As a recruiter, I’ve spoken to thousands of people throughout my career and as you might expect, I hear a lot of the same things with regards to their career. One of the things that I hear the most when candidates describe their next opportunity is that they want to be challenged. I often wonder if they really mean that or if it’s something that is subconsciously ingrained in their brain to say because it sounds good. From my own experience working in the corporate world for the past two decades, it seems as though being challenged isn’t what most people truly want. I’ve gotten ahead because of this.
A lot of people tend to shy away from challenges and would rather coast by in smooth safe waters. The problem with that is you will never truly be noticed. Throughout my career, I’ve been able to advance because I stood out from the pack. It was the challenges I took on that helped propel me forward from the crowd. Don’t get me wrong, I can’t sit here and say that I was successful on every challenge or endeavor I took on. I fell on my face plenty of times. The point is, whenever my boss tasked me with a difficult project, I accepted the challenge and put my best foot forward. There were many times where I felt overwhelmed or felt the task was too difficult. I even questioned whether I could pull it off or not.
So why did I take on these challenges head on and resist the temptation of turning down situations that seemed too daunting? Well, every time I thought a project was too tough, I couldn’t help but hear the voice of one of my early mentor’s telling me, “If it was that easy, anybody could do this! And if anybody could do this, I wouldn’t be asking you.” And you know what, he was absolutely right. If it was that easy, then anybody could do it. If anybody could do it, then everybody would do it. If everybody could do it, then it would not be noteworthy.
I always felt comfort in the fact that I would be taking on something the average person probably couldn’t handle. I’ve learned that executing a difficult project successfully is the quickest way to get noticed. Just like in sports, who doesn’t like a great comeback story or a team or athlete overcoming long obstacles to come out victorious? We admire individuals who take on challenges successfully. Failure is something that is always in the back of your mind. You just can’t let that fear of failure stop you from challenging yourself.
If you’re goal is to advance and continue to progress in your career, you have to take on more challenges. Aside from being noticed more for your achievements, taking on challenging assignments builds an inner resolve you can’t get anywhere else. You can’t learn this from a textbook. You can only learn this through experience and by going through the actual process. No one wants to fail, but going through the actual process is sometimes more important than the end result, even if you fail. A lot of new opportunities have opened up for me in my career that may not have been prevalent if I hadn’t taken on tough assignments. Thomas Edison once said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” He hit it absolutely on the nail! Don’t let an opportunity pass you by because of how hard it may initially appear. Take the challenge.