There are loads of great resources available to give you the 411 on topics like interviewing, networking and salary negotiation; but, for some reason, professional confidence isn’t talked about much – which is kind of funny, actually, because people with a healthy level of professional confidence are more likely to engage in new challenges, go for a new job or promotion and, ultimately, do what it takes to reach their career goals.
As luck would have it, our public practice team recently had the chance to partner with CPABC to host a workshop on professional confidence! The feedback we got after the presentation (from the 100+ attendees) was incredible – so incredible, in fact, that we decided it was high time we blogged about this important (and too often ignored!) topic.
WHAT IT IS
Thanks to the miracle of Google, you can do a quick search and find out that professional confidence is defined as:
“The self-assurance felt by individuals regarding their ability to handle the stress, competitiveness, vocabulary, workload and complexities associated with their role, and to do so with passion and purpose.”
So basically, it’s knowing your skills and strengths, and understanding the value you bring to a situation or an organization.
WHAT IT’S NOT
Confidence ≠ arrogance
- Basically, arrogance is way-over-the-top confidence. Arrogant people may put others down and come across as entitled, disrespectful, egotistical and even “obnoxious”. Simply put, arrogance is an exaggerated sense of self-worth (believing that you’re smarter, better and more important than those around you).
Confidence ≠ competence
- Competence and confidence are very closely linked, and, in many cases, as you become more competent, you’ll also become more confident!), but they certainly aren’t the same. Competence is the skills, experience and ability that you possess – the things that allow you to accomplish a task successfully. Confidence, on the other hand, is knowing your own skills, experience and ability, and believing that you’ll be able to use those to accomplish a task successfully.
WHO STRUGGLES WITH IT
Who struggles with lack of professional confidence? Well, let’s see here…
Brand new grads, co-op students and interns, active job seekers, passive job seekers, someone in a very high-pressure position, CEOs, CTOs, COOs, CFOs, somebody who’s made a (major or minor) career misstep, someone who’s just received a big promotion, somebody entering a new field, – *deep breath* – someone starting a role at a new company, somebody whose employer has undergone a change in management or organizational structure, you, me, them, that guy over there, and pretty much everybody in between.
Despite appearances, nothing (and nobody) is perfect. We all have our own challenges – yup, even those people who seem like they’ve got it all together. For the most part, everyone you meet has certain things that they feel insecure about, skills they wish they were just a bit better at, nerve-wracking presentations and projects and so on and so forth.
To sum up, it’s okay. Whether your professional confidence is low, lost, or even non-existent, you can rest assured that you’re absolutely not alone.
WHY YOU WANT IT
By giving your professional confidence a little boost, you’ll be more likely to say yes to new opportunities, new projects and new workplace challenges. Plus, studies show that people with a healthy level of career confidence are happier at work and more positive about their role within their organization – and this applies to people working at the office or on site, as well as those working from home.
Happier and more successful? You better believe it. Confidence tends to come with a myriad of awesome side effects, which may include:
+ increased ambition and enthusiasm
+ increased motivation and productivity
+ improved communication skills
+ decreased self-doubt and imposter syndrome
+ willingness to take on new challenges and get out of your comfort zone
+ interest in pursuing learning and development opportunities or leadership training
+ able to ask for what you want (for example, when negotiating for a promotion or pay raise, or volunteering to take the lead on a new project)
+ able to set reasonable boundaries with both management and colleagues
+ increased total earning potential
HOW YOU CAN GET IT
Wouldn’t it be great if you could give your professional confidence a little boost with just a *snap* of your fingers? Unfortunately, that’s not quite how it works.
Building up your professional confidence doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time and continued effort on your part as you work to increase your belief in yourself, your skills and your career potential.
+ Get out of your comfort zone
It’s pretty easy for us to sit here and tell you to go on and get out of your comfort zone – but it’s a lot tougher to actually, you know, do it.
In a recent LinkedIn poll, we asked our 25k+ followers for the very best advice they have for someone who wants to build their professional confidence. The majority of respondents, a massive 41%, advised readers to go out there and embrace new challenges.
With that in mind…
+ Don’t expect perfection right out of the gates
Mistakes are a part of life and, inevitably, they’re going to happen at some point – to you, to me, to pretty much everybody else, too. You aren’t doing anyone any favours by expecting to be perfect at everything, all the time. First of all, that’s a ton of pressure to put on yourself! And second, if we can let you in on a little secret here, failing at something is actually not the end of the world.
Not only does failure give us an opportunity to learn and improve, we like to think of it as a steppingstone to success. It’s tough at the time, but, as some wise old scholar probably said, “From the biggest failures come the greatest successes.” Or maybe we just made that up. Either way: try it, learn from it and let it go.
+ Focus on the good
For all the time we dedicate to agonizing over our failures, we spend a mere fraction of that time celebrating our wins. You know, the things that didn’t go wrong? That great presentation you gave, the awesome feedback you got on your latest assignment, how much your Excel skills have improved since you learned what a Pivot Table is…
It can be helpful to make a list of the things you’ve accomplished in your career that you’re particularly proud of. If you’re feeling extra ambitious, you may want to add some of these career highlights to your LinkedIn profile.
+ Learn from people you admire
If you want to be a great actor, you learn from great actors. If you want to be a chef, you work alongside Gordon Ramsay (or someone with equal talent and less attitude). The same thing goes for you!
Take a moment and think about someone in your organization who you admire. Are they particularly charismatic? Well-respected? Empathetic? Knowledgeable? A great problem-solver? Whatever it is that makes them great at what they do, you can learn from watching them in action.
Okay, we’ll admit that that does sound a little weird, but trust us – by making a point of actively noticing the behaviour of a colleague or executive you look up to, you can gain some serious insight. For example:
- How do they manage unexpected challenges?
- How do they communicate their ideas?
- How do they respond to the ideas of others?
- How do they contribute in group meetings?
+ Take it a step further and find a mentor
You’ve watched, listened and learned, right? Great, now it’s time to find a mentor.
A mentor is someone who you can go to for advice; somebody who can answer your questions, provide constructive feedback and help you grow and develop in your professional career.
+ Seek out growth and development opportunities
Chances are, your organization probably offers some form of professional development training – and if so, go on and take advantage of that opportunity! No matter what your current level of experience is, there’s always room to learn and improve; to fill in any gaps in your experience or knowledge, or even focus on developing a specific aspect of your skillset.
And, if your company doesn’t have any formal development training in place, it’s perfectly okay to ask your manager about other possible development opportunities that might be available to you, such as: enrolling in a course, upgrading a skill, attending a workshop or seminar, or getting involved in professional networking events relevant to your industry.
+ Practice, practice, practice
You didn’t hit a home run the first time you stepped up to the plate, did you? If so, wow, consider us totally and completely awed. For most people, though, learning how to do something we’ve never done before takes time, dedication and plenty of practice.
Try out your skills in a comfortable and safe setting: in front of your mentor, in front of your roommate, in front of your grandma – whatever.
Practice doesn’t just make perfect, it gives you the chance to gather valuable feedback on what works (and what doesn’t), allowing you to make adjustments that’ll help you feel more confident in the long run.
Curious to learn more about building your career confidence? Check out our latest episode of #ImpactInsights: the Video Series on IGTV or our YouTube channel.