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Career Coach: Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

For this month's "Career Coach," Pamela Kleibrink Thompson encourages readers to sail beyond their comfort zones.

The safest place for a ship is in the harbor. But that is not what ships are for.
-- Winston Churchill

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson.

When you play it safe, you have few opportunities for discovery and growth. Christopher Columbus sailed in 1492 seeking a new trade route. Instead, he found a new world to explore.

When you venture into the unknown and untried and get out of your comfort zone you open the door to new possibilities. Become an explorer and break new ground in your career.

If you've become too comfortable in a job that is just paying the rent, it's time to reassess. Life is too short to spend it working to just pay the bills. A job may not provide you with a thrill a minute, but it should provide you with psychic income, as well as financial income. Psychic income is satisfaction -- a sense that what you are doing is right for you. You look forward to going to work -- not just so you can pay the bills, but because you enjoy it, it fulfills you in some way.

It's easy to get too complacent. While you're getting a steady paycheck, time flies by. You took the placeholder job to earn money while working toward your big break, but you never seem to have any time or energy to devote to pursuing the career you want. Your temporary job is becoming your full-time occupation. You have stayed in a job longer than you should when you are constantly bored at work and you are unmotivated to seek a new job.

It happened to me. After working for a psychotic animation producer, I felt I needed a break from the entertainment field so I took a job as a copywriter for a large insurance company. After working there for more than a year, I stared out my window at the Hollywood sign and realized I missed the movie business. I vowed to leave my job in a month and a half and I did.

To get re-motivated, set a deadline for yourself to get a new job. Write it down. Be realistic with your deadline. Setting that deadline will give you a focus for finding a new job and motivate you to actively job hunt by sending out résumés and making calls and connections. Make sure your next job gets you closer to what you want to do. It might not be perfect, but if you will learn new skills and get back on track, it will be a good change.

Something better isn't going to just come along. You have to explore options and seek out possibilities. Finding work is hard work. You'll have to get out of your comfort zone to do this. Perhaps there isn't much work for you where you are. Radio and TV talk host Sean Hannity had to move from the small town he grew up in to a location where he could develop his broadcasting skills and could reach a wider audience. You might have to move away from the place you are familiar with to a new location to advance in your career.

Explore new relationships. Meeting new people is vital during the job search or after you land your new job. Practice and make a point of meeting someone new at least once a week. Talk to people you don't know. Whenever you go to a meeting, don't just hang out with the people you are comfortable with. Introduce yourself to someone new and find out why the other person is attending the meeting. If you are reluctant to speak to someone new, volunteer to help at an event. This will force you to speak to new people. If you have always waited for someone else to make the first move, try being the first to volunteer or the first to introduce yourself to a new person at the meeting. If you are eating with the same lunch partners, try asking someone new to join you. You can benefit from the insights and experiences of others.

Go somewhere new. Last year, I was invited to speak at FMX, a conference on animation and visual effects in Europe. Speaking at a conference in Germany was definitely out of my comfort zone. Waiting for the bus the first night after the conference, I struck up a conversation with another attendee. I ended up joining her at a gathering for TV producers where I made several new friends, learned about another aspect of the business and had a delicious dinner.

Challenge yourself. If you are feeling in a rut at work, sign up to learn something new. Perhaps you have expertise in modeling, but you have a keen interest in lighting. Take a class, or stay after work and hang out with the lighters and watch them work. Another way to get passionate again is to mentor someone who wants to learn about your job.

Experiment with a new technique or new way of doing something. If you're an accomplished watercolor artist, try expressing yourself in a different medium.

Change your perspective. Take a different route to work or a different transportation method. When I can, I ride the subway to meetings or events. Sometimes I meet new people this way.

Overcome your fear of the new and different. Get out of your rut and try a different restaurant or try something new at your favorite place. Small changes can lead to big change and big change can lead to breakthroughs.

Board that ship of discovery. Break out of your comfort zone and explore options and ideas that are new to you. You may discover a whole new you.

Pamela Kleibrink Thompson is a recruiter, hiring strategist, career coach and speaker, available for personal consultations and speaking engagements. If you are interested in her professional services as a career coach, speaker or recruiter, contact her at