At some point, we’ve all felt like we were on shaky ground at work. Whether you’re starting your first job out of college, moving companies after many years, or recovering from an embarrassing mistake, lacking confidence about where you stand (and how you’re doing) can really affect the quality of your work and — more importantly — your happiness. Well, let’s make 2017 the year in which we all focus on finding and building our career confidence.
Are you confident?
You may not even realize you lack career confidence, but it could be plaguing your career all the same. Do you second guess yourself before taking action? Do you unnecessarily seek approval from your manager on decisions you should be making alone? Do you struggle to assert your authority? Do you feel nervous when you run into your boss in the break room? If any of these sound like you (and be honest with yourself!), then chances are you lack career confidence in at least some areas of your work life.
Assess the why.
Think back throughout your career and your education — have you always been insecure about your work or uncomfortable speaking up in meetings, or was there a time when you didn’t hesitate? When did you start to feel unsure of your ideas or abilities? Maybe an untrusting manager in your past made you doubt yourself. Perhaps you know you didn’t perform as well as you could have at a past job, and the memory (and guilt) still haunts you. It may sound absurd, but one botched presentation could be the root of all your anxiety — “princess and the pea” style. Take a moment to actually reflect on the highs and lows of your career and actually take note of when you felt your most and least confident. It can be difficult to remember the bad times, but finding explanations for your confidence problems will be a huge asset in helping you fix them.
After a mistake.
You screwed up. There’s no denying it, and if you are denying it, just stop because denial won’t help you. But guess what? The cliche exists for a reason — everyone really does make mistakes, especially at work where there are 40 hours a week during which you can potentially misstep. But by adopting a glass-half-full mentality, you can shift those mistakes into learning experiences. Instead of throwing a pity party for yourself, get critical. Mistakes happen, but not learning from them is the biggest mistake you could possibly make. Once you’ve thought about how your mistake happened and what you can do to insure it doesn’t happen again (and apologized!), let it go. Don’t let one stupid moment make you doubt every move you make at work. That will only slow you down — and frustrate those you work with.
In a new job.
Before leaving a job for a new one (even if you hate the one you’re exiting), it’s natural to mourn the confidence you had in your old position and company. There’s something very secure about a job you have been at for a while. You’ve mastered your role, you know everyone you work with well, you know who has the best candy bowls on their desk. Taking a new job is scary, but you should still start it with confidence, not fear. Out of all the candidates they interviewed, they believed you would do the best job and be the best fit for the team. That means everyone is excited for you to start, to hear your ideas, and to get to know you! So even when those first few weeks mean asking what seems like a million awkward questions from where the coffee filters are to asking colleagues to check your work, remember to keep your head up. Just like your last job, this too shall pass. Pretty soon you’ll be running the place.
After a promotion.
You’re on top of the world, right? That is until you walk in the next day and realize suddenly people expect a lot more out of you. Maybe you are having meetings with executives now or are facing the complexities of being a first-time manager. You know you worked hard and deserve this promotion, but with all eyes on you (at least that’s what it feels like), you’re desperate to live up to the expectations and amazing pay bump that comes with the new title. Whenever your confidence starts to dip, remember why you were recognized. If you had to argue for your promotion, think back to the reasons you gave your boss for why you deserved to move up. In no time, you’ll remember exactly why you deserve your new role and go back to focusing on kicking butt in it.
When trying something new.
Let’s say you’ve switched to a different department at work or are taking a leap to a totally different industry. That means this isn’t just a new job, it’s totally new territory. Admittedly, that can be pretty scary, but there are tools to make you less afraid. If you are about to make a switch to a totally new role, try taking some online classes before you start so you can at the very least talk the talk. Pick up a book or read a few trade blogs about your industry. That way it won’t sound like your coworkers are speaking a foreign language. Maybe you’ll even learn something new that you can bring to the table, wowing them with how up to date you are with industry trends.
Fake it ’till you make it.
Cliched we know, but so true. You’re never going to be one hundred percent sure of yourself all the way through your career, but during the downswings, there’s no reason anyone else needs to know how you’re feeling. Do your best to not let anyone see you sweat. If you don’t believe in yourself, why should anyone else? For a really quick fix before an important meeting or presentation, try striking a superhero pose in your office, or even in a bathroom stall. According to Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist at Harvard Business School, when you need a confidence boost you should spend two minutes power posing (i.e. chest lifted, head held high, and arms either up or propped on the hips). If you’re still feeling down, phone a friend for a happy hour pep talk.
What do you do at work when you need a confidence boost?