice.

Here are some tips you can act on to push yourself out of your comfort zone and into a better professional situation:

"Working with your boss. Accept new projects that expand your skill sets, including your leadership and project management skills." - AmyK Hutchens, business consultant and business strategist

"Getting out of your comfort zone could mean having lunch with new people, every now and then. One strategy that I recommend to my career-minded clients I call the 50 Lunch Launch. This challenges the worker to have lunch (or even coffee) with a new person once a week for a full year. Relationships are built. Career goals are shared. And the career engine is fueled." - Marsha Egan, CEO of professional coaching firm The Egan Group Inc.

"Asking for help is not a career weakness. By having a conversation with your boss and letting him or her know that you could be interested in some new opportunities, you could be making your own path -- one that takes you out of that routine." - Egan

"Take the time to assess your limitations. Many people have anxiety about public speaking, for example. Find ways to practice and improve this important skill. Offer to prepare the weekly update for staff meetings or become involved in organizations such as Toastmasters to hone those skills." - Scott Ragusa, president of the contract division at Winter, Wyman and Co.

"Learn how to speak up and hold conversations to unlock your potential for growth in the workplace. Separate people from the problem. Try to see others as reasonable, rational and decent human beings - even if they hold a view that you strongly oppose." - Joseph Grenny, co-author of "Crucial Conversations"

Anthony Balderrama is a writer and blogger for CareerBuilder.com and its job blog, The Work Buzz. He researches and writes about job search strategy, career management, hiring trends and workplace issues. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/abalderrama.



Last Updated: 07/05/2010 - 5:00 PM


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