Stepping out of your comfort zone - why this is an important step to take as a young journalist
Our comfort zone – the place in which we can show off and perform without too much relative effort; where we feel at ease and confident in our abilities. Having such a place can be helpful as a journalist, but it is also important to recognise when your comfort zone could become a hindrance and hold you back – and when it is time to step out of it!
Having comfort zones and certain tasks we are good at is normal and necessary for our everyday and working lives. Most of the time when it comes to work, our comfort zone consists of things we are naturally good at and centres around tasks we do regularly. Discovering tasks you are comfortable and good at can help you as a journalist when it comes to finding your specialism, as well as increasing your productivity, and expertise in that area. However, while it is important to reap the benefits of your comfort zone and to figure out what it is you enjoy doing, not exploring beyond its boundaries every once in a while could mean that your journalism career journey soon stagnates.
As a young journalist I have had to push myself beyond my comfort zone several times along the way…and I am so glad I did! I do not believe I would be the journalist (or person) I am today, were it not for these times.
When starting out, I was too scared for people to read my work – I barely even showed it to family and friends. I then joined the national, online publication The National Student as a contributor to get some extra experience. When it came to submitting my first piece for publication, my heart was pounding. However, once the piece was out and shared on social media, those feelings started to subside quickly. Since then, I am comfortable in sharing my work. Another aspect where I had to push myself beyond my comfort zone was approaching strangers for an interview. One of my lecturers sent us out to vox-pops and (again) I was terrified…but then I did it. I spoke with one person, then two, then three. I returned to class with answers to write up into a piece and no more fear of asking strangers for comments.
Even more recently, I have pushed myself to cover sensitive topics and to submit my work for awards. Both of these things were beyond my comfort zone but pushing myself beyond its boundaries led to me learning new skills, educating myself, and getting wider recognition for my work. The fact of the matter is pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone can help you grow as a journalist – especially when you are starting out. It has made me go from a shy journalism student three years ago, to being a more confident journalist, a better writer within several subject areas, and I was nominated for three awards this year.
So, how can you start? A way I found to push myself to approach tasks beyond my comfort zone was to ask myself two questions:
- What do I have to lose by going beyond my comfort zone?
and (maybe more importantly):
- What do I have to lose if I do not push myself to do this?
What I often discovered is that when comparing my answers to these questions, the potential loss from staying within my comfort zone was greater than the potential loss from stepping out of it. One important caveat to remember is that comfort zones still differ from set personal boundaries. While you should step out of your comfort zone, you should not endanger yourself or others, or put yourself in situations in which you feel challenged beyond your limits. Asking yourself these two questions can help you identify the situations in which you can push yourself safely and gradually.
In the mantra of: “You’ll never know until you try,” why not think of ways you can gradually step out of your comfort zone from today. Write down things you feel are holding you back and see what small steps you can take. Be that writing about a topic you have always considered but never started, applying for a new job role, or anything else you can think of.
Who knows; taking this step today might be one of those life-changing career moments you look back on with gratitude later.