Why getting too comfy at work is the ultimate career killer

June 24, 2015, 6:00 PM UTC

MPW Insider is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: Why is it important for women to take risks in business? is written by Krista Bourne, president of Houston Gulf Coast Region at Verizon Wireless.

Risks are important for several reasons, but most importantly because they lead to professional growth. And my own experiences have taught that there is a difference between professional development and professional growth. However, if you can accomplish both in your career, then you have the opportunity to truly distinguish yourself in the workplace.

Let’s start with development, which in my opinion requires time. At work, time equals experience — the more time a person puts in, the more experience they gain, and ultimately the more comfortable they become. Yet sometimes becoming too comfortable can be problematic, and result in a lack of professional growth. This is when risk becomes imperative. It’s the only way to remove someone from their comfort zone.

When we are forced or voluntarily move out of our comfort zone we are required to build on our previous experiences to thrive through unfamiliar territory. As a result of this process, a level of professional growth takes place. But professional growth is not just about improving our capabilities, it also has the power to change our perspectives. The way we think, the way we view business, and our tolerance for change is shaped by the risks we take.

For example, it’s understandable for someone to have confidence in a job they’ve done a long time. Based on their experience with that job, they are comfortable with how to navigate and get things done. However, when someone decides to apply transferrable skills to an entirely new role with different measurements of success, they’ve challenged themselves to build on existing knowledge and explore new options. This is the perfect definition of risk.

Honestly, taking risks can be scary, but it can also differentiate a qualified candidate from an exceptionally qualified candidate. Risk truly matters, development and experience alone is often times not enough for women to make bold moves in the workplace. As women strive to reach positions that influence and challenge the status quo, risk will no longer be an option.

Read all answers to the MPW Insider question: Why is it important for women to take risks in business?

Would you risk your job to move abroad? by Mary Beth Laughton, senior vice president of e-commerce and digital marketing at Sephora.

Why it’s okay to break the rules at work by Susan Coelius Keplinger, entrepreneur.

Why recent graduates shouldn’t plan their careers by Teresa Briggs, vice chair and west region managing partner at Deloitte.

Is gender bias a reason to quit your job? by Lauren Stiller Rikleen, president of Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership.

The one way to guarantee failure at work by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.

Why starting my own business at 25 was a huge mistake by Carolyn Rodz, CEO of Market Mentor.

Build-A-Bear CEO: Why women need to take risks in business by Sharon Price John, CEO of Build-A-Bear Workshop.

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