s I see it, there are really three places you can exist in your career--Comfort, Growth, or Fear zones. Let’s assess where you are. Think of a work issue, your current status, or even take a bird’s eye view of the recent past. Ask yourself “Where am I?” “Am I operating mostly in my comfort zone?” You know the comfort zone—the place where there are no surprises, few challenges, not too much pressure, and a tolerable pace. Before you scream “I wish!” Think about it as a day-in, day-out routine. It’s easy to tolerate especially if you have personal and family challenges pounding in your brain and pulling at your sleeve. If you happen to have an inattentive, not demanding boss, it’s all the easier. So maybe for a time a slow, predictable period is desirable but long-term it’s a recipe for disaster.

Too comfortable is often the time success-driven people get into the most trouble. The busy stockbroker now has time to day trade (even though it is against every policy out there), maybe you finally write that complaining memo you’ve been dying to send to everyone in your department with disastrous results, or worse, you take your eye off the ball just enough and miss a big opportunity or problem. You start being tagged with such terms as “reliable” and “steady,” you’re no longer invited to participate in the key future planning assignments and end up with busy work that satisfies requirements but doesn’t really have an impact on decisions. You can imagine how fast comfort can turn into fear and how little growth there could be.

Growth is dynamic, expansive, and energizing. It also can be stressful, exhausting, and painful. There are times when growth is forced upon us—maybe an added project, new staff members, or an early promotion. This is a growth opportunity that comes to you and the opportunities are almost endless. But what if you’re positioned, wanting a taste of something new, but it just doesn’t seem to be happening? Maybe you have to take the reins and drive that wagon.

Here are a few ways you can create growth in your present circumstance.

  1. Ask for Added Responsibility: Additional staff, a temporary project, or are out of your specific area of expertise but you have a valuable perspective, are all possibilities. Taking on more often gives you added growth and usually greater job satisfaction.
  2. Seek a New Position: You wouldn’t be the first person no one thought wanted a new challenge. Search out openings, areas of rapid growth, or a department that seems to be floundering. Do some research, ask others and test the waters, then throw your hat in the ring. It shows ambition and speaks to a broader awareness and commitment. What’s the worst that can happen? You’re told “no” or “not now.” You’ve made your wishes known and been through the experience which is growth in itself.
  3. Connect with Thought Leaders: Growth can only happen so much when you operate in a vacuum. Reading, listening, attending, joining, and observing influencers is a great way to grow your knowledge base as well as have stellar examples to emulate and follow. There is something to be said about breathing the air of those in high places.
  4. Enrich Your Life: Job growth often has to do with seeing purpose in what we do. Sit back and take stock of your contribution to your direct reports, department, company and industry. Often we are so involved in the present that we fail to admire, congratulate and/or share the satisfaction and wealth we have attained. Without it, growth is harder and less intriguing.

The goal of growth is to get out of your comfort zone and staying clear of fear. While fear might be a short-term motivator, it is not a place where most people thrive. Growth, on the other hand, can stretch your intelligence and skills set and possibly push you further than you imagined.

As with most career opportunities, you need a strategy and a game plan. Uncontrolled growth is like a weed—attractive at first and strangling and destructive in the long run. Sustainable growth is prepared for, ideally planned with support and vision. A mentor, advocate, supervisor or yes, even a coach can assist you in getting to where you want to be faster and with greater assurance.

Where are you with regard to growth?

(c) Jane Cranston.

Author's Bio: 

Jane Cranston is an executive career coach. She works with success-driven executives, managers and leaders to reach their potential, better manage their boss and staff, as well as develop a career strategy to reach goals and aspirations. Jane is the author of Great Job in Tough Times a step-by-step job search system. Click here to subscribe to her twice monthly Competitive Edge Report.