I think of myself as outgoing and was even voted “most opinionated” senior year of high school, so why is it that I am absolutely terrible at networking? Why do I let the familiar hold me back from my full potential?
This is a problem that has plagued me for most of my life, I am a comfort zone kind of woman. I hate change, with a passion. I’ve learned to cope with change as an adult, but I am still not a fan of it.
I work in the technology industry and “getting ahead” is very much marked by the connections you make along the way. I can sit with anyone and have a long and deep conversation, I am more than willing to speak my mind or share my opinions, but yet going out of my comfort zone at work and making “friends” with people I don’t know seems near impossible for me. It is so frustrating to me that I am like this. I wish I could say it was just a work thing, but I’ve come to learn it extends into my personal life as well.
As it turns out, my husband is a social butterfly. He has a LOT of friends that he knows pretty well and maybe two that he would consider like family. I, on the other hand, have hardly any friends but the ones I do have I am extremely close to. You can imagine these differences can cause conflict with our social schedules. While he would rather have our house be a revolving door of dinner invites, I am completely content spending time at home with him, my baby or in complete solitude.
When I look back on my late teen years and early 20’s, I think that the reason this happened was because I have a strong personality and since only a few people make me feel comfortable enough to be my true self, I find it very difficult to socialize with people who I have to put on an act for. I would much rather be alone than act.
After examining my social life, it seems pretty obvious why I hate networking at work. Not only do I hate networking, but I like knowing what I’m doing and when I find something I am good at, I want to stick with it… most of the time at the expense of a promotion… the dreaded comfort zone.
While I feel like I’ve known this about myself for a long time, it has recently really started to irritate me. I am now at a point where I feel I could have a lot more “important” responsibility at work but the people who climb the corporate ladder, socialize and in essence they are great at playing “the game.”
For everyone who works in Corporate America, you know what “the game” is… in other words, how to be self-serving and get ahead quite possibly while sacrificing your self-worth or at the expense of others. At least, this is what I tell myself and inevitably why I never take the leap to get to know more people who would be a great benefit to my career. Lets be honest, I use this as an excuse!
The problem is, I know I can do so much more than I am now, and it’s not just at work… it’s in my social life with my husband and on my personal blog. I often have great ideas of things I could do that would be “really cool” for my career and then I don’t do them because it probably means I need to make new connections to realize the potential of the idea.
I need to overcome this. I am not an introvert and I need to stop acting like one when it comes to pursuing my professional ambitions.
What advice do you have for pursuing your dreams and getting out of your own comfort zone?
3 thoughts on “The Dreaded Comfort Zone”
I don’t have an answer for you, but I feel your pain. I have a bunch of ideas that I think would be interesting career/money-making pursuits, but use indecision as my “excuse” not to pursue them. I’m considering putting them on a list with the actions I would need to take and maybe just picking off some baby steps to see what happens or opens up.
At least you can recognize this about yourself. Self-awareness is half the battle, my friend 🙂
I am definitely not a “typical” networker (at least as you define the Corporate America game — ick).
Rather, I look for opportunities to help and promote others around me (professionally) and ways I can realistically connect or keep in touch (personally). I’m not perfect, but I think I’ve done OK following that method. Many of the jobs and career options I’ve gotten came from my network, and I still have a lot of good friends (although I never get to see them enough.)
I was never good at the game either… an introvert by nature, empty small talk is a death sentence for me. But I never wanted to give up on the opportunities. So I decided to focus on finding people I really admired and asking them specific questions about a project I was working on or issue I was having. This way I avoided small talk and had a real purpose to my conversation. It also gave me a good reason to go back to the person – to tell them how things worked out and to thank them for their help. Once the proverbial glass was broken I could work on building relationships with them. This took much longer than the usual method, but over time I’ve collected a good group of well-placed mentors and champions who have given me a boost every now and then.