Years ago, while out for a drink with a colleague after work, I serendipitously met the leadership team of another internal department. Having had no previous interactions with the group, I was genuinely curious about their efforts and asked a number of questions to better understand their structure and focus. Throughout the conversation, I also had an opportunity to share my experience in the partner development arena, which was a key challenge for this team.
Shortly after our initial meeting, I was asked to assume a leadership position on the team. My mind immediately began to race as self-doubt and the Impostor Syndrome reared their ugly heads. I was doing so well in my current position. Why would I take such a risk on an unknown?
Despite the intense anxiety, I intellectually recognized that this was a critical career opportunity. I was being offered the chance to create and develop an entirely new team – an “intrapreneurial” role that doesn’t come along often. Only the barest strategy had been established; the rest of the plan and execution was up to me.
I accepted the new leadership position and fought my way through fear, uncertainty, and confidence issues. It was not an easy transition. I stumbled multiple times but I leveraged my resources and leaned on mentors for support. And while it would have been much easier to remain in my comfort zone, this new role fundamentally changed the trajectory of my career. The exposure I now had to influential leaders, along with the autonomy and authority I had to make critical strategic decisions was more powerful than anything I learned in business school.
Our lives are all a series of decision points. Some decisions are small and seemingly insignificant – should I eat lunch at my desk or join my team? Others feel much more consequential, such as making a career change or accepting a career advancement opportunity.
Each of the decisions we make, regardless of their perceived significance, has the potential to move us in a new direction. Making the decision to go out for a drink with my colleague after work was the key driver in my new career path. Had I made the seemingly benign decision to go home instead, my life would be very different today.
When you’re busy, stressed, or anxious, saying yes to a new opportunity can feel too scary or risky. It’s only natural to have hesitations. But saying yes can also catapult you to a whole new career level. Your comfort zone will always feel safe and predictable but it’s not challenging. It won’t stretch you or empower you to reach your full potential. The only way to grow is to say yes.
Here are some of the common decision points that I see professionals wrestle with:
1. Building relationships with influential leaders
This process scares many professionals because it triggers a number of insecurities. Am I wasting their time? Do I have anything valuable to say? Am I stepping on my boss’s toes? This opportunity is too important to ignore. Your future success in your organization depends on your relationships and reputation with key influencers.
2. Taking on a challenging role or project
As I mentioned previously, I’m intimately familiar with the Impostor Syndrome. I understand that voice that tells you that you don’t deserve to be where you are and that you’re a fraud. Don’t listen to it! When offered an opportunity to expand your skillset and stretch yourself, say yes.
3. Leaving behind something that’s no longer working
The comfort zone is a powerful place. Even when it’s frustrating, stressful, or even toxic, it often feels much easier to stay put. As comfortable as the familiarity and predictability are, they are not going to get you where you want to go. Say yes to powerful change!
Where are you struggling to say yes? Share your comments and experiences here.