One serious challenge most people face when seeking new career opportunities is a lapse in self-confidence. As I learned from teaching Career Transition workshops, loss of confidence often accompanies career transition, and while I thought the strategies I provided sufficiently addressed it, without understanding the underlying challenge, it was just surface chatter.
The job search process is daunting in general, and when you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, it’s that much more intimidating to put yourself out there.
Developing confidence takes more than a positive outlook. Self-confidence stems from within, so when you’re feeling discouraged, positivity practices alone may fail to do the trick.
Then what will? Is it possible to learn self-confidence? The answer is yes, and it starts with learning to manage our fear of the unknown, the one we face every day, which has now grown large and looming as our identity has shifted. This time we’ve embarked on a truly uncharted path and the self-doubt can be intimidating. Our job now is to keep this state of unknowing from holding us back.
4 keys to building a foundation of self-confidence on your path to success:
Purpose: Start with the why. This advice might sound like old news but being emotionally invested in your work is critical to staying motivated throughout the tedium and turmoil that will surely cross your path during this process.
Recognizing why your goal matters will motivate you to do things like send that email request, reach out to someone you met at a networking event or, in the case of J.K. Rowling, submit your 12th proposal to one more publisher, risking yet another rejection.
When the process seems overwhelming, let your sense of purpose remind you of why you started this journey in the first place and then push you to keep on keeping on.
Aptitude: Recognize your skillset. Perhaps it’s the same work you’ve done well for the past 8 years and now you’re seeking to bring those same skills somewhere new. Or you may be ready to leverage your transferable skills into a new role, or even a whole new career. Then there’s that thing you’ve always been good it, like teaching or writing, which you’re now ready to turn into a new part-time job after years spent as a stay at home mom. Whatever the back story, pursuing the work you know you’re good at lets you trust in your ability to succeed.
Entering unchartered territory always tests our self-confidence. You’ll end up questioning whether you’re good enough, smart enough or in some other way lacking critical requirements to land your next role. Recognizing and writing down your skills, strengths and achievements, then keeping that list visible, will help to change that negative self-talk into reminders of all you are, have done and will do.
Check out my Bold Steps Vision exercise to help with this process.
Clarity: Creating a clear mental image of yourself achieving your goal is a proven success strategy which can boost self-confidence too.
Try this method suggested in Psychology Today:
Begin by establishing a highly specific goal. Imagine the future; you have already achieved your goal. Hold a mental ‘picture’ of it as if it were occurring to you right at that moment. Imagine the scene in as much detail as possible.
Engage as many of the five senses as you can in your visualization. Who are you with? Which emotions are you feeling right now? What are you wearing? Is there a smell in the air? What do you hear? What is your environment?
Sit with a straight spine when you do this. Practice at night or in the morning (just before/after sleep). Eliminate any doubts, if they come to you. Repeat this practice often. Combine with meditation or an affirmation (e.g. “I am courageous; I am strong”, or to borrow from Ali, “I am the greatest!”).
The more you do something, whether it’s introducing yourself at a networking event, asking for a referral, or being interviewed, the easier it will get. The first time will always be the hardest, but each go-round presents an opportunity to learn from your mistakes.
Personally, I’m a natural introvert with my own share of struggles with self-confidence, but I pushed myself to complete a Toastmasters certification program 2 year ago even though the weight of this challenge occasionally brought me to tears. I used my sense of purpose; the need to help others overcome their challenges, as a motive for overcoming my own fear to the point where I now enjoy speaking in front of an audience, and am more comfortable in group settings too.
I know firsthand it isn’t easy but venturing outside of your comfort zone is where the growth happens.
This new understanding now shapes the way I work with clients. Reaching your goals is much more than identifying priorities, strategy and execution, it includes building the self-confidence to carry you through the tough times.
This is a new mindset for most people, requiring planning and practice. Yet developing self-confidence is a critical factor in reaching your goals and, as a bonus, a key factor in overall happiness.