How an Intimidating Work Assignment Can Be Just the Career Boost You Need

August 9, 2016, 11:00 PM UTC
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The MPW Insiders Network is an online community where the biggest names in business and beyond answer timely career and leadership questions. Today’s answer for: What’s the scariest work challenge you were faced with and how did you overcome it? is written by Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn.

Over two decades ago, I made the case to our agency management team to open offices in China. There had been no discussion about doing something like this, as China wasn’t a market on the business community’s mind back then like it is today. I didn’t get a very positive reception. In fact, I got strong pushback. I was junior in the agency and didn’t have a lot of wins under my belt. But having spent time in China—and years of studying Mandarin—I was passionate about our company having a presence in what I firmly believed was an exciting and promising market of the future. I was relentless, persistent, and eventually convincing. But I was told I’d be accountable for the success—or the failure of—our investment.

I put myself on the line, and it was scary. It was one of those moments you feel you’re at the edge of the cliff and will either pull yourself up, or come crashing down. A few lessons remained with me:

You are alone
In the truly scary moments, you’re by yourself. In many ways, this can be a good thing, as it forces you to reach for the inner strength that’s going to be key in order for you to be successful. It also makes you realize that you have to stand up and own the challenge.

See also: Here’s What Happened When This Executive Stopped Hiding Her Pregnancy

It will be bumpy
Any big goal, and any time you reach for something tough, the road to get there will be bumpy. As Netflix (NFLX) CEO Reed Hastings recently said following some not-so-stellar results, “Disrupting a big market can be bumpy, but the opportunity ahead is as big as ever…” Step over those stones that block your path—don’t let them distract you.

Passion is important
To realize a difficult objective, you need to be totally passionate and in sync with the motto, “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” But it will take emotional commitment and a 24/7 focus to keep pushing up the hill. And it will be essential that you embed this emotional power into your team—that you all stay aligned on where you are headed. Communicating your progress and understanding the power of the goal you’re trying to reach is key to everyone giving their best every day.


Today, our China offices are top-ranked in our industry. Our Chinese colleagues are an essential part of our global team and help drive our global vision.

There have been many points of my career journey when I felt on the edge. But I learned a lot from the early lessons of my scariest moments. They are, in many ways, moments to cherish. They push you beyond your comfort level and stretch your reach. In today’s world where change is a journey—without a beginning and end—that’s an essential skill to master to sustain continued success.

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