Put yourself in situations where you’re the least qualified in the room.
Yup! It takes courage, it’s uncomfortable, and it requires a release of ego, but if you want to catapult your success, put yourself into professional situations where you have some basic foundation, but are still a novice.
And it’s not just about tackling new experiences – this is a given. It’s about putting yourself into situations where the outcomes matter. Anyone can study a new language in their living room, but if you volunteer to join the team that translates the new orientation manual for your employer, now there’s some skin in the game.
Also, being the least qualified in the room means that you have experts around you to learn from. It doesn’t mean that you personally don’t have anything to offer, but rather your list of credentials in this area may not be as impressive…yet. So yeah, it feels a little intimidating.
This is a strategy that athletes have used for decades. If you want to be a better swimmer, join a Masters’ Swim team. Yes, you may be the slowest one in the pool at first, but you’re progress will skyrocket as you push yourself to swim with the pros.
What gets in the way?
Many people choose to live life in their “comfort zones”, which makes sense with all of the natural stressors that exist (e.g., managing multiple priorities). So, it’s easy to get complacent and settle for “good enough” in our careers.
In addition, the more competent we get in our field, the fewer risks we want to take for fear of making mistakes (yes, you will!), which we worry will make us look silly and ruin our reputation (not likely). So we begin to rationalize and find many (seemingly) “logical” reasons to avoid putting ourselves in a situation where we’re the little fish in the big pond:
- “I’ve never managed people before.”
- “Everyone else on the team has an advanced degree.”
- “I don’t know enough about the industry.”
- “I’ll hold everyone else back.”
- “I’m not ready.”
But if you really want to fast track your career, you need to consciously S-T-R-E-T-C-H outside of your comfort zone on occasion. All of these excuses may actually be true, but NONE of them indicate that you won’t be successful. It”s your own mind that’s coming to that premature conclusion. How will you know unless you try?
Don’t turn down an opportunity that you want, but which scares you. More than likely six months after starting, you’ll be such a pro you’ll be kicking yourself that you didn’t dive in with both feet from the start.
So stop wondering how others are getting the great opportunities. To fast-track YOUR career, seek out situations where:
- Your qualifications are budding, but not quite there yet.
- There is some accountability (e.g., the outcomes matter in some way).
- You’re surrounded by people who are more qualified than you in this field/skill.
If it’s important to you, self-doubt will likely creep in each time you contemplate jumping into the next big pond. This is an indicator that you’re moving in the exact right direction!