Why Leaving Your Comfort Zone Can Be the Key to Success

Jane Hillard

To this day, even after nearly two decades in my chosen career, I still catch myself looking in a mirror and thinking, ‘well, I certainly look very grown up’ forgetting that I’m running a large account for my client. You’d think that after working in the traditionally male-dominated field of recruitment for the better part of twenty years – and rising through its ranks – that those thoughts would go away.  

We all struggle with that voice of doubt – it can pop up when you least expect it. I’ve seen a lot of change in recruitment, and I want to encourage women to manage teams and lead businesses – because it’s a fantastic industry to build a career and thrive in. One perspective I’ve taken as a leader is how to see that voice as an opportunity to push you into uncomfortable situations in order to learn and flourish. 

When I think about my work to date – the challenges and successes – I often think about my mother, who’s a constant source of strength and inspiration to me. How comfortably uncomfortable she must have been in order to give up a career to start a family, only to renter the workplace when she divorced from our father – and eventually starting her own business.

Start small and think positively – that’s the key. Here’s how I got there: 

  • Prepare, prepare, prepare.

    I’ve always found presenting in front of people very intimidating. I get incredibly nervous, and it was only through preparation that I could steel my nerves ever so slightly. Who are you presenting to? Who else is speaking? How long is the meeting? What materials do you have? The more information I had available to me, the easier it was for me to speak with confidence. And the more presentations I did, I naturally found myself more comfortable with each one. 

  • You are the expert.

    Remember, you’re the subject matter expert in recruitment. You might be speaking to the head of an investment bank – something that person does very well – but I know I know recruitment. Come prepared and speak with conviction. People, regardless of seniority, will genuinely respect your credibility and confidence. 

  • Take a deep breath.

    At the end of the day, there are far scarier things out there in the world. When you think about your job… it’s just a job! It’s just an office that you walk into to do what you do. It’s a means to an end. I find that perspective has helped me naturally grow my confidence in my abilities of what I bring to my work everyday. 

  • Verbalise your successes.

    I see this in myself and with some of the women I manage – sometimes we tend to undervalue our own ability. Culturally, we’ve been taught to shy away from shouting out about our successes. However, if it makes you uncomfortable – embrace it! I foster the kind of work culture where there’s nothing wrong with recognising and talking about your successes – especially women – we should be putting our hands up and pushing forward. 

  • Build relationships. Build a network.

    When I was progressing, I’ve always tried to meet people from different teams, accounts and backgrounds. It’s important to foster and nurture those relationships in your network – they’re often the ones you’ll need to lean on for support in order to succeed at work.

It doesn’t come easy though. While I may not seem it at work, I’m quite shy and can sometimes be called the ‘quiet’ one in group settings. It’s a label I’ve learned to shed by challenging myself to get uncomfortable. The feeling of discomfort pushes your experience and allows you to tread into new territory.