Do one thing every day that scares you.
Every few months this phrase pops up on my Feedly as bloggers attempt to “get real” and expose their vulnerabilities. And while I’ll admit it’s an engaging thought, whenever I see those words splayed across the top of the page, my eyes glaze over and I keep moving because what is to follow is likely an observation of the way we hold ourselves back, as insightful and original as a cut-and-paste.
And guess what, dear readers? It’s my turn to write that post. I will do my best to exclude nondescript pronouns and anecdotes and stick to what happened. So here it is.
My resume was recently reviewed by a group of professional peers, all of whom I do not know but whom I respect nevertheless. They gave me their feedback in writing, and it was mostly what I’d heard before – experienced, specialized, etc. — but their biggest critique was that I’ve been too comfortable. Here’s a snippet to illustrate:
She’s done a lot – of stuff she’s familiar with and really into. Her resume is stuck in a comfort zone. It’s time for her to step into the unknown and challenge herself. She owes it to herself and to journalism to find that challenge.
I read that and it was like someone had just introduced me to the concept of addition. For a minute, I was elated: finally, some truly honest and valuable constructive criticism.
And then the elation turned to curiosity. And then doubt.
Wait. How exactly am I supposed to find things to do that make me uncomfortable? For the past four years I’ve processed every potential opportunity through a filter of necessity, asking myself how it would help me improve necessary skills, or whether it would make sense on the storyboard that is my professional life plan. The result has been gradual specialization into skills and media niches that will (hopefully) make next year’s job search a little easier. And now I’m supposed to forget all of that for the sake of doing something that scares me?
Of course there’s more to it than that. No one wants to be around a one-dimensional person — not in the personal sense and not in the professional sense. No one wants to read a resume and think it might all be for show. No one wants to hire someone who excels at being average, content to simply meet expectations while the competition is bursting past them.
I’ve had a few days to process my feelings about it all and my conclusion, unfortunately, is the same as every other self-absorbed blogger out there: I need to figure out what scares me, and then do it. It’s a lot easier said than done though, isn’t it? Now begins the daunting task of taking a good hard look at my life and figuring out what’s missing. I think my first step will be to simply consider what matters to me on a personal level and go from there. I have a few starting points.
For you all, take it from me: don’t let this realization sneak up on you when it’s too late and you’ve lost a job for not being gutsy enough now.