Thriving Ambition

Is Your Comfort Zone Killing Your Career?

Is Your Comfort Zone Killing Your Career?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a curious person. I didn’t always have to confidence to ask questions out of fear of being judged, standing out, etc. It’s crazy how we let fear stop us from doing the things we need to do and get the information we need or jobs we deserve.

One of my new favorite quotes from Valorie Burton, founder of the Coaching and Positive Psychology Institute says,

“Be curious. Ask the question the question that your spirit is wondering about – the one that may not seem relevant but somehow keeps nudging to be asked.”

The last part of the quote reminded me of a “nudge” I felt in January 2010 after a (Boeing) company reorganization. Dennis Muilenburg (current CEO of Boeing) came to Pax River Naval Air Station, Maryland to have an informal conversation with our F-18 and T-45 flight test teams.

I kept getting a mental nudge to ask a question. During the entire meeting, I was at war with myself. I tried to ignore the nudge, but it grew more intense. I whispered to my teammate Arjuna that I wanted to ask a question but was too afraid. In a casual tone, he said, “Just go for it…” (He made it sound easy.)

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Towards the end of the group conversation, I raised my hand. Dennis looked in my direction, paused and said, “We have a question…” Nervously, I took the microphone and asked, “With so many people retiring within the next 5 years, what is the company going to do about retaining talent?”

Dennis said, “That’s a great question…she’s going to take my job one day,” and received a ton of laughs.

After the group session, I waited in line to ask Dennis about his career path. During our conversation, I also learned about a few career development programs within the company.

A day later, I followed up with him via email. He replied back with some great career advice and additional resources about company-sponsored leadership development programs. A few years later, I was accepted into one of the leadership development programs.

Looking back, I’m glad I had the courage to ask my question. I can’t believe I made something so easy seem so hard. I wasted a lot of mental energy agonizing over being uncomfortable, I almost missed out learning about what the company had to offer. Thank God this doesn’t bother me anymore.

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Sometimes, we just have to “just go for it” and focus more on what can go right, rather than what can go wrong.

What opportunities have you missed because they might have taken you out of your comfort zone? How can you leverage situations and events to position you for job promotion opportunities? 


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