Why It’s Important To Be Challenged By Your Work

Why It’s Important To Be Challenged By Your Work

Applying for a new role can be daunting, so it’s no surprise that many of us are tempted to look for positions well within our comfort zone. If we’re confident that we’ll be able to do the role with our eyes shut, it can give us the confidence to go ahead and apply.

But beware of too much complacency. If your job ceases to challenge you at all, it can lead to feelings of boredom and disengagement, and most importantly, it can stunt your professional growth.

So, whether you’re looking for something entirely new, you’re seeking a promotion within your company, or you want to get your hands on a new project at work, it’s going to important that you’re challenged by it. Read on to explore why.

Roles that challenge you will advance your career faster

While it’s certainly possible that working in the same role for years on end will gradually increase your skill set, the operative word here is ‘gradually’. For faster advancement, you’ll need to proactively stretch yourself. That means looking for roles that are just above what you can comfortably handle now, whether they be with your current employer or other organisations.

As a rule of thumb, look for roles where around 80% feels comfortable and 20% feels like a stretch. If a position you’re looking at requires some experience that you don’t yet have, but it meets the 80% rule, go ahead.

There will be some requirements that will be deal breakers rather than nice-to-haves. For example, if the job lists a mandatory certification or technical skill as critical which you don’t have and can’t acquire, it may not be worth your time.

Years of experience in a similar role is one that can go either way. If the company asks for applicants with at least five years’ experience and you have four, consider putting your hat in the ring. If you’re a new graduate in the field with little experience, it may not be the right role for you at the time.

Traditionally, location was an unambiguous factor, but these days, many companies will consider remote work or a regular commute for the right person.

When you take on roles that force you to try new things and learn new skills, your career will benefit long-term. Your newly gained experiences and competencies will become part of your mastered 80% for the next ambitious leap!

Also read: Changing Jobs – How Often is Too Often?

You’ll learn to be comfortable with discomfort

A steep learning curve is emotionally challenging to confront. Our egos, as much as our professional reputations, are at stake. That’s one very compelling reason not to take on a challenge at work. After all, what if it turns out that we really can’t do the job?

That fear is precisely why it’s so important to seek out challenges. Facing our fear of failure is critical for growth.

You see, avoiding an anxiety-inducing issue will just feed that anxiety, but facing up to one’s fears is often the most effective way of lessening it. If you take on new projects and conquer them, you’ll remember that glow of achievement for next time and be less apprehensive. Challenging yourself is the best way to convince yourself that you’re capable of taking on new things.

Another implication of avoiding challenges and risk is that doing so can lead to a lack of innovative thinking. By sticking to jobs of routine, you’ll less likely be confronted with failure. But when you’re not taking risks and trying new things, there’s often little room for growth and limited opportunities to be innovative. This can pigeonhole you in certain roles, companies and industries, which won’t be ideal.

Change is another factor, and an important one at that, for consideration here. Every industry faces change from time to time, and being comfortable with discomfort will help you navigate it. Just as applying for a new role will get you out of your comfort zone, so too does embracing a technological or structural change in your workplace. Those who find it hard to cope will be disadvantaged in a world which is experiencing a rapidly increasing rate of change.

It will ward off career boredom

Without new challenges to conquer, it’s easy to become bored with your job. The days may feel long, time drags, and there’s a danger that you’ll become disengaged. When that happens, your comfortable, uncomplicated job can become a burden.

By contrast, the role that stretches your abilities will require you to stay alert and focused. If you are passionate about your work and are challenged to find solutions, you’ll constantly be learning and growing. It might feel like hard work, but hard work will keep you interested and eager in a way that tedious work will not.
So, for your long-term career development, your job satisfaction and engagement levels at work, look for roles, projects and responsibilities that will stretch you, challenge you and make you a valuable addition to any company.

Also read: How to Find Meaning and Purpose in Your Work

This article was written by Tanya Ashworth-Keppel on behalf of the Australian Institute of Business. All opinions are that of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of AIB. The following sources were used to compile this article: Fast Company, Science Mag, US News and Hays Recruitment Viewpoint.

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