January 17, 2022 5 min read

There you are, living your best professional life when suddenly your career confidence hits a low. The wind is out of your sails so to speak. You’re left wondering whether or not you have what it takes to move your career forward. Although it can seem like an impossible situation, building your career confidence is like anything: a skill you can master. Let us take you through a few career confidence pitfalls and what you can do to recover.

Why You’re Running on Low Self-Confidence

Many professionals struggle with confidence in the workplace even those who are super qualified. (Facts!) Sometimes we are blind to our own value and skillset because we’ve fallen into the day in and day out of our routine. It’s like going for a run and hating every second of it without realizing how far you’ve gone. When you’re not checking in with yourself, your self-perception can get lost and with it, your confidence.

Upset professional male cupping his chin looking down in front of laptop and papers.

Your confidence may also have taken a hit after a workplace mistake or embarrassment about your work. (You were on mute that whole time?) These experiences can shake you up if you let them and make you turn inward rather than outward. Negative self-talk can creep in which doesn’t help anyone. Tony Singh, Head of Industry at Google, reminds us that a career is after all, a long journey. “A setback is a moment in time that you can move on from. The best thing to do when encountering a setback is to review what happened, what could you have done to prevent it and, most important, what you will learn and apply going forward. The key is to move forward and build learnings and resilience from a setback, not to have it weigh you down.

Of course, there’s also the trap of setting high expectations for yourself. Which is a great quality to have if they’re all real. If you never measure up to what you believe is possible, then of course your confidence plummets. You’re setting yourself up for failure time and time again.

Regardless of the reason, improving your self-confidence is possible. Remember that self-confidence looks differently to many people and it takes time to find what works best for you. Wanting to feel that rush of confidence will take some work on your part. The upside is that there’s nowhere to go but up

Improving Your Self-Confidence

So where exactly do you start and get right back at it? Here are a few ways for you to reconnect.

  • Plan to get ahead. Planning for something, whether it’s a presentation, a work event or a big project, clarifies your own expectations. Tony recommends “doing research, readings or having an agenda and ask yourself: What do you want out of this interaction? What do you want the person or group to take away?” Putting yourself in this state will give you direction on how to handle each situation. This gives you a sense of control that in turn cranks up the confidence. Slowly over time, your confidence will be fool proof enough for even the unexpected.
  • Own your weaknesses. Don’t just know your weaknesses like a grocery list, get up close and personal with them. Improving on them will not only help with your confidence but also showcase that you’re willing to learn as a professional. “When I first started at Google”, Tony reflects “I realized the number of presentations I'd have to deliver and so decided to enroll in Second City to help my presentation and communication skills. I did a full certification over my first year and learned valuable skills on communication and tips to build confidence.”
  • Push your strengths. The same rules apply to the other side of the coin. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean progress should stop there. By improving on your already amazing strengths, your level of expertise just boomed and with it, your confidence.
  • Be honest about what you know. No one expects you to know all the answers and admitting that goes a long way. Being transparent in a way that’s authentic to you and professional is a win-win, as long as it doesn’t become a habit. It can also lead to conversations on how to improve a skill or gain the knowledge you need to succeed.
  • Confident female professional signing "OK" in front of tablet while seated at desk with laptop and open book.Learn to communicate effectively.Getting tongue-tied happens, but to stand as a professional, you have to know how to deliver. Tony puts it this way “Every job is sales, but many lack confidence because their communication skills do not align with their ambition. Use techniques like signposting, pausing to gather your thoughts and practice the message you want to convey. If possible, record yourself and watch and learn what you do well and can improve. It’s uncomfortable but a skill that will serve you well.” The results? Everyone remembers you as a strong communicator.
  • Channel someone you admire. Odds are you know someone within your circle who has some incredible achievements also on your career wish list. Why not get into contact with them and ask for their take? If that’s not possible, just observe, take note and adapt to your style. Here’s what happened to Tony: “I remember being passed over for a promotion because the area I was in charge of was too small in scope. This hurt my confidence and made me rethink how I could create an impact. I realized that I was spending too much time executing and not enough time thinking longer-term - my manager at the time was key in helping me see this and building my confidence from that point on.”
  • Track your wins with grace. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Confidence takes time to build and so, to help you see progress, mark the accomplishments that made you proud. Big or small, they all count.

    How Career Confidence Is Different

    As you build your confidence at work, something else will naturally occur. That career confidence we mentioned? It’s different than self-confidence. The two go hand in hand though and here’s how. If you don’t have confidence in yourself and your abilities, you’ll have very little fuel to drive your career progression. But if you do have that workplace confidence, that definitive belief that yes, you can handle whatever is thrown at you and you’re fulfilled with what you’re doing, you’ll have a clearer idea of where you’re heading. That’s career confidence: passion and purpose coming together to give you your five-year plan. You got this!

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