Global Leadership Speaker and Premier Work-Life Balance Speaker
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Drive Your Career

You get a job, work hard, get recognized, and then move up. You go up, up, up, and then you are there—at the top. How many times have you heard it referred to as “climbing the ladder”?

While there is a ladder for some, for others it is a highway. Or a lattice with vines. You might want to reconsider that straight trajectory that sounded so logical. The logic in moving up comes from taking a few twists and turns.

Many of the women I spoke with said they steered nontraditional courses for themselves. In some cases, that meant lateral moves and self-demotions that were deliberate maneuvers to give them the experience they needed to broaden themselves.

For example, Janel Haugarth was moving straight up the track to CFO at SuperValu, but she purposely took a demotion—and a pay cut—to get the operational experience she would need to be poised to actually run the company. That step down was so painful to her that she couldn’t bring herself to put her title on her business card. It moved her way out into her discomfort zone, but she had to go through it if she wanted to be more than the company’s financial brain. The strategy worked. Now she is the Executive Vice President and President of the Independent Business and Supply Chain Services Divisionat SuperValu.

Many of her peers did the same thing. They figured out what they needed to know, and then set about charting their careers in new directions that would give them their expertise. Risk-takers like that spend a lot of time in their discomfort zones.

The discomfort zone obviously got its name because it is not comfortable there. If you need things to be predictable, safe or easy, you will do everything you can to avoid that feeling of discomfort. But discomfort is where we all find our greatest growth and opportunity. It is where we are pushed to grow and redefine ourselves. The good thing is, discomforting challenges get easier and less disconcerting as time passes and as you get experience. And once the discomfort becomes a little too comfortable, it is time to shake things up again. If you dare.

Discomfort means daring to do something you know nothing about, and having the confidence to know that you will learn what you need to learn. It’s knowing that your leadership skills will translate in any environment and the people around you will help you to get the expertise you need. Have faith that it will get easier every week until, in time, you have it mastered enough to drive your career.

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