"Stepping Out of My Comfort Zone into a New Time Zone"
Below is an article originally written by Kate Kalil, Account Executive II, EMEA, at PowerToFly Partner CarGurus, and published on April 4, 2019. Go to CarGurus' page on PowerToFly to see their open positions and learn more.
Can I let you in on a little secret? I've never traveled abroad. And, man, I hate Guinness.
I met Wendy Harris, our Vice President of European Sales, at the August Women in Sales Event hosted at CarGurus. Wendy gave an inspiring presentation in which she shared insights into her career path, what she looks for when hiring sales people and challenges that she faced personally and professionally. One of the topics she spoke about was an opportunity she had to step out of her comfort zone and join a growing team and learn something new. She described this opportunity as the path less traveled. In the midst of her presentation, I started to think about my own experiences.
My heart beat strong in my chest as I started to ask myself: When was the last time I stepped out of my comfort zone? Was I too comfortable? Was I truly challenged? Was I flexing any new sales muscles? Or just doing the same old song and dance that's worked for me?
The last time I felt out of my comfort zone was the day I walked into this office to start my new job, over 2 years ago. A sales job unlike my previous, in a traditionally male-dominated industry, I was wildly intimidated. I spent my first few months on the phone with a weak pitch and a shaky voice. I felt out of place and my quota attainment was nothing to be proud of.
In order to conquer the intimidation that I experienced, I came in early and stayed late in order to perfect my pitch. I shadowed our best reps, took notes on industry jargon and scoured the prospecting queues. Within a few months, I had found my groove and was performing like the salesperson that I knew I was. If I had never been out of my comfort zone, I'm not sure that I would have ever evolved in the ways that I did – I don't know if I would have achieved the same success without the setback.
When Wendy presented the opportunity to do an expat assignment in our Dublin office – everything inside of me told that I would never be able to do that. I had never been to Europe, had never lived more than 45 minutes away from my family and I was happy and content doing what I was doing here.
That's when it hit me. Again, I found myself content with being comfortable, even more so than when I first started at CarGurus. This opportunity in Dublin would push me so far out of my comfort zone, personally and professionally. I would come away from it with new knowledge, different sales tactics, a fresh perspective on a new addressable market, new friends, increased confidence in my skills and finally a passport stamp.
So, I applied. I poured over information on our UK market, compiled countless questions for my interviewers, spent time with former and existing expats and spent hours preparing for the interviews. Once I realized that I wanted this, I approached it with the same tenacity and perseverance that I approached my sales.
When the role was offered to me, it became extremely surreal. I have no idea what to expect; I'm both excited and scared at the same time. But what I do know is this – without being out of my comfort zone two years ago when I joined this company, I would have never been pushed to achieve the goals that I have achieved today – I would never have learned what I have, and I certainly would not appreciate the immense growth that has happened.
CarGurus has given me much more than a paycheck. They've taught me about myself – my abilities to learn, grow and evolve. They have given me an incredible opportunity to experience a new challenge in a new country, selling to a foreign market.
I will be greatly out of my comfort zone – but the most important thing I've learned thus far, from Wendy and from my own experience, is that with great risk comes great rewards.
It's been six years since Sarah Cooper graced us with her 10 Tricks to Appear Smart in Meetings. But how on earth can we appear smart in our new virtual world, in which for many of us, going to work is just sitting in one long series of probably-not-necessary Zoom meetings?
1. Dial in.<p>Dialing in rather than joining via the link instantly boosts your credibility. Who calls into Zoom meetings? People who are still busy and important enough to be leaving their houses! But you needn't actually be one of those people, or even more than a foot away from your computer to pull off this maneuver. (Remember, this article is called *seeming* smart, not being smart.)</p><p><strong></strong><em>Bonus: </em>If it's a large meeting at which attendance will be taken, the person running the meeting will inevitably ask, "Who's calling in from 443-322-2121?" That's when you raise your metaphorical hand, jump off mute, and say "[Your name] here. Really looking forward to hearing your perspective on [meeting topic]." And voila! You've stolen the meeting spotlight.</p>
2. Don't come on camera—ever.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0ODU5OS9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNjMwNjI3OX0.4fLyq2CvkZAJ7n_03esZepY37mOdyGdDdTEUYt5XEU0/img.png?width=980" id="bc7e6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="fbbf21cc5d8c863b30654ae6993b04f5" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><br></p><p>Much like the "dial in," this technique works because it makes you appear aloof. If <em>The Crown has </em>taught me anything, it's that the key to maintaining a sense of mystique and prestige is to keep people at arm's length—and if you absolutely <em>must</em> touch them, wear a glove.</p>
3. Only communicate via chat.<p>Once you've mastered the art of staying off camera, you can level up by communicating exclusively via the chat box. Don't come off mute at all, even if the speaker asks your opinion. You are the elusive chatter and you will not be forced into actually participating in said meeting.</p>
4. Ask to share your screen.<p>Being aloof is great, but it's all about balance. Sprinkling in some active participation will really shock and impress your colleagues if you catch them off guard, so save this technique for when you've strategically <em>not </em>participated in a string of meetings.</p><p>Spend a few minutes prior to the meeting prepping a few inspirational slides with words like "synergy," "optimization," and "redefining 'culture'", or spend a few minutes poking around in Google Analytics. </p><p>Then wait for the opportune moment to say, "Can I just share my screen for a moment? I have some really interesting data I'd like to share...." and BAM — brilliance established.</p>
5. Show off your Zoom-saviness.<p>Try saying, "You know you can mute people, right?" to the host when they beg whoever's got the lawn mower and crying baby in the background to put themselves on mute for the nth time.<br></p>
6. Create an alter ego.<p>This tactic requires commitment, but the pay off is certainly worth it. Join the Zoom meeting from your normal account + name, and then join it again on a second device from an alias. Have your alter-ego ask some probing or stat-based questions in the chat and have the answers ready ahead of time. It should work something like this:</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong>Your alter ego Charlene</strong><strong>:</strong> "Does anyone know what percentage conversion rates increased by in Q2?"</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;"><strong>Real you</strong>: *doesn't miss a beat* "It looks like Charlene has a question in the chat. That would be 36%."</p><div>Never mind that no one on your team knows who Charlene is or why she's at this meeting, they'll be too blown away by your brilliance to notice. (Bonus points if you use this strategy in conjunction with techniques 1, 2, 3 or 4!)</div>
7. Place an obscure object in your background that exudes intelligence.<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzQ0ODYxOC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYwNzk5Njg2Mn0.V9_-3Ij3v_QndseqlrXRt5Nn39EJ97-itjls5zzYPf8/img.png?width=980" id="a369d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="604a2f04b53c2e3bc801bfa5256f367b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p><br></p><p>We're talking a telescope, or perhaps a hardcover copy of <em>War & Peace </em>(no one need know that its only purpose in your life is as a makeshift yoga block).</p><p>If you don't have any suitable props at your disposal, do not despair: download some screenshots of Sheldon's apartment from <em>Big Bang Theory </em>or the chalkboard in <em>Good Will Hunting </em>and use those as a virtual background.</p>
8. Ask "Is this really the best course of action given the current climate?"<p>Economic collapse, COVID, racism… No need to specify whether you're referring to one or all of the above; just sit back and watch your boss squirm amidst the ambiguity.</p><p>This strategy pairs very well with techniques 2 and 3. You can prep additional vague-but-probing questions ahead of time and pepper them into the chat box throughout the meeting:</p><ul><li>How will this scale?</li><li>Do we really have the bandwidth for this right now?</li><li>What's the value-add here?</li></ul>
9. Remind everyone that you have a paid Zoom account.<p>"Oh, it looks like we're getting the 40-minute warning. I have a paid account, do you want to switch to my room?" It's helpful, with just a touch of condescension. Everyone knows condescending people are smart. And everyone knows that people with paid Zoom accounts are super important.</p>
10. Tell everyone you have a hard stop.<p>When pressed for details, share your philosophy on "work-from-home" balance and how committed you are to getting up once an hour to walk to your refrigerator.</p>
11. Ask the screensharer/host to "pull something up" for everyone.<p>Ask the presenter to navigate to a screen that only you know how to navigate well. Laugh maniacally while they suffer from crippling performance anxiety. Let them struggle for as long as is tolerable before saying, "Oh you know what? I can just share my screen if you want. That would probably be easier." BAM you're the hero. Don't worry, no one will even pause to consider that you could have proposed this course of action from the start.</p>
12. Say Zoom fatigue as many times as possible.<p>If you're too tired to employ any of the other strategies, just say "I know everyone is experiencing a lot of Zoom fatigue, so we can keep this meeting short." Then hang up as quickly as possible. Meeting averted! </p><p>After all, there's no better way to demonstrate your intelligence in a virtual meeting than to demonstrate why it wasn't really necessary in the first place. </p>
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