How To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone In Your Career: 5 Expert Tips

by | Career Growth

Stepping beyond your comfort zone in your career zone can feel scary, but it’s exactly where growth and opportunity lie.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone,” according to author Neale Donald Walsch.

Jill Katz, Chief Candor, Courage, & Care Officer and Founder of Assemble HR Consulting, shares that this is her favorite quote because it “beautifully describes the natural nerves and discomfort we can all feel when we push ourselves past the limit.”

“It also brings to light that stepping across that line can bring us tremendous growth, learning, and joy,” adds Katz. “By celebrating small successes and viewing each step as a learning, we can become more comfortable taking risks.”

Keep reading to uncover the dangers of not moving beyond your comfort zone, additional techniques to push yourself to take more risks in your career, and examples of what this might look like in action.

What Is The Comfort Zone In Your Career?

Before diving into strategies to explore uncharted territory, let’s define what it means to remain in the comfort zone in your career.

Your career comfort zone is a place that feels safe, comfortable, and perhaps easy. Because it’s natural, you’re likely not being challenged or pushed to your highest potential, so you can get bored with the same routine when you only operate in your comfort zone at work.

What Happens If You Don’t Step Outside Your Comfort Zone?

While there are benefits to being in your comfort zone, always operating within it can lead you to feeling unsatisfied or like you’re not living to your full potential.

If you’re feeling underwhelmed or stuck in your career, you might benefit from shaking up your usual routine and stepping beyond what feels comfortable.

Important: This isn’t about taking risks simply to say you tried something new. Instead, you’re being intentional and considering when the potential rewards might outweigh the costs of moving toward your career goals.

5 Strategies To Step Outside Your Comfort Zone In Your Career

Okay, let’s dive into how to effectively break out of your routine and intentionally challenge yourself in your career:

1. Begin with baby steps forward.

For starters, try to identify baby steps you can take to test yourself, push your current boundaries, and desensitize yourself to risks.

If you’re looking to land your first leadership position, for instance, a baby step might look like chairing a committee or employee resource group (ERG) at work.

Don’t fret over each step being perfect; the key is that you’re getting used to new experiences that challenge you to step outside your usual routine.

2. Take action toward “impossible goals.”

Setting “impossible goals” can also be used to challenge your thinking, challenge your perspective, and start to reframe your mindset when it comes to the concept of risk.

Let’s say you want to become a bestselling author. You might start small by sharing thought leadership content on LinkedIn or just commenting on other people’s posts.

Expert tip: Oftentimes, goals that feel impossible are merely stretch goals that require consistent practice. Consider setting a daily or weekly goal of working toward your impossible goals.

3. Surround yourself with people who inspire and uplift you.

As you develop a practice of stepping outside your comfort zone, think about developing a community of support. You’ll want to choose wisely, as you want people who encourage and inspire you to explore uncharted territory.

One of the people who might additionally inspire you to embrace calculated risk is a future version of yourself. Try to imagine what advice a future, more confident version of yourself might have for you.

Mentors can be incredibly valuable here, as they can provide a model for what it looks like to successfully explore uncharted territory and inspire you to take more calculated risks in your own career.

4. Develop an accountability system.

As you practice getting comfortable stepping outside your comfort zone, you will grow your confidence in your ability to take more risks. You may also wish to develop an accountability system to keep you on track with your goals.

One option for practicing accountability is coaching, as it can be used to receive feedback as you practice stepping outside of your comfort zone.

Personally speaking, I’ve hired more coaches than I can count, because I love learning, gaining different perspectives and new insights, and being held accountable for constantly stepping outside my comfort zone, even when it feels scary.

When you’re feeling uncertain, a coach can support you in weighing the benefits and costs and then help you make an informed decision that aligns with your values and goals.

[Read: Should I Hire A Career Coach?]

5. Protect your mental health.

Finally, stepping outside your comfort zone can be exhausting, particularly if it’s a practice that you aren’t used to, so don’t forget to recharge from time to time.

In fact, spending too much time outside your comfort zone can lead to fatigue, exhaustion, and burnout. Taking a reprieve from time to time will help you stay consistent for the long-term.

As a professional speaker who is also a major introvert, I always find solace in a day of silence, Netflix, and Ben & Jerry’s chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream after facilitating an in-person workshop.

How To Step Outside Your Comfort Zone In Your Career

Examples Of Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone

Stepping outside your comfort zone in your career looks different for everyone and will depend on your risk tolerance. Examples might include:

  • Volunteering to lead a special project or initiative at work.
  • Taking an improv workshop to strengthen your public speaking skills.
  • Asking for a pay raise if you feel underpaid.
  • Applying for a position that feels like a stretch or reach.
  • Pursuing a new career path.

Examples Of Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone 2

Please let these examples serve as inspiration as you ponder ways to broaden your horizons and take more calculated risks in your career.

Should I Take A Job Outside My Comfort Zone?

Now, a question that I hear frequently is: “Should I take a job outside my comfort zone?”

Only you can decide whether you should take a position that pushes you beyond your comfort zone. That said, reflecting on your stage of life, risk tolerance, and long-term career goals can all help you decide if the risk of a job outside of your comfort zone is worth the potential reward.

[Read: How To Evaluate A Job Offer In 6 Steps]

Final Thoughts On Stepping Outside Your Career Comfort Zone

Only you can decide if stepping outside your comfort zone in your career is worth the risk – and reward. Are you up for the challenge? If so, try to give some of the strategies in this article a try. You’ve got this!

About Dr. Kyle Elliott

About Dr. Kyle Elliott

Dr. Kyle Elliott is the founder and career coach behind CaffeinatedKyle.com. His expertise is in Silicon Valley and high-tech. As a result of working with Dr. Elliott, senior managers and executives have landed jobs at Meta, Amazon, Google, and nearly every other tech giant you can imagine.

A trusted career expert, Dr. Elliott’s words have been featured on Business Insider, CNBC, CNN, Entrepreneur, Fast Company, Fortune, Harvard Business Review, and The New York Times, among dozens of other leading publications. He has been recognized as a Best Career & Interview Coach, Best Resume Writer for Silicon Valley/Tech Managers & Executives, and LinkedIn Top Voice (the platform’s highest honor).

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