Adventures of a 50-Year-Old Intern: The Comfort Zone


The second in a series of weekly installments. Check back each Wednesday for more.

 When was the last time you left your comfort zone? The first thing I did after applying for this internship was begin worrying that I would get it. The office is nearly an hour’s commute from my home and I began to dread the drive, particularly at rush hour. Then there was the new clothes I would have to buy if I went back to work. I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for so long, I did not have much that I could wear to an office. It’s easy to find obstacles to change once you’ve become comfortable, and keeping things the way they are is often the safest choice; there’s no chance of failure.

 The point is that starting or changing careers later in life can be an intimidating process. Many women that I know, myself included, who are perfectly intelligent, capable people, begin to suffer from a lack of confidence when we reach our mid-life stage. If you find this to be true of yourself, then it’s time to shake your confidence out and give it a little exercise—prove to yourself that you can take on new challenges and succeed. Here are a few suggestions to try:

  1. Exercise 1 – Fix it Yourself

    The next time something at your house stops working properly, call neither a repair person nor your husband—fix it yourself. A leaky faucet, a toilet that won’t stop running, a car headlight bulb that needs replacing—all these things are easily fixed with a trip to the right store and a quick YouTube tutorial. Challenge yourself to do the job and enjoy the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when it’s done. Personally, I’ve moved on to plastering walls.

  2. Exercise 2 – Learn Something New

    By this, I don’t mean take a class in something that you’ve always wanted to learn. I mean challenge yourself to learn something that has always eluded you. Don’t know how to change a spark plug in your car? Find an adult education class in basic auto mechanics. Tired of looking at the ugly tile in your bathroom? Attend workshops at your local home improvement store to learn how to replace it. Need to ask your kids to “fix” the computer when it stops co-operating with you (I always did, but they’re all leaving me soon)?  Try signing up, like I did, for an online class in Computer Science 101. Whatever it is that challenges you, learn to master it instead, or at least, to better understand it.

  3. Exercise 3 – Join a New Group

    You probably already belong to groups populated with more people just like you. Instead, consider joining a group that involves people who are different. Whether that means signing up for a book club with complete strangers, volunteering in another city or town, or something else entirely, meeting up with people who are different from ourselves can be both intimidating and invigorating. It’s also a great way to start networking as you start to define and refine your new career goals.

 Ultimately, I was offered the internship. I arranged agreeable commuting hours, bought some new clothes (boo-hoo for me, right?) and followed the same advice I keep giving my own kids as they graduate college and look for jobs: Don’t turn down an opportunity! As I was making my notes for this blog, I happened to be watching Dancing with the Stars, a show full of inspiration from people who are being pushed out of their own comfort zones. Actors, athletes, astronauts, and more learn to dance in front of a national audience. Purely by coincidence, or maybe by design, dancer Tristan Mac Manus looked staight at the camera and said, “If you get an opportunity to learn anything, no matter what it is, take it.” It seems Tristan and I are in full agreement.

Read part one of The Adventures of a 50-Year-Old Intern

Read part three: Adventures of a 50-Year-Old Intern: Managing the Internet

Read part four: Adventures of a 50-Year-Old Intern: The Workplace Generation Gap

Read part five:  Adventures of a 50-Year-Old Intern: Do I Need A LinkedIn Profile Photo?

Read part six: What You Should Know About Workplace Harassment: Adventures of a 50-Year-Old Intern