Taking risks at work can benefit you in the long run. It’s no secret that women face a multitude of challenges in the workforce. Now a recent study by Catalyst confirms that working women are often evaluated on their performance while men are rewarded for their potential. In other words, ladies, you have to prove yourself to your employer. One way to do that is to accept what is called “a stretch assignment,” a challenging opportunity that is outside your comfort zone.
But how do you accept the challenge if you don’t feel ready? My advice is to take the phrase “Fake It Till You Make It.” seriously. The truth is that you don’t have to be 100 percent prepared before taking on a new task. As long as you are about 70 to 80 percent ready, you should consider accepting that new project. Why? Because you will learn the rest as you go. And that’s the name of the game of career advancement.
When you turn down an offer to do something new and outside of your comfort zone in your job, you are sending several messages to your superiors or colleagues:
• I’m not a risk taker.
• I’m not willing to learn something new.
• I’m not interested in developing my career.
• I’m comfortable where I am at and I don’t want to challenge myself.
If your professional goal is to continue paving your career path upward, sending these messages to your employer won’t bode well for your future. The idea is not only to jump at a great opportunity, but also to seek them out yourself.
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So what if you are presented with one of these stretch assignments and you are not sure whether you should take it or not?
• Consult with your mentors.
• Identify people who could help you with the areas of knowledge you’re missing.
• Verify that you have plenty of transferable skills that will help you in the new position or project.
• Be open about your experience and talents with the person offering you the opportunity to set up realistic expectations during your learning curve.
• Don’t be afraid to ask for help to get started.
In many companies, once you turn down one or two of these assignments, you are generally dropped from the “high potential” list. Which means, they’ll be investing much less effort in helping you advance your career or get a pay raise, Leading with “yes” is the best way to take charge of your future and to make sure as many doors remain open for you.