I have been feeling unconfident about taking up new work since my last job (as a homeschooling parent) came to an end this year with my children’s graduation to tertiary study. Feeling unqualified and ill-equipped to “join the workforce” caught me by surprise! I had told myself throughout my 19 years of full-time parenting that I was building transferable skills, character strengths and knowledge. I still believe this, but my confidence plummeted nonetheless in the face of change.
Perhaps it isn’t surprising that I feel unsure of myself: doing something new and different requires stepping outside one’s comfort zone.
Exhortations to break out of our comfort zone abound, promising huge gains in learning and improvement. What much of this advice misses (and which I picked up from Arno Ilgner’s writing on fear management for climbers) is that learning takes place at the edge of the comfort zone, not in outer realms far beyond the borders of the comfort zone. Learning expands the comfort zone by building competence. Pushing ourselves too far can have the opposite effect, inflating fear, causing the comfort zone to contract.
The prospect of a starting a new occupation was intimidating enough to shrink my comfort zone. But, fortunately, I’ve had time this year to explore and prepare. I’ve scoured job listings and university and polytechnic websites. I’ve read textbooks. Completed my first MOOC (business writing). Attended a presentation (plain language). Talked to friends. Talked to strangers suggested by friends. Written a résumé.
Gradually I’ve become excited about the possibilities ahead, recognizing two pathways, both of which would involve stepping outside my comfort zone, but not by too much (at least at first). I could seek an entry-level administrative position in an organization doing work I’d like to learn to do - training on the job; or I could take up formal study.
Formal study appealed to me from the start. It was concern about the expense of study - doubt about whether it would be worth the cost - that drove me to examine other options. Doing so, however, has affirmed and strengthened my desire to study. There are a number of university papers that look fascinating to me. I think the rigour of university study and the feedback from experts will help me build competence and all-important confidence, readying me for further challenges.
I have applied to enrol in communication papers and an introduction to computer programming next year! Nervous doubts still intrude - I’m currently working through Codecademy’s Python course in preparation for the intro to computer programming paper I’ll be doing, and it is really hard (there have been tears). But most of the time I feel like I’m on an adventure - on my terms, travelling at my pace