It’s a new year, and many people are inspired to make a fresh start or shake things up a little. It’s also a time when we look at our careers and think about the changes we’d like to make and the milestones we want to achieve. You might be hoping to switch jobs, go for that promotion or pay rise, or even do a complete career 180.
I see this every year, and I’ve also noticed the one thing that holds people back from turning these grand ideas into a reality and moving forward in their career. And that’s confidence.
A lack of confidence in ourselves, our abilities and our work can prevent us from building the career we deserve!
It can stop us from asking for a raise, applying for that promotion or pursuing new and exciting career opportunities. Why? Because we don’t believe we can do it.
But here’s the thing: It’s up to you to create the career you want. It’s up to you to change your situation if you’re not entirely happy. No one else is going to do it for you.
This means that confidence is an essential skill to develop if you want to take action and get ahead and career.
Though confidence is a character trait that comes more naturally to some people, I also believe it’s a skill that anyone can learn. Yes, really!
How I developed my confidence
Early on in my career, there was a part of me that was a little scared to go to work every day. I felt inadequate, underqualified, and like I didn’t belong.
I used to dress up in a pencil skirt, jacket and heels, and pile on the makeup in the hope that I would look older than my 21 years. I also secretly hoped that if I looked the part, it would distract people from realising I had no idea what I was doing!
And I really didn’t. I’d scored the job, but I was inexperienced and still figuring out how the corporate world worked. Now, 20+ years later, I know that was okay — after all, it was only my second proper job and my first one in recruitment. I’d never done that type of work before, so how could I possibly know everything?
At the time, I was recruiting for accountancy roles. By the way, this was back in the days when we didn’t have Google to rely on!
But luckily, my Dad was an accountant and I’d done two weeks of work experience at his office the previous summer. I knew what a purchase ledger was, but that was about the extent of my accountancy knowledge. Suffice it to say I had Dad on speed dial — the height of technology back then! — to give me the lowdown on new roles when they landed on my desk.
In hindsight, I had a “fake it or make it” attitude and didn’t even know it!
Though I was busy “faking it,” I still stepped out of the tube every morning with a heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was a ball of nerves, with an overly chatty voice in my head: “What the f*&k are you doing? It’s only a matter of time before they find out you haven’t the faintest clue about accounting!” I had to make an effort every day to walk tall, speak without my voice shaking, and pretend I was an expert in the field.
Then the thing I was dreading happened: I almost got caught out.
A VIP client asked what I knew about accountancy and why I was qualified to help him recruit for his business.
My initial thoughts were: Think fast or make a mad dash out of the office.
But I was so determined to be professional that I decided to stay and answer the question honestly. I told him I wasn’t a qualified accountant, so I didn’t know everything. How could I? I threw in that I’d grown up around accountants (my Dad and uncle). And I let him know about my work experience stint, not that it was hugely impressive to a CFO of a large, blue-chip business!
But I didn’t stop there.
What I did next
I went on to tell him what I was good at, and how my skills would lend themselves to this task.
I explained I was a people person who was intrigued by helping people to find their perfect career match. I told him I had an understanding of what people wanted from their jobs above just performing the day-to-day duties. I said I was an eager learner, and excited to learn more about his business so I could go off and find someone who was the right fit for not only the role, but this team and company.
As I spoke, I became more and more confident. It was the first time in my (short) career that I felt like I truly knew what I was talking about.
And it worked! It got him over the line and I managed to secure him as a client!
Looking back, I’m not sure what shifted during that conversation. But I did know I didn’t want to go into work feeling like I wasn’t good enough, like I couldn’t do my job, and like someone was going to “catch” me. I also knew that I’d never know everything about accountancy — and never wanted to! And that’s okay, because it wasn’t my job.
Somewhere along the way, I decided to focus on what I did know, what I did enjoy and what I was good at.
Honestly, it’s what got me the job in the first place. It wasn't my love for accountancy or my two’ weeks worth of experience at my dad’s firm. It was my people and communication skills, my passion for helping people in their careers and my curiosity about jobs and companies.
From that point on, I decided to make this exercise a part of my personal development. I wrote down my skills and strengths, and read through them every morning so I walked into work with a renewed energy and focus. This simple exercise boosted my confidence levels in a huge way.
I didn’t know about the power of affirmations; they weren’t really a thing at the time. I just wanted to feel better about myself, and this exercise helped with that.
How this exercise helped me propel my career
Although I had overcome a huge career confidence hurdle, it didn’t just go away. I certainly didn’t just ooze confidence from that point on! I had to work on it.
That feeling of “not being good enough” popped up again and again, often when I was looking to change roles, going for a promotion or asking for a pay rise.
Oh, I can still feel the shudder that would ripple through my body when I asked about a promotion or pay rise!
Over time, I realised that going back to my technique I’d used all those years ago really did help me.
It was all about clarifying what I was good at, what I enjoyed and what I wanted to do more of. Then, as I gained more experience, layering that with some tangible achievements. This was a great way to boost my confidence and “show and tell” people what I excelled at, too.
And I now really do know the power of affirmations, and they’re something I still use today. Some of my favourite affirmations are:
Take your career confidence to the next level
My career hasn’t been a smooth ride, but I’m grateful for all the bumps, twists and turns. Thanks to these obstacles, I have the first-hand experience that once sent me searching for the answers myself — and helped me to stumble on my career confidence exercise. Luckily, I can also ask Google for help when I need it!
If you’re at a turning point in your career and in need of a confidence kick, I’ve put together a Career Confidence & Clarity workbook for you.
Designed to complement my one-on-one DREAM Career Coaching Program , the workbook runs through the four steps to career confidence. It includes a bunch of handy exercises you can do at your own leisure, and you can download it here.
If you decide to sign up to the coaching program, you’ll also score the following:
And let’s get you the career you deserve!