By: Taylor Martz

Would you be surprised to find out your college professor was 22 years old, graduated college less than 4 months ago, and didn’t major in education? Thankfully, none of my students know these facts.

Contrary to popular belief, I’ve found the teacher isn’t the only person in the classroom doing the teaching … it’s also the students. I have learned so much about myself as an individual by forcing myself to stand in front of a classroom of strangers (all within only 4 years of my age!) without any prior training. My students have given me confidence, increased my sense of leadership and directed my purpose. These three skills are applicable in any career when you feel outside your comfort zone:

1. Confidence

Whether it’s teaching college freshman without prior training or starting an internship in an unfamiliar field, being confident in your abilities can go a long way. While I don’t recommend “faking it until you make it,” I do recommend asking for suggestions when you’re unsure and making suggestions when you are. If a student asks a question I don’t immediately have the answer to in class, I typically respond with, “That’s a good question! Let me think about this and get back to you.” This reply establishes credibility and asserts authority. The same can apply to the workplace. If you are asked to do something you’re not sure how to complete, it’s entirely possible to ask for a suggestion while still looking confident in your abilities to accomplish the task after further instruction.

2. Leadership

Educating others has exemplified the idea that leadership doesn’t stem from a title, power or role, but rather a strong end goal. Since I am not a full-time professor, I don’t have the title or authority of a faculty member; however, we are united in that we share the same goal of educating students to inspire their curiosity beyond the classroom. You may start out in the workforce with the title of “intern,” but it shouldn’t restrict your ability to unite with other employees in their goals for company advancement. If one of those goals is, per se, corporate wellness, then maybe leadership looks something like initiating a walking group that completes laps around the parking lot during lunch to get active. Leadership doesn’t always have to be grand, it just needs to inspire.

3. Purpose

It seems to be a millennial trend to be unsure of yourself and obsessed with goals and self-improvement. Similarly, millennials seem to be searching for employment opportunities with more clearly defined purpose and goals. Throughout college, I searched high and low to find my purpose post-grad, and it wasn’t until I stepped so far outside my comfort zone (and into a classroom!) that I revealed a deeper sense of my passion—helping others. For this reason alone, I encourage you to take a chance on a position, place or group of people who might stretch the boundaries of your comfort zone—you just might find your purpose!

While none of my students know my age, my education or my experience level, I can still be a strong, confident leader with a designated purpose. All it takes is one opportunity to get uncomfortable, try to lead and seek suggestions to truly learn about who you are as a person in the workplace.

Have you ever worked somewhere outside your comfort zone? How did you grow as a person? Do you feel you became a more confident, driven leader?