“What do you wish you had more of: time, money, or confidence?”
The majority of people respond with confidence as their top choice.
Confidence seems to elude so many people.
Why is this?
Why does confidence elude us?
K. Ann Renninger, a professor at Swarthmore College has reported that, before the age of 8, children will try anything.
It’s between the ages of 8 and 12 they start to compare themselves with their peers and then continue to do so throughout much of their adult life.
If they’re not as good as their peers at something, they become insecure.
And insecurity is the opposite of confidence.
I find Renninger’s report fascinating. You’d think the older we get the more confident we’d become.
I mean, the older we are, the more we know, and the more we’ve learned from our experiences.
But it’s so easy to fall into the comparison game. Especially in today’s culture when everyone posts their “best” on social media for all of us to see.
Rarely do you see an Instagram post of someone looking or feeling their worst.
Therefore we often end up comparing our worst to others’ best, which is like comparing apples to oranges.
Career comparisons destroy confidence
I’ve found in my career coaching that comparison is also likely to increase when a person is going through a career transition. This includes:
- When applying and interviewing for a new job against other candidates.
- When competing for a promotion against another co-worker.
- When starting a business that’s in competition with another business.
This is likely why so many of the people I talk to are craving more confidence.
This is especially so when they’ve tried to approach their career transition on their own and aren’t seeing anything come to fruition.
Either their resume is not getting them the interview, or their interview is not getting them the job offer.
Their lack of negotiation skills is keeping them from landing the big promotion.
Or, their inability to articulate their personal brand is preventing them from getting their business off the ground.
Instead of looking for help to improve in these areas which can build their confidence, they start looking around wondering what their competition has that they don’t have.
This is a waste of time and it breeds further insecurity.
More insecurity means less confidence.
Less confidence means less career opportunities because no one wants to hire, promote, or invest in someone who isn’t confident.
And so the cycle begins.
Jamie came to me feeling very defeated. On a scale of 1–10, her confidence level was at a 4, an all-time low for her.
That’s because she hadn’t been able to find a job in two and a half years.
I’m surprised her confidence wasn’t even lower.
Jamie was a in her late 20s/early 30s, a veteran who had proudly served her country, possessed an MBA, and had started her own animal rescue non-profit. Obviously she had mad skills!
But for some reason she wasn’t able to land a job offer, or sometimes even an interview, despite the fact she was applying to companies that claim they like to hire veterans.
Jamie’s comment to me was,
“Obviously I’m doing something wrong, but I haven’t been able to figure out what that is. Maybe you can show me.”
She knew there was something she was missing. She just didn’t know what that was. After two and a half years she recognized her need for someone to point out her blind spots and show her the way.
Jamie’s career “makeover”
When I began working with Jamie, it quickly became apparent that she just needed to make some small tweaks on her resume and learn some new interview skills she’d never previously learned.
There were some things she’d included on her resume that she thought were assets but instead were being viewed as liabilities by recruiters and hiring managers. I had her remove those from her resume immediately.
Just a couple days later Jamie got a call for an interview. Her first in several years.
I spent a few sessions preparing her for the interview, teaching her the interview skills she lacked and doing mock interviews with her while providing feedback on how to improve.
“I had no idea until now what I’ve been doing wrong all this time!”
“Given what you’ve learned in these sessions, where on the scale of 1–10 is your confidence level now?”
“At least an 8!”
A week later, Jamie got the job offer.
In fact, the gentleman who offered her the job commented,
“By the way, you gave a really good interview. I have a family member who has a job interview coming up. Do you think you could help her prepare for it?”
It doesn’t stop there.
After Jamie accepted the job offer, it was time to shift focus.
I told her with her remaining sessions we could start positioning her for promotion at her new company if that was her goal.
She said it was, but was told in her interview that new employees aren’t typically promoted until they’ve served a full 12 months.
I told her that doesn’t mean we can’t start planning now. We worked on the things she needed to do in her first 90 days and within her first six months on the job.
Nine months later, Jamie was already being considered for promotion.
How to increase your confidence
Jamie’s confidence started to grow after she admitted she didn’t know what she was doing wrong and sought help. It was this help that increased her confidence.
Undoubtedly, her new-found confidence carried over into her interview, resulting in a job offer and eventually a promotion!
So if you’re struggling with confidence in your own career, whether it’s due to unemployment, being passed over for promotion, or stagnation in your business, try the following:
1. Pretend like you’re 7 years old again and stop comparing yourself to others.
You can’t compare your journey to someone else’s because everyone is designed to have their own journey.
Comparison is unproductive, so stop wasting your time and energy.
If the only thing that helps you do this is avoiding social media, then do so.
2. Admit what you don’t know.
If you’re trying the same cookie-cutter approach to the job search or following the free career advice you Googled that’s as old as the Internet itself and you’re not seeing results, chances are there’s something else you should be doing that you’re totally unaware of.
Admit it to yourself when things aren’t working.
3. Seek help.
Especially if you haven’t interviewed or been through a career change in several years.
Some things have probably changed since you last had to look for a job or last asked for a promotion. Starting a business of your own also has unique challenges in this current market.
Seek experts who have experience in coaching others in career transition to reveal any blind spots you may have. They can help you make necessary changes and improvements to your approach.
4. Recognize your uniqueness.
Your experiences and accomplishments make you unique from others who possess the same skills as you.
It’s these unique experiences and how you articulate them in your job search, performance review, or client meetings that will help you market yourself.