How To Be More Confident At Work

How to be more confident at work: 6 tips to help you get ahead.

We’re all plagued with occasional self-doubt, but how do we stop a deeper lack of confidence from derailing our dreams? Many of us have a fear of appearing OVER confident. With good reason: taught from an early age to downplay our accomplishments lest we appear too vain or arrogant, we carry that forced reticence with us into our grown-up careers.

Now, I find humility to be a particularly compelling quality in a person, but there’s a fine line between being humble about your accomplishments, and dismissing them entirely. No better time than the present to conquer your fears of putting yourself out there at work and asking for what you want deserve.

1. Just Apply for the job, Already.

A Hewlett Packard internal report revealed that women in the company only applied for promotions when they were certain they met 100% of the required qualifications. In contrast, men were likely to apply if they met just 60% of the criteria.

When asked for their reasons for not applying, women stated they didn’t want to waste anyone’s time when they weren’t qualified and / or didn’t want to be seen as over-reaching.

With the exception of requiring very specific certifications (you probably want a lawyer who’s actually passed the bar exam, for example), there’s no reason to expect that just because you’re lacking a Master’s degree, your very valid and very recent work experience in a relevant field isn’t good enough.

The question is not, ‘can I check off all of the posting’s qualifications?’, but ‘can I do the job?’. If you can honestly answer ‘yes’ to the latter, then beef up your resume and interview game, and frame the relevant skills and experience you do have in an irresistible light.

I love the following quote from Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, co-authors of The Confidence Gap (The Atlantic, 2014).

The natural result of low confidence is inaction. When women hesitate because we aren't sure, we hold ourselves back.

~ The Confidence Gap

Take a cue from the men and just apply, already. What have you got to lose?

2. Change the conversation.

Raise your hand if you use the word ‘Just’ excessively in the workplace. *raises hand*. Too many of us have a tendency to start our sentences with ‘I just…’ ‘, as in ‘I just want to ask you a question’, or ‘I was just wondering when you’ll be handing in your report’.

As an adverb, ‘just’ is a diminisher and can be switched out with ‘merely’ and ‘only’ – both of which offer the appearance of an apology, of sorts. Add ‘just’ to the front of your statement and you automatically detract from the weight of your request or accomplishment. ‘I just administered multi media communication campaigns and training programs.’ Or, ‘I just decreased operating expenses’.

Fight the urge to apologize for or down play your achievements. Practice speaking about your successes and accomplishments until you’re comfortable talking about yourself in a positive fashion. Own your triumphs without giving all of the credit away. Give credit where credit is due, but DON’T define your success in terms of chance or assistance from others.

Remove the adverb ‘just’ from your work conversations and allow the full statement of your asks and accomplishments to speak for themselves.

3. Let Others Speak On Your Behalf.

Listen to what others have to say. Ask a trusted friend or colleague what they think your best, hireable qualities are. I guarantee you’ll be surprised and pleased by their response. Reach out to co-workers and proactively gather testimonials about your work efforts and achievements. It’s amazing how much other people’s perception of us differs from our own self-view, and as such, they’ll have considered things you’ve never thought of.

Let your resume do some of the heavy lifting. Change up the language in your resume so that all of your achievements are laid out front and center. Pepper your experience with strong action words and list out your most revered accomplishments. Highlighting all of your exceptional qualities on paper beforehand acts as a confidence booster and a conversation starter before you even get started.

4. Act The Part

Take note of your posture and body language in meetings and interviews. Sit back in your chair and put your feet flat on the floor. Keep your head up, pull your shoulders back and do your best to maintain eye contact. If you don’t know what to do with your hands, fold them in your lap.

Make a conscious effort to slow down your speech and enunciate your words evenly, especially when you’re nervous. Speaking too fast leads to less oxygen getting to the brain and an uncomfortable, breathless feeling which is hard to recover from without conscious effort (cue every public speaking engagement I’ve ever had). Don’t be afraid of silence – trying to fill in the gaps in conversation can lead to rambling. Instead, finish your answer or statement and make a conscious effort to stop talking and listen for their next cue.

Feeling confident—or pretending that you feel confident-is necessary to reach for opportunities. It's a cliché, but opportunities are rarely offered; they're seized.

~ Sheryl Sandberg

5. Re-frame The Discussion.

Interviews are nerve-wracking things. We put on our best show in order to convince the person standing in the way of our every career aspiration that they should choose us over dozens of others.

Interview noun

1. a meeting of people face to face, especially for consultation.
synonyms: meeting, discussion, conference, examination; audience, talk, dialogue, exchange, conversation.

Think of your interview as an exchange—a conversation—instead of an interrogation. At the same time that you’re trying to impress upon them exactly why you are the only candidate worth considering, they should be trying to woo you as well.

Reframe the conversation to one where you’re doing the interviewing. Is this even a place you want to work? Make mental notes throughout the interview and ask questions that help shed light on the job requirements and employee culture. Not only does this help you make an informed decision when they inevitably offer you the job, but also distracts you from feeling too put on the spot.

They may want you, but do you want them?

6. Feel the fear and do it anyway.

What’s the worst that can happen?

  1. You apply and don’t get an interview.
  2. The interview happens but you aren’t moved forward.
  3. After making it all the way to the end of the hiring process they give the job to someone else.
  4. The interview is a complete failure and you embarrass yourself spectacularly.
  5. You get hit by a bus.

With the exception of your freak vehicular demise (and really, what are the odds?), the consequences aren’t so dire. Yes, you’ve wasted some time, effort, and possibly even endured some moments of intense mortification. But effort spent is a lesson learned, and your embarrassing misstep will make for an entertaining story, once enough time has passed.

The worst that can happen if you don’t even try? You settle. nothing. ever. changes.

Trying – even with the possibility of failure – doesn’t seem so bad in comparison.

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