Move beyond comfort zone to talk yourself up

Your Career, Your Choices

Robert John Burck, better known as The Naked Cowboy, plays the guitar on any given day in New York’s City Time Square.

He could teach all of us a thing or two about going beyond our comfort zone.

He wears only cowboy boots, a hat and briefs. He has achieved worldwide acclaim for this role that initially attracted only laughter from passing people.

He moved from contempt, through mild curiosity, onto iconic status, and, neatly enough, stopped off to become extremely rich along the way.

The Naked Cowboy is now running for president in 2012.

And all because he stepped out of his (yes, clothes ) and (more pertinently for our purposes here ) his comfort zone.

What is your comfort zone?

It can be described as a ‘type of mental conditioning that causes a person to create and operate mental boundaries. Such boundaries create an unfounded sense of security.’

It is a cocoon in which we feel happy and secure, and it prevents us from risking failure or ridicule. What happens when your comfort zone is challenged or removed? The positive aspect is that we push our boundaries into new levels and experience areas that we have never experienced before.

We can open new doors of opportunity.

The interview is the epitome of stepping outside the comfort zone. It is an ‘unnatural’ event, and the majority of people do not like to be challenged or questioned on their skill set. Most people hate interviews because they are confronted and ‘put on stage’ by the interviewer.

In job-seeking, you will be forced to challenge your comfort zone, particularly in the current economic climate. You must make yourself ring that person about the job opportunity, though you’d prefer not to.

You better sign up to the training course, or, take a deep breath, and tell an interviewer that “yes, I feel I can bring a great deal of value to your company.”

But, I hear you say, I couldn’t ever talk myself up like that in interviews? I’d be afraid of coming across arrogantly.

Fear not. Our experience is that most people are 100 metaphorical miles away from being arrogant. They have plenty of room to talk themselves up a lot more, without veering over that line that separates confidence from arrogance.

So, get used to talking positively about yourself. If necessary, ask friends or family to list a few of your good attributes.

If they say “John is an extremely good communicator, he has always been able to explain exactly what he means in a non-confrontational way”, use that phrase in interviews, changing the John to I, and the he’s to I’s.

You simply must do that. The next person into the interview will not speak up for you. You will be the only one flying your flag, so fly it well, fly it proudly, and trust that you won’t frighten the interviewer.

It would be easier to slip back into your comfort zone, wouldn’t it? Easier to play yourself down, not to threaten the interviewer. But there you will stay. You must ‘come out to play’, so to speak.

To quote the newly-liberated Nelson Mandela, who, in turn, was quoting Marianne Williamson: “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel unsure around you.”

So don’t succumb to playing small.

Write an action plan and include ten items that ‘challenge your comfort zone’ for 2011. Resolve to talk yourself up more in the next interview. Take a conscious decision that you will give yourself the best possible chance, rather than playing coy and distant.

Sli Nua Careers (tel 094 95 42965, www.SliNuaCareers.com ) are based on Main Street, Headford, Co. Galway, and carry out CV Preparation, Mock Interviews, Interview Training, and Career Direction. For your free e-book on interview & CV tips, email [email protected].

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