Do you have a comfort zone? If you’re anything like me, you know what you’re good at. And you like to stick to what you’re good at because you know how to do it and there’s not going to be any risk of doing it badly, or worse, doing it wrong.
But if you want to develop any kind of career in the publishing industry, you have to at least step out of your comfort zone every once in a while to try new things.
Internships and unpaid opportunities are boons for your budding career, but if you take an internship where you already know what you’re doing every day, you’re not learning anything new. You’re hindering your own career development.
If there’s a project waiting for an extra hand, even though you’ve never done anything like it before, what is the worst thing that could happen if you stepped up and said you’d like to help out? You do it a bit wrong and someone points out how it was wrong and how to do it right.
But that’s the beautiful thing about breaking out of your comfort zone: you learn. In my internship, I went in knowing a fair bit about the submissions process. But I did want to learn more, so I took up some extra projects that I really didn’t know that much about so I could learn about these other jobs. You’re never going to be able to take on everything, and I certainly didn’t, but what I did take on really opened my eyes.
And the best but lesser-known part: these little opportunities are basically a free ticket to finding out what you don’t want to do.
Say you like copywriting and wanted to try a bit of proofreading. So you take on one or two projects and you realize you absolutely despise proofreading. But now you know how to proofread (an invaluable skill in the publishing world) and you can contribute more than you could have before.
There’s nothing wrong with having new skills: only good can come from that. But if you never step out of your comfort zone, you can never get those new skills.
Nicole Aronis is an aspiring novelist and semi-regular contributor to EducatedWriter.com. She runs a writing advice and community blog at writerlywonderings.tumblr.com and just emerged from her fifth NaNoWriMo foray.