AT SOME time in your life, you will find yourself working outside your comfort zone. It can be a daunting time, but if you handle it well, it is also a perfect opportunity to fast-track your career development.

The experience of being outside your comfort zone can occur for many reasons.

You may be asked to help with a project during a work crunch or you may be asked to assume a superior's duties during his absence. Or perhaps you are facing the challenges of leadership responsibilities that have come with a recent promotion.

Whatever the reason, there are some simple steps you can take to help you thrive while working under challenging conditions:

Break down your goals

The ideal way to achieve career goals is to break them down into smaller goals. This helps to maintain a momentum of achievement which makes the end result easier to reach.

Once these goals are safely realised, it is then time to set new ones. It can be easy to forget these principles of goal-setting when you find yourself "thrown in at the deep end".

For example, you may suddenly find yourself leading a team or being a key decision maker, where you have greater autonomy and responsibility than ever before.

Keep calm

The most important thing in a situation like this is to remember to keep calm. Take your time tackling difficult tasks or making difficult decisions.

Try not to take unnecessary risks or let yourself be rushed. It is a good idea to develop your own method for working through these challenges.

Your method may be something as simple as putting your thoughts down on paper in the form of pros and cons, or perhaps going for a walk outside the office to clear your mind.

Ask for guidance

When faced with a difficult decision, don't be afraid to ask for guidance from others.

Ideally, you should have a mentor whom you can go to in times of difficultly.

Find someone you trust and respect, and don't be afraid to ask for help - it is not a sign of weakness and should not be perceived as one. Asking for feedback on the way you handled things is often the best way to learn.

Expect setbacks

Understand that you will probably have disappointments and setbacks. You will be required to do things you have never done before, and this means you may not always get things right the first time.

Setbacks won't be much fun at the time, but once you have achieved your goals, you will look back and appreciate them for the invaluable learning experience they provided.

Achieving your goals will be much sweeter if they took considerable effort and resilience to get there.

Working outside your comfort zone is a time when great things are often achieved. Like anything in life, it is only when you are faced with adversity that you find out what you are truly made of.

Have courage. A little of it can go a long way in helping you achieve important milestones in your career.