This week, I sat in a panel discussion with 5 recent college graduates, all working at the same company as myself. The topic was career development, and each of them shared their perspectives on the subject, along with the experiences they’d had on their respective paths. Though all of the advice we received was valuable in its own right, one quote in particular stood out:

“Always take the offer that scares you more.”

Part of why this idea struck me is that it’s starkly different from every other piece of advice you normally receive as an impending/recent college graduate. In my experience, most people advise you to figure out a plan, and then to make it happen. This challenge-based mentality suggests a sacrifice of not knowing where you’ll end up, but going along for the ride and learning everything you can along the way.

There are many different rationales for this manner of thinking, but the one the speaker chose was this: if you take a job you aren’t afraid of, you’ll probably do well, but you won’t be challenged or learn very much as a result. If you’re offered a position you feel you aren’t prepared for at all, you’ll likely be surrounded by people much smarter than you, and you will learn and grow immensely throughout the duration of your employment. Every day will bring about new challenges, and by the time you’ve gotten truly comfortable with what you’re doing, you can move on to your next adventure and start the process anew.

Where to go from here? CHAINSAWS ON FIRE.
Disclaimer: Some types of fear are probably healthier than others.

Personally, I believe that this attitude could be applied to any aspect of your life, even outside of any sort of career. Every day, you have the opportunity to grow into a more complete and objectively better person than you were the day before, and you do that by stepping outside your comfort zone. If you don’t push yourself, you don’t evolve, and you fall into a form of personal stagnancy – and once you fall into that state, you lose the game.

This being said, this is the sort of mentality that should be taken with a grain of salt. Just because something scares you doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s an opportunity to grow: there are plenty of frightening opportunities out there, but it’s the wrong type of fear. The fear you should embrace is that which you can utilize once you overcome – an obstacle that better equips you to chase your passions and follow your dreams. Taking a position simply because it doesn’t seem to fit you is generally ill-advised, and could result in more confusion than it’s worth.

You know, he probably SAW it coming at some point...
This is not professional development. This is early retirement, at best.

Next time you’re faced with a choice between two paths, think first about what you want to drive towards, and then think about which of the choices you’re most scared of. Chances are, the offer that scares you most will be the one with the highest reward, and you’ll never find yourself wishing you had taken the easier road.

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