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Angelica Rains

How Remote Work Is Improving Diversity

By | Executive Assistant, Leadership, Training | No Comments

The events of the year have shone a light on the importance of remote work. As we move forward, remote work has the potential to increase diversity in the C-suite. What companies need now more than ever are talented teams that have the ability to swiftly adapt to changes. Below we’ll explore how remote work is improving diversity.

Significance of Remote Work

In the aftermath of COVID-19, remote work is likely to gain in prominence. More companies now have the technology, resources, and policies necessary to support remote work as part of their culture. Companies have also had the opportunity to experience firsthand some of the advantages of remote work, such as improved flexibility, work-life balance, and access to a larger talent pool.

Remote Work and Diversity

One of the best aspects of remote jobs is they can be performed anywhere. As a company, having the infrastructure to support remote work gives you the opportunity to hire better talent because you are no longer limited by geographic restrictions. You have access to a more diverse candidate pool in terms of gender, age, ethnicity, and ability. There are also talented individuals out there who struggle in an office setting but excel in a remote environment.

At the end of the day, your company needs the best talent possible on its team. Having a compatible, high-performing team allows your company to grow. In the realm of the C-suite, this is even more important. When you have the ability to hire employees from anywhere in the world, it is easier to recruit a team that has the right balance of skills and personalities.

Benefits of Diversity in the Workplace

Diversity and inclusion in the workplace come with proven benefits. When your team members have a wide variety of experiences, they can approach problems from many different angles. Diversity on a team improves creativity, innovation, and problem-solving. Diversity also allows for increased flexibility. Teams can adapt to changes and challenges more readily when they have a wider range of skills and backgrounds. Diversity also helps contribute to a company culture that encourages people to feel accepted for their differences.

The pandemic has forced many companies to switch to working remotely. While this has caused some confusion, it also presents an opportunity for businesses to double down on their inclusivity initiatives and to continue to build teams that have diverse backgrounds and perspectives.

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The Illusive Work-Life Balance

By | Executive Assistant, Leadership, Training | No Comments

As we approach the mid-year point, hours of daylight increase, outdoor activities and vacations are abundant, yet the demands at the office do not wane. The subject of providing an environment for work-life balance often resurfaces during the summer, but the topic is one that should be addressed on an ongoing basis within an organization.

Numerous management consulting companies have performed exhaustive research in this area and have found that over 40% of employees claim they do not have suitable work/life balance, and more than one in four dissatisfied employees plans to leave their employer within the next two years.

The Definition of Balance

There are many articles and books written about finding work-life balance in life, but while many discuss the need to find balance, most do not define exactly what this means or how each of us can find the right combination. In order to figure out our perfect balance, we must start with the definition of what areas make up the various facets of life. Possible domains include:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Spirituality
  • Self-Development
  • Self-Indulgence
  • Physical
  • Work
  • Charity

Having a balanced life means ensuring that life itself is multi-faceted and those facets are defined. We need to apportion the correct amount of attention to each area. Prioritization is then determined by attention allocation rather than intention of attention allocation. In each area there are activities with varying degrees of urgency and importance; if urgency always rules decisions, one will easily feel out of balance. Important activities, while not immediately urgent, are frequently better uses of time than urgent ones. These eight areas compete for the one commodity we can offer, which is time.

Analyzing the Allocation of Time

There are 168 hours in a week. Removing the amount of time an average person sleeps leaves roughly 120 hours per week to allocate attention and focus. Think about your last week and ask yourself, “Where did the time go?” Did it go there because you planned it that way, or was it simply the result of going through the motions? If we can learn to plan the allocation of our most precious resource (our time), then we may value it more. Therefore, we must learn to become focused and productive while in one dimension, and still allow for enough time in other dimensions.

The following is an eight-step formula for implementing this process:

  1. Determine if and why you care about each of the eight domains. What does it mean to you and how important is it? What are the consequences of the lack of quality time and what are the benefits of proper attention allocation?
  2. Determine and quantify the gap between desire and achievement.
  3. Create a specific action plan to close the gap.
  4. Determine the amount of time needed in each area to achieve your desired balance.
  5. Create an “attention plan” that details this time.
  6. Identify potential hijackers and distractions of the plan and create solutions to minimize them.
  7. Track and review periodically (once per week, perhaps).
  8. Periodically re-assess, re-prioritize, and repeat.

Time and attention allocation are not the sole determinants, though, of work-life balance. Focus in that time is equally important. Multi-tasking is the curse of focus. We are most productive and fulfilled when we give our undivided attention to the domain we are in.

With 120 hours each week, plenty of time exists for quality in each domain. Life may go through periods where a short-term imbalance serves a long-term balance, but this is sacrifice. Some individuals consciously choose to dedicate all their life to one or two domains, while others do not want to be the world’s best sprinter or hurdler but want to be a decathlete. Start first with what you want, which is based on your “why.” When you know your “why,” you can begin building the bridges to close the gaps between desire and achievement.

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Job Search Mistakes You Could Be Making Right Now

By | Career Guidance, Executive Assistant, Interviews | No Comments

As the pandemic continues to negatively impact unemployment numbers across the U.S., many candidates are entering an uncharted job market that’s being driven by employers for the first time in years. Whether you lost your job because of the coronavirus or were looking for a better opportunity before it hit, many of the job search strategies that were effective before might not be as useful now. From e-commerce to cybersecurity, there are still some companies that are recruiting for top-level positions. But it’s going to take more effort than before to stand out from your competition. Don’t let these job search mistakes get in your way.

Don’t: Use the same tactics as before. Hiring managers are shortlisting candidates that are more assertive and creative. Candidates that are sending traditional cover letters and resumes have to adapt and take a more proactive approach to overcome the crowded marketplace.

Instead: Think outside of the box. Furloughed employees can use downtime to learn new skills, volunteer, etc. Then create a short video resume highlighting your new skills, accomplishments, etc. Request a video conference call with hiring managers to connect and build rapport.

Don’t: Mass apply everywhere. It may be tempting to send applications to every job opening that potentially matches your qualifications, but it’s a trap that can leave you unprepared for interviews.

Instead: Take a more targeted approach. There are still some high-level positions that are in demand, you just have to find the right industry. Focus on the quality of your pitch rather than the quantity of applications being sent out.

Don’t: Panic and become impatient. Hiring managers have noted that more candidates are coming across overly aggressive and pushy. Remember, there’s a fine line between showing enthusiasm and following up too strongly.

Instead: Make a positive impression. Refer to the video interview tips we shared to help land your dream job. C-level executive assistants can use this time to shine by proving that they can run flawless video conference calls. Then, limit the number of times that you follow up to once or twice per week because many hiring managers are overwhelmed with other job functions right now.

Don’t: Be shortsighted. From unrealistic salary expectations to refusing job start dates, now is not the time to be stubborn. Insensitivity is a turnoff to organizations that were really impacted by the pandemic.

Instead: Show your flexibility. Be willing to accept part-time, or temporary work, different jobsite locations, etc.
The hiring flood gates might open again in the future and tilt the scale back to a job-seeker’s market. In the meantime, try using some of this advice for a more successful job search.

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Advantages of Hiring Temporary and Contract Workers

By | Career Guidance, Executive Assistant, Interviews | No Comments

The pandemic has affected all facets of the economy, including C-level support. As companies continue to adjust to the changing economic climate, many are looking to hire temporary and contract employees as a solution. Below are some of the advantages of hiring temporary and contract workers.

Immediate Availability

Hiring full-time employees can be a lengthy, time-consuming process. Many candidates out there are also passive candidates, so connecting with them and marketing an opportunity to them does not happen all at once. With temporary and contractor workers, the talent is ready to work now. The immediate availability that comes with temporary employees allows businesses to adapt quickly to changes in workload. This gives companies a level of resilience to face an evolving economy.

Health Benefits

One advantage of hiring a contract employee through a recruiting firm is that the firm will likely offer health benefits to the employee starting on day one. When finances are tighter than usual, this can be an opportunity to save some money on employee expenses.

Less Risk

It is generally much less risky for businesses to hire temp workers compared to full-time permanent employees. Usually, the recruiting firm incurs all liability associated with onboarding temporary employees, including health benefits, workers comp, payroll costs, California and San Francisco taxes, and liability insurance.

Various Contract Options

The versatility of contract options is another advantage. Contract workers can fill in for employees when they go on vacation, for example. Contracts can also cover multi-week projects, parental leaves, and medical leaves. There is also the temporary to permanent route. Contracts allow both the client and the candidate to test the waters so they can figure out if they are a good fit for each other before making any kind of long-term commitment.

Different Levels of Talent

With contract workers, you have access to a variety of talent levels. The candidate pool ranges from entry-level receptionists to high-level executive assistants. Companies will also be able to find temporary employment for every administrative role in between. This flexibility makes hiring contract and temporary employees a great option for businesses right now.

In the field of C-level support, hiring temporary and contract workers can be a smart way to save money and meet hiring needs. With various contract options and levels of talent, employing on contract offers a lot of flexibility for companies. Temporary employees also present less of a risk to businesses and allow for companies to make quick hires when time is of the essence.

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Continuous Advancement and Perpetual Growth

By | Executive Assistant, Leadership, Training | No Comments

One of the strongest propositions of value a leader can give to an employee is the ability for that individual to grow perpetually in all dimensions. Obvious dimensions include professionally as well as personally, but do not overlook the importance of financial, mental, and spiritual growth as well. In nature, plants either grow or decompose. They do not stay the same. In an organization, nourishment is supplied by what is referred to as training, but a more accurate term for it is learning. What is being done within your organization to foster learning, growth, and new perspectives each week?

It is important to note that even with access and exposure to new tools and resources, not every employee is going to be open to learning. Unfortunately, organizations will always have “prisoners” in their camp or perhaps self-absorbed individuals who already think they know everything. This is a fact of life!

Therefore our focus in this article will be on the core of your office or team that is open to learning and being mentored if properly challenged. The key is to defy the old adage, “if it’s not broke, don’t fix it.” If you limit yourself to that belief, you are limited by your current capabilities. Where you, your team, your organization is at this present moment is as far as you will go. Think of all the innovations that came about because someone was creative and resourceful enough to take something that worked well and make it just that much better. Keyless entry for vehicles, wireless mouses for computers, and the iPhone are just a few examples of modernizations that would have not been created had their inventors been okay with the status quo. Have the same outlook on your own business. Constantly evaluate what’s not working, and even with what is working, be open to how to make it just a little more effective, innovative, or differentiated.

Where to Begin

A good step is to create a one-year learning plan for yourself and everyone at your organization. It should cover all dimensions of one’s life and have elements that can be measured quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily. To summarize this continual learning process, conceptualize two things: where you are today, which is your achievement, and where you could be, which is your potential.

Even if it’s only 30 minutes per week dedicated to learning and development, that 30 minutes begins to build a bridge to get you from your current achievement all the way over to your future potential. To use an example, one of the most renowned pieces of sculpture in the world is Michelangelo’s statue of David. When Michelangelo was asked how he created the magnificent statue David from a block of stone, he replied that he did not create David from the stone, but rather he saw David in the stone and merely chipped away at the unneeded pieces until David emerged. We are the same way. Underneath all the things we currently know and do, lies an undiscovered statue in each of us. Like Michelangelo chipping away at the stone, devoting time each week to ongoing development or fostering a learning environment with your team will begin to uncover the statue underneath. Like the unveiling of David, this does not happen overnight. It takes patience, dedication, and commitment to build a bridge from current achievement to underlying potential.

Resources to Support Growth

There are numerous resources available to augment a continual learning process. Initially, poll your staff to solicit feedback in which area or areas they feel the greatest needs exist. You may find group energy surrounds subjects such as personal development, public speaking, leadership skills, technological training, or financial planning. Remember that once the desired issues have been raised, the internal team does not necessarily need to be the only solution to deliver content. The old saying “you cannot be a prophet in your own land” comes to mind. Consider seeking outside experts to speak on the subjects in which they are proficient. Creating a comprehensive year-long learning plan for an entire organization can be just as influential as empowering each employee to construct a personal learning plan.

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Video Interview Tips to Help You Land Your Dream Job

By | Career Guidance, Executive Assistant, Interviews | No Comments

Video interviews offer some significant advantages over traditional interviews, such as reducing travel expenses and making the hiring process more efficient. Google Hangouts, Zoom, and Skype are a few popular video conferencing platforms that companies use to screen candidates for c-level support positions. Some of the same phone interview tips we shared in a previous post are applicable, but video interviews add some unique challenges. Regardless of how confident you may feel about discussing your qualifications on camera, there is always room to polish these skills to ensure you are making a positive impression. Below are a few video interview tips to help you land your dream job.

Create a Professional Set Up

You don’t have to be a videographer to create a professional video setup. Just like in-person and phone interviews, there are variables you can control like technical, camera, and body-language-related factors. Prepare in advance for some of the common technical issues that could arise during video interviews, including:

  • Lighting – Be sure to give special attention to the lighting around the interview space. Natural light is recommended, but selfie ring lights can be suitable alternatives. Don’t sit with a window or light source behind you or your face will appear dark. Try to have light on either side and in front of you. You can use a combination of natural light and lamps.
  • Microphone – Receiving and sending clear information is essential. Headsets are typically preferred for quality sound and reducing background noise. A good microphone on a stand out of frame would also be a good choice. Just be sure to check your audio prior to the call.
  • Camera – Phone or tablet cameras should be used as a last resort. External webcams, laptop cameras, or desktop cameras are favored because they typically have adjustments for exposure, balance, and color.
  • Internet – Ensure that your connectivity speed is sufficient to support video and audio. Being physically connected to a router is generally a safer bet than trusting wireless hotspots.

Basic Etiquette Still Matters

Although you might not be in the same room with the interviewer, most of the usual rules still apply during a video interview. Maintain good eye contact without overdoing it. Using just the right amount of eye contact in video is a skill that can take some time to adjust to. Five seconds of eye contact is what most professionals suggest to avoid appearing too aggressive or too meek. Next, finding the appropriate balance of smiling is important. Hiring managers might perceive too much smiling as fake enthusiasm or aloofness. It’s still important to smile to show that you are a pleasant, confident person.

We encourage candidates to prepare for video interviews much like they would an in-person meeting. Spend plenty of time practicing, mitigate any technical issues that could surface and remember to practice overall good interview etiquette.

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11 Interview Practice Questions to Help You Prepare

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To prepare for an interview, it’s important to practice answering both traditional and behavior-based questions. In this article we’ll cover some common questions an interviewer might ask a candidate being considered for a position at any level of an organization. Also included is an analysis of the question which may help you answer such a question in your job interview. Below are eleven interview practice questions to help you prepare.

Interview Practice Questions

1. Could you please tell me about yourself?

Although this question is broad, keep your answer focused and relevant to the job for which you’re applying. Mention the top three or four aspects of your experience, skills, interests, and personality that make you a qualified candidate for the job.

2. What are your long- and short-term career goals?

With this question the interviewer is trying to get a feel for why you want this job and how long you’re going to stick with it. The ideal answer will assure the employer that you’re worth the investment—that is, training you, introducing you to clients, entrusting you with responsibility. Your answer should assure that you’ll be around for a while—and maybe even a long time.

3. Outside of work, what are some of the things you do?

Employers know that what an applicant does for free can speak louder about his character than what he does for money. Tell the interviewer about something in your nonprofessional life that says: “Hey, I’m a good person.”

4. What strengths do you bring to this job that other candidates might not?

There’s no hidden message here. The employer is giving you the floor to sell yourself for the job. Prepare well for this answer and deliver it with confidence. After all, who knows more about why you’re suited for the job than you? Make your presentation using brief achievement stories whenever possible.

5. Why do you want to leave your current position?

The interviewer is concerned about any problems that might arise based on past experience. Be sure to use good judgment here. Don’t bad-mouth your current boss and don’t bring up anything negative.

6. Why did you leave your last job?

Sounds like the interviewer wants to know if there are any underlying problems like a lack of commitment, difficult personality, poor performance, or anything that might lead to termination. Employers don’t want to take on someone who has a record of walking out on jobs or getting fired. No matter why you left your last job, couch your response in positive terms, without lying.

7. Please explain why you have a gap in your employment history.

With this question, the employer is looking for any problems in your personal life that might become a headache if you’re hired. Explain your gaps honestly, leaning on activities that support your job objective, if that’s possible. If you don’t have anything to say that’s relevant, then talk about activities that show your strength of character and helped you know what you really want to do next: the job you’re interviewing for.

8. Of all the problems you had at your previous position, which was the hardest to deal with?

What a sneaky question! “Of all the problems. . .” Don’t fall for it. Don’t let on that you had many problems, even if you did. Instead, refer briefly to an area you—and probably the rest of the world—find challenging, and move right on to how you’ve learned to deal with it.

9. What project required you to work under pressure? What were the results?

How you respond to this question will tell the interviewer if you excel while working under pressure. Be honest and positive. All jobs bring with them a certain amount of pressure, but some have a lot more than others. Give an example in which the level of pressure was just right for you that will suggest how much pressure you’re looking for on your next job.

10. What college experience are you especially proud of?

If you haven’t been in the workforce long, this question is your opportunity to give balance to the fact that you don’t have much paid experience. Spotlight your academic and extracurricular achievements, especially the ones that are relevant to your job objective.

11. What classes or training are you planning to pursue at this point?

This one’s tricky. You want to look dedicated to developing your profession but you don’t want to appear to have so much going on that you won’t be 100 percent on the job. Make it clear that your number one priority is your job, and developing your profession is second.

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The Next Generation of Leadership

By | Leadership | No Comments

The success of any organization is largely reliant on the strength of its leadership. Conveying a vision, formulating strategy, and ultimately driving the direction of a company is no small task. Thus, having a sustained and committed leadership development program can be a key differentiator in the trajectory of a firm. Although bringing in talent from the outside has advantages including fresh ideas, competitive insights and diversification, there is nothing like a home-grown leader. Talent from inside the organization is well versed with the history, processes, systems, structure, and culture already in place. Home-grown talent is also aware of the organization’s strengths and perhaps even more importantly, weaknesses. This allows them to make better and more informed growth-oriented decisions. How does one start to identify the next generation of leadership within the firm? Instead of relying solely on tenure, keep in mind that your future leaders of your company may be hiding in plain sight. How do you bring them out into the open?

Potential vs. Performance

Quite often, raises and promotions occur based on outstanding performance and the achievement of quotas or goals. Employee performance defines ability and expertise, which is important. However, place equal weight on an individual’s aptitude, desire to grow, and overall potential.

Just because an athlete is one of the best football players of all time does not mean that individual can be an effective coach. Some individuals are not cut out to be leaders, although their performance is at the higher end of the scale. They don’t have the capacity for leadership roles, they may lack the visionary ability required, or they enjoy the spotlight so much that they will rarely redirect it to others. This is why potential should outweigh performance as a factor when zeroing in on a possible future leader.

Rules of Engagement

Be on the lookout for those employees who have a natural ability to make things happen. They gravitate towards making decisions rather than waiting to see what the status quo will be. Specifically, look for individuals who take action and can speak to how they have tried as opposed to what they think someone else could, or should, do.

A future leader will have a tendency to make suggestions for overall process improvement, rather than asking questions to clarify what is expected of them. Future leaders will take the time to be overly prepared for meetings, projects, and responsibilities. Take the time to identify individuals who take things seriously. They understand the importance of any task that has been entrusted to them, no matter how small, and seize it as an opportunity to perform.

Additionally, how does an employee act in a meeting; are they attentive and composed, or distracted and ready to “get back to work?” True leaders are too intensely focused to get restless, too engaged to be nervous, and too invested to be bored.

Necessarily Nimble

We tend to categorize multi-tasking as the ability to juggle several activities simultaneously. Think beyond multi-tasking with activities, and instead look for those who can multi-task with responsibilities. Leaders need to be agile as they can at times be relied upon to light a fire within one group while simultaneously putting out a fire with another. They must not be flustered by an abrupt change in direction or by seamlessly picking up balls that have been dropped, all while still delivering on the core functions of their role.

Put your prospective future leaders to the test and give them some extra responsibilities or perhaps an assignment with a quick turnaround time. Do not be afraid to throw them in at the deep end and keep tabs on how well they swim. Can they handle the extra tasks you have assigned, or are they finding it difficult to be nimble and adapt to the pressure? Do they have a “do whatever it takes” attitude and can stretch when pulled, perhaps even putting in extra hours or soliciting the help of others for direction and support?

Extroversion versus Emotional Intelligence

Particularly in a leadership capacity, one must have a genuine demeanor and a connection with those around them. Not all great leaders are extroverts, so do not make the mistake of gravitating to the loudest talker in the room. Instead, look for those who have a high degree of self-awareness and who take the time to interact with other employees outside of their immediate hierarchy. Future leaders will not be consumed by negative emotions such as fear or victimization, nor do they make excuses for subpar results by blaming a litany of extenuating factors that no normal human could possibly have overcome. When individuals with high emotional intelligence make a mistake and get criticized for it, it does not send them into an emotional tailspin; they view it simply as a fact to be noted, studied and corrected.

Seminary professor J. Carla Northcutt once stated, “The goal of many leaders is to get people to think more highly of the leader. The goal of a great leader is to help people to think more highly of themselves.”

A mark of a future leader is someone secure enough personally to help others advance in their careers. They are confident without being arrogant. They are humble but have a high sense of self-worth. They are comfortable in their own skin without being blasé. They are good listeners but do so with purpose and intention. They can deliver a tough message with a soft hand. They care not about wealth or fame, but about achievement and potential.

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19 Job Interview Tips that Will Set You Apart

By | Career Guidance, Executive Assistant, Interviews | No Comments

Once you have been invited for a job interview, be sure to prepare yourself so you make a fantastic impression. The interview is an opportunity for you to shine and really show the employer what you are capable of if you’re hired. Below are 19 job interview tips that will set you apart from the competition and give you the best shot at receiving a job offer.

  1. Get clear directions to the interview site and arrive on time—or early—for your meeting.
  2. Be sure you are dressed appropriately for the interview. Dress professionally and conservatively (this also applies to makeup), avoid wearing perfume, and wear close-toed shoes
  3. When you pack your bag for the interview, be sure to put in a few copies of your resume, a pen, note pad, and that list of questions you want to ask. Also bring samples of your work, if you have any that is relevant to the job you’re applying for.
  4. Your job interview starts the minute you walk in the company’s front door and lasts until you exit that door. Keep your best foot forward from start to finish. Be kind to everyone you meet. When introduced to potential co-workers, be friendly. Your interviewer may be watching to see how you interact with the staff and may later ask employees how they liked you.
  5. Smile, especially when you first meet the interviewer. That first impression will stick in the manager’s mind for a long time.
  6. There is nothing like a confident handshake! The right amount of tension in your grip is important—not too tight, not too limp.
  7. Eye contact is a form of communication and it has a magical ability to build rapport. Make eye contact with your interviewers, both when you’re talking and when they are talking.
  8. Try to have good posture that shows you are alert and focused. Avoid negative body language. In other words, don’t cross your arms over your chest, don’t clench your fists, don’t clutch your purse or briefcase tightly, or do anything that might indicate insecurity, hostility, or resistance to change.
  9. Listen carefully to everything the interviewer says and ask questions when you don’t understand something. Understanding each question will help you give the best response.
  10. Answer questions with the right balance between confidence and humility.
  11. Respond with answers based on PAR (Problem, Action, Result): What was a problem you faced? What action did you take to solve it? What was the result?
  12. Shift your interview from an interrogation to a dialog by occasionally finishing your answers with a relevant leading question.
  13. Occasionally, answer a question by saying what somebody else has said about you. For example, “My supervisor always used to say, ‘Bob’s the one you want around when it’s time to launch a new product.’”
  14. It’s okay to be quiet for a minute before you answer a question. It will help you gather your ideas and give a good answer. The employer will appreciate the fact that you’re thoughtful.
  15. Be honest, even if that means saying you don’t know something, or you don’t have a particular experience. At some point, you may need to say something like: “No, I’ve never done that, but here’s why I know I can do it or why I think I’d be very good at it.”
  16. Be prepared to tell stories that show how you work with people, as the interviewer is undoubtedly curious as to how you’ll fit in with the staff. Remember to weave your stories into the answers of pertinent questions.
  17. A terrific way to build rapport is to use your interviewer’s name when you answer a question. So, learn his or her name, and, if it’s a tricky one, practice the pronunciation beforehand so it’ll roll off your tongue during your interview.
  18. Delay talking about salary history and expectations until you fully understand what is entailed in the job and you have had time to think about what is fair.
  19. Send a thank you letter as soon as your job interview is complete. The interviewers took time out of their day to give you a chance at a job, so this is the time for you to say “thanks” in writing.

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Become Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

By | Career Guidance, Executive Assistant, Interviews | No Comments

No matter your role or how long you have been in it, we all have work situations we would rather avoid. Scenarios can range from taking on a project at which you are not sure you will excel, having a difficult conversation with a client or colleague, or even simply interacting with coworkers in a social setting outside of the workplace. No matter the situation, most would agree that leaving your comfort zone can create the opportunity to flourish professionally, personally, and financially. Yet that comfort zone can be a cozy blanket of security quite difficult to shed! So how do you become comfortable with the uncomfortable?

Embrace It

As a child you may have had a community pool in your neighborhood with a diving board that (especially in your youth) seemed about twenty stories tall. And each summer, during swimming lessons, the instructor would force you to you climb those stairs, teeter out to the end of the board, and would basically push you off the end. Do you remember how that felt? Your whole being was screaming at you not to do it, because you knew that the inevitable would happen and you were most certainly going to plunge to your death. As you fell for what seemed like eternity, suddenly you would hit the water and have the realization that you had survived and, in fact, it was not that bad at all.

As children, our parents, swimming instructors, and teachers were obligated to give us a gentle nudge over the edge. Embrace the fact that now you are the only one who can take that leap of faith. We know how the story continues with those summers at the swimming pool. Once you throw yourself off the diving board and realize that it’s pretty fun, you actually enjoy proving to yourself that you can do whatever you set your mind to. You then jump off enough times repeatedly that it’s no longer an intimidating challenge. The first step is to embrace what makes you uncomfortable. Professional growth also comes from new experiences and often distressing ones.

Understand It

If you want something in life that you have never had, you will likely have to do something that you have never done. However, knowing what needs to be done and understanding what is holding you back from doing it are two different tasks. It might be completely evident to you what the looming task or situation is. What you may not be able to immediately recognize is why you’re feeling the way you are. What is it about the situation that is triggering the feeling of fear?

More than likely, it is a fear of failure or a fear of not being good enough. Simply summarized, most paralyzing situations stem from one of those two roots. When you start listening to the doubts of yourself and others, the voice in your head becomes a breeding ground for negativity. People will always have opinions. Understanding that those people are entitled to their own thoughts, yet disassociating yourself from those opinions, is an important step in moving passed any fear of being judged.

Coach To It

As comedian George Carlin stated, “If you’re looking for self-help, why would you read a book written by somebody else? That’s not self-help, that’s help!” In short, let go of the need to try to solve your challenging situations all by yourself. When faced with a situation that seems overwhelming, seek out an individual who you respect in terms of their ability to handle similar situations. Ask for guidance. Pursue coaching from a more veteran individual or perhaps even role play in order to make the foreign seem less intimidating.

People’s words and perceptions of us can actually shape our own beliefs about ourselves. Identify someone who can provide positive mentorship and feedback as you work through whatever it is that is creating the intimidating environment. In time, positive reinforcement can be the catalyst for courage.

Act On It

At some point, you must make the choice to step off the high dive. The battle is half won by that small step! If needed, “fake it until you make it” and simply pretend to be confident. When you have come through to the other side, you will likely realize that it was not as bad as you thought it would be, and you are proud of yourself. Remember that fear kills more dreams than failure ever will.

To make change a constant and not a singular event, consider investing in your own personal and professional growth and well-being. Go ahead and get the membership to the gym that you have talked about for months, research therapists or personal coaches and sign up for an exploratory conversation, book the vacation you’ve been wanting to go on, splurge on a massage, or ask others for suggestions of personal development books they have enjoyed – the key is to act on something! If you are not taking the necessary steps to have a plan for personal and professional growth, the road ahead may not seem so uplifting.

We all have the right to live our best life. Anything else is mediocre, and none of us were put in the roles we are in to be simply mediocre.

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