If you’re looking for me on Monday nights, you’ll find me with my family glued to an episode of the show American Ninja Warrior. If you haven’t seen it, it’s a show featuring a giant obstacle course for grownups, sprinkled with feel-good stories about the competitors who work hard and overcome major obstacles, on and off the course. (My two boys are obsessed, which means that basically anything in their path turns into a real-life obstacle complete with slow-mo replay as needed.)
This week, one of the competitors (Flip Rodriguez, for fans of the show) wore a T-shirt that said “Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable.” It’s a classic Navy SEAL saying, and there’s also a similarly named TED talk by Luvvie Ajayi.) You get the drift: if you want to change something or make an impact, embrace discomfort.
Of course, outside the world of physical fitness, the saying applies equally well to career growth. In order to change careers and push ourselves to change the status quo, we need to experience the career discomfort that comes with being a newbie, a job applicant, someone who needs help, and/or someone whose professional history comes under scrutiny in an interview.
We need to come outside of our comfort zone to learn new things, whether it’s for the job search itself (like mastering LinkedIn) or new terminology/technology for our profession. We have to bring discipline to our professional growth and practice new skills that seem hard at first.
Career discomfort is not always a bad thing
Not all discomfort needs to turn into pain, however. You could feel challenged by the thought of becoming a manager for the first time, and still be really excited to take it on. You could worry that your former colleague will think you’re being a pest when you ask to network with them, until you meet for drinks and it’s like the old times immediately. This kind of discomfort represents what feels like manageable risk to you, but it’s still a stretch.
Then there’s massive, disruptive discomfort, which could entail quitting your job to start your own company; leaving a job without a job; calling out #metoo worthy behavior at your company because it’s the right thing to do; or getting laid off suddenly. If these career moves are taken on thoughtfully, the discomfort’s huge, but the growth and learning are, too. (Without a longer-term career game plan, these actions can destabilize you, so make sure you get your ducks in a row first.)
Career discomfort can be your “canary in a coal mine”
Discomfort doesn’t only exist when thinking about future career changes; often, it’s your early-warning sign that you’re in the wrong career setting currently.
Sometimes the feeling of discomfort in your current job serves as a clue and a guidepost that a change needs to happen. In that case, “getting comfortable being uncomfortable” means leaning in to the discomfort to assess what might be missing, and figuring out what you’d like to do next. The more you can identify what specifically is making you uncomfortable, the closer you’ll be to figuring out your new career.
(If you need help doing that, feel free to use our confidential Career Coach Finder to get connected to a matching career coach for your situation.)
Make “Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable” your new career rallying cry
Want to get a new job? No need to buy the t-shirt or run up a 15-foot wall; “Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable” can be your new mantra for your job search.
~Kathy Robinson, Founder/TurningPoint
Personally, I think too many people stay stuck in careers they don’t like because a job search isn’t easy. What tips do you have for how people can “get comfortable being uncomfortable” putting themselves out there in a job search?