Beware of the Comfort Zone!

BY: RACHEL STARGATT

My initial response to being asked to write a blog post (in my typical fashion) was to think, no, I’d rather not.  What would I possibly write about?  And who would want to read it?  The idea of sending my thoughts on a particular subject (even something relatively non-controversial) into the universe is admittedly anxiety-inducing.  If I don’t put my personal ideas and writing out there, then no one can judge me based on them, case closed.  But, I also know the path of least resistance is not one that leads to growth, so what the heck, why not take this opportunity to push outside my own comfort zone to encourage others to do the same?

There have been many pivotal moments in my own career when I have been presented an opportunity that I desperately wanted to turn down.  As a graduate intern at career services, my time was spent almost exclusively outside of my comfort zone.

 

Supervisor: “How would you like to moderate a panel at an upcoming conference, Rachel?”

Me: Internally: Kill me. Externally: “Sure thing, can’t wait!”

 

Supervisor: “Are you ready to start leading counseling appointments under my supervision?”

Me: Internally:  Perhaps I can morph into a potted plant and spend the rest of my days as scenery. Externally: “Of course, being supervised while I fumble as a beginning counselor doesn’t make me want to throw up at all.” *big smile*

 

At almost every turn I found myself saying yes to things despite the dread.  And the results weren’t always pretty.  There were many nervous presentations and meetings with students that weren’t exactly smooth.  Nonetheless, avoiding these challenges was not an option.  I wanted to be a career counselor and I wanted to be one at University of Delaware.  I needed to be able to do the things I saw my colleagues do at such a high level, and I could never have developed into a confident counselor and presenter without putting in those challenging hours at the beginning.  And it all worked out – here I am: Rachel Stargatt, Career Counselor. If I have learned anything along the way, it’s that there is no shortcut for experience.  Let me just say that one again: THERE IS NO SHORTCUT FOR EXPERIENCE!

The bottom line is, nothing is going to be as comfortable as sitting on your sofa, eating pizza, watching Netflix.  Admittedly, attending a networking event is probably about as far from that comfort zone as one could get.  But you also are quite unlikely to find your next opportunity or meet someone who will make an impact on your future from said sofa.  This isn’t to say you should say yes to every opportunity.  There are times that saying no to avoid being overwhelmed is a good thing.  But ask yourself why you are avoiding a certain opportunity.  It is simply because it would be easier to say no?  If so, I strongly suggest taking a chance and putting yourself out there.

As spring semester gets underway, it is the perfect time to do something that gets you out of your comfort zone.  You don’t need to start with a giant leap out; instead maybe you just dip your toe into uncomfortable territory.  Go to a professor’s office hours, sign up for a RSO, email a company inquiring about summer opportunities – just start somewhere.  I can guarantee (Disclaimer: this is not a legal guarantee) it gets easier.  Heck, I just survived my first blog post!

 

____

Rachel Stargatt is a Career Counselor for the College of Earth, Ocean, & Environment as well as a group of majors in the College of Arts and Sciences. She also acts as liaison to the Associate in Arts program and Honors program, supervisor of the Career Intern program, and member of the Counseling & Programming Team.

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