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Stretch Your Professional Skills

By Seiki "Stan" Hirota

Originally published October 2, 2019

The term “staying in your comfort zone” often applies to avoiding opportunities or situations that have a potential risk, or could make the individual feel somewhat uneasy or awkward. How many times have you turned down the chance to go to a new place to visit, try out a new hobby, or even just taste a new trendy food because it was “out of your comfort zone?"

Then again, how many times have you given in, either through persuasion or self-talk, and found that the reward outpaced the risk? Generally, when we push ourselves outside a comfort zone, we experience something new, we learn something new and through the experience we grow, and this growth mindset almost always serves as a positive in our lives. This phenomenon is no different in the professional world that we work in.

By venturing outside or the normal boundaries, you can acquire new skills that help further your professional marketability, buoy contributions to your team, and ultimately build your professional expertise. Here are four tips for pushing outside your comfort zone at work:

Take Your Tech Skills Up a Notch

When you learn a new technology, your world opens up. Think about how different life became when you learned to text, build a PowerPoint deck, or request music from Alexa. In the office, technologies such as video chat, collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams, or even proprietary software can help you increase productivity, communication, and expertise. New technology is designed to streamline something – a process, a task, or even an outcome. By learning how to use CRMs, cloud applications, or whatever is applicable to your business, you’re adding another layer of skill to your professional story, and contributing to a growth mindset.

Do Something Scary

If it scares you to do something – give a presentation, lead a team, teach a workshop, make a speech in front of a large audience, stand at a trade show booth, suggest a new idea in a meeting – if you are thinking about it, you should do it anyways. Most of the time, the act that seems the most terrifying to our mind isn’t nearly as bad in execution. After pushing yourself to conquer the fear, say public speaking, you may actually find you’re good at it. You may also want to do it again and now, you have one more thing that you are good at under your belt.

Make a List of Goals

Do you want to a promotion? Greater salary? More responsibility? Opportunities to help more people? More times than not, achieving your professional goals means going above and beyond your current duties and boundaries. That often comes with some degree of risk. Keeping a list of goals is a reminder of what you hope to achieve, and it can be a strong motivator and a reminder for taking new steps at the right moment of time.

Keep Growing

When you’ve accomplished your goal, keep going so you can keep growing. Expand on your skills or continue taking steps to tackle your fear. If you presented to you team, try presenting a different topic to another group, or to a larger audience like the whole company. If you agreed to be on a panel at an industry conference, do it again, and again. The more you work on something, the better you become, and as people start acknowledging you for doing a great job, there will be more access to opportunities to grow in your professional life.

Let’s not forget what Abraham Lincoln taught us:

“Comfort zones may be a beautiful place where we can feel comfy and cozy – but nothing ever grows there.” -Abraham Lincoln

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