Posted: February 21, 2017

To grow, you must challenge yourself.

Dr. Mark Gagnon is the Harbaugh Entrepreneurship Scholar and Entrepreneurship Coordinator. (Photo by Cameron Hart)

Dr. Mark Gagnon is the Harbaugh Entrepreneurship Scholar and Entrepreneurship Coordinator. (Photo by Cameron Hart)

I often consider how to keep growing as a professional to stay motivated and energized.

One solution is to periodically take on a professional growth challenge. I live in the world of academia so I often tackle a growth challenge each semester.

But you can do this each quarter or six months -- whatever works.

So what's a growth challenge?

I see it as engaging in a new project or event that takes you out of your professional comfort zone. You already know what you can accomplish and what easily resides in your wheelhouse. Growth challenges should push your capabilities and experiences so that you operate near but outside of what's already familiar and part of your day-to-day.

One option is to tackle a new project.

Another is to scan your current work environment. Are their new initiatives that need additional people? Can you take on a side project that can bring value to your company or organization?

Engage your supervisor. Perhaps she or he would be responsive to your suggestion that you work on a new initiative, even if it means a few extra hours beyond your current workload.

Or--better yet--can you remove non-productive work time?

Another option is to increase your involvement with professional societies and associations. Perhaps there is a need for leadership or support in an area. Engaging on these fronts may be an avenue for growth. Even taking advantage of new training can help you grow.

Penn State students are always up for a challenge, right? This is, after all, the home of THON -- the world's largest student-run philanthropic organization -- which just raised more than $10 million to help children with cancer and their families.

Our students have amazing capabilities.

Consider going above and beyond on a class project. Think about conducting undergraduate research with a faculty member. Start by talking with professors in your major. Our job is to engage with you.

You can even be paid to help a faculty member with her or his research.

Or learn how to successfully pitch ideas, a life-skill that will help you in the future, no matter your major or career.

Join a business pitch competition or even a team that's in a competition. Team formation for the Ag Springboard student business pitch contest is underway. (Like Shark Tank, but for ag sciences students.)

Why not join us? Ag Springboard events and deadlines.

There is so much to do in life and here at Penn State. No shortage of options!

Stop by a student event, drop into a student club meeting, make the effort to go above and beyond with a class project or get involved with THON.

Go ahead, take on a new growth challenge. You'll get to look back on 2017 as a year of growth.

Let me know how things turn out.

Dr. Mark Gagnon is the Harbaugh Entrepreneurship Scholar and the Entrepreneurship Coordinator at the College of Agricultural Sciences.

about competing in Ag Springboard, entrepreneurship or the Entrepreneurship & Innovation Minor.