My first three jobs
out of college were well beyond my comfort zone.
My first year out of school, I worked in the consumer
package goods industry as a retail sales representative. My next two jobs were
back in aerospace in finance.
Because I had completed two internships in
aerospace, I was more comfortable with the industry but stressed about the
finance roles. I felt like I was leaping across a cliff as I attempted to switch from
sales to finance.
My third role out of college, I rotated into finance role
heavily focused in working within excel. My purpose was to produce
meaningful financial charts that helped our leadership team make informative
Wait what… me?
Take large amounts of raw data? Design, select the right formulas, format, and
publish weekly charts?
Since I had majored in marketing/sales in college and worked
in sales out of college, I had very little experience in excel. I literally
thought I was going to drown in data. But with YouTube and a supportive team, I
figured out the tool and was able to perform well in the role.
All three roles challenged me immensely and I’m grateful to
have experienced such different roles in a short amount of time.
I want to encourage
you to not run away from challenging industries, managers, and demanding
statements of work.
I’m sharing 4 reasons to learn how to perform in a job
outside your comfort zone
1. You will have to
learn how to work outside your comfort zone anyways
At some point in your career, you will experience a
difficult role, manager, or company culture. The truth is that we don’t always
get to work in our dream jobs and companies. We will inevitably face one of
these challenges at some point. The first time you face one of these
challenges, it may seem daunting.
Advice: A mentor once told me that when you’re in a role
outside your comfort zone, you have to expect that it will require more energy
form you to perform well. Most of us like to perform in roles we’re comfortable
in/familiar with because it requires less energy.
So when we’re placed into roles outside our comfort zone, we
have to use more time, energy, or effort to figure out those roles.
It will require you more energy to get through the day but remember that there are learning curves. Once you figure out how to come down
that learning curve, those demanding roles will require less energy and you
will become more comfortable in the role.
2. Learn how to adapt to
a new situation
My sales professor always told us that the only constant in
life is change. And this has been very true in my career so far. Learning how
to quickly adapt to a situation is a learned skill.
Whether you’re adapting to
a new management style or a new industry, here are a few pieces of advice:
- In some of my roles, learning how to adapt to a manager’s
style proved the most challenging part of the role. Here are 10 Ways to Build aPositive Relationship with Your Manager.
- Be patient with yourself in the learning process. Seriously,
don’t mistake your learning for incompetence. Here are a few tips to help you with transitions.
- Define how you learn – do you take notes? Do you have to go
through the process with someone a few times? Whatever it is you do, learning
how you acquire new information or perform in a new role will be essential into
your transition of a new work environment or role.
3. Learn a new set of
My first sales job challenged me to develop a selling style.
I took this skill with me into finance. I traded selling Quaker Oats and
Gatorade for buy-offs and approvals for budgets. If you can’t articulate why
you need funding to management, you won’t receive it.
Advice: Identify what you
need to get out of this role
What new skills do you need to learn from this job? What
type of experiences can you get out of it? Who can you meet during this role to
expand your network?
Just because you don’t enjoy a role doesn’t mean you can
get anything out of it. Make this experience meaningful to you but figuring out
what you can take from it when you move to your next role.
4. Learn how to manage
I thought I knew how to manage my stress in college…but
these first three roles really challenged me to learn how to manage it. In
various points of my different roles, I had to put incredible amounts of energy
and effort to the work day.
I’ve walked away from work before and been
absolutely drained. But I know I can’t put off exercise because it will just
affect my mood. The harder I worked at work, the more I worked out to manage
Advice: If you’re putting tons of energy in at work to get through the day, what are you doing for yourself at the end of the day or on the weekends? Where are you able to relax? What hobbies or passions in life can bring you happiness and fulfillment if you aren’t able to achieve this at work?
Whether spending time with friends or hitting the gym after work, it’s important to identify where you are able to release or manage your stress. Long term stress is not good for your well being.
Additional advice if you’re in this situation:
situation is temporary.
Nothing in this world is finite. Please remember
that you won’t be stuck forever. You will find a new role, a new team, or go
into the right industry.
Believe In Yourself
I know this may sound cheesy, but seriously believe in yourself. You CAN master this role even if it’s outside of your comfort zone. You CAN learn a new set of skills. You CAN come down that learning curve.
Half my battles when learning new roles or experiencing new industries was my confidence. Once I started believing that I could overcome the day to day challenges at work, I started performing.
Start looking for new
If you truly cannot function in your current role because of
your manager, statement of work, and other work related pressures, start
looking for a new job. I still highly recommend at least staying a year in a
job so you see how a full year cycle looks like and you can verify it’s not a
Thank you for reading!
Photos: Holly Phan