I always thought that there was nothing better than being in your element and pursuing what you loved; it turns out, I was wrong. Traditionally, I always sought after communication experiences to further develop my skillset and build my portfolio. What I didn’t know, was that by limiting myself solely to communications roles, I was missing out on some really incredible opportunities for personal and professional development elsewhere.
Last year I was presented with an opportunity to get involved with the Young Women in Business team as a Corporate Relations Manager. With no prior experience in sponsorship, fundraising or sales, I was apprehensive to take on the role. My passion for the YWiB community ultimately superseded my fear of corporate relations and I made the decision to finally step outside what I call my ‘career comfort zone’. The lessons I learned throughout the experience were invaluable.
1. If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you
I lived, slept and breathed all things communication – why would I want to explore anything else? I always thought that taking on public relations or marketing positions were naturally the best choice. It took me the latter of my university degree to realize, that by taking on the same roles every year, I was never really challenging myself. My corporate relations experience at YWiB enabled me to develop new skills, make connections outside my network and open my eyes to new career possibilities.
2. Fake it until you make it
Was taking on a new position scary and overwhelming at the same time? Yes. Did my inexperience create challenges? Absolutely. One of the hardest parts about stepping outside your career comfort zone is coming to terms with the fact that you aren’t going to become a professional overnight. I found that the best way to gain confidence in the role was to simply put myself out there. What really helped me was knowing in the back of my mind that even though I was still trying to gain a grasp on this whole Corporate Relations thing, that didn’t mean anyone else could tell! The more experience I gained, the more confident I grew in the position.
3. Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn
Another challenge I encountered while venturing out of my career comfort zone was overcoming the fear of looking stupid. Even though I was terrified of making mistakes, I found comfort knowing that everyone had to start somewhere. Reaching out to my predecessor for support also really helped my transition into the role. Was I successful right from the get-go? Of course not! Stepping outside my comfort zone taught me to treat my losses as learning experiences. When one of the first big partnership proposals I pitched was turned down, I turned around and asked for feedback, rather than accepting defeat. I became more successful each time I pitched YWiB to a new company.
4. Great achievement involves great risk
It can be easy to get lost in the day-to-day routine and coast through your career. It is not until you begin challenging yourself however, that you really start feel accomplished. Whether I am taking on new responsibilities at my co-op, picking up a new course at school or taking on a different role outside communication, my greatest achievements are only a result of pushing myself out of my comfort zone.
5. Round out your resume
Employers are looking for rounded students with a wide range of skills and experiences. Taking on a completely new role really helped add another dimension to my resume. Now I have a broader range of experiences to draw upon and new skills to bring to the table. As an added bonus, I also had the opportunity to foster relationships and made new connections outside of my industry.
Now I challenge you to take a step back and ask yourself when was the last time you did something for the first time? As students, there is no better time to experiment in our careers. Now is the perfect opportunity to explore your passions, round out your resume and try new experiences.