When you start your first job or (or even begin a university course), it’s very easy to feel uneasy or unsure about your abilities.
Everyone feels like this at some point in their life, and the good news is there are things you can do to boost your confidence. In this article, we explore how to be confident at work.
How to be more confident at work
Confidence and work
When we’re new to the world of work, we might feel like a fraud (it’s called “imposter syndrome”) or worry that we don’t belong, or even that we aren’t very good at our jobs. We’re in a new and unfamiliar situation, we have responsibility, and we’re being paid money to carry out a job.
Often, we look around the office and see people drifting through the working day, appearing to know exactly what they’re doing and to be completely at ease.
Well, we’ve got news for you: you’re not alone.
Feeling low in confidence at work is unpleasant in itself, but it can also stop you taking opportunities or achieving your goals. Often, your confidence will grow with experience, as you start to get to grips with your role, get to know your colleagues, and receive praise and positive feedback from your boss.
How to be confident at work
We’re all different, so for some of us, the question of how to be confident at work doesn’t just fade naturally over time.
One thing you should remember is that overconfidence is a problem too – it can encourage people to overestimate their ability, sometimes leading to dangerous risk-taking and disastrous mistakes. So a healthy scepticism and a desire to do our jobs better is a good thing.
But there are some simple steps you can take to boost your confidence if a lack of it is making work difficult for you.
How to boost your confidence
First of all, there are some things you should bear in mind to boost your confidence:
- You got the job for a reason: Job application processes are thorough and it’s very unlikely you will have got the gig unless you’re capable of doing it well.
- Not everyone is as confident as they look: Even the most confident-seeming person in the office might be dealing with their own insecurities. A show of confidence can also be a way for people to deal with low confidence.
- Be prepared for meetings and presentations: Being well-prepared helps calm the nerves when you know you have to speak or present, because it reassures you you know what you’re talking about.
- You might feel low in confidence, that doesn’t mean people can see it: Inside, you may be a bag of nerves, but other people don't have to know this. Knowing you appear outwardly relaxed can make you feel more confident inside.
Here are some tips:
1. Set yourself achievable, realistic goals
“Be confident at work” is a pretty vague and unrealistic goal. Set yourself SMART targets – that means specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timebound. For example, “today I will talk to one new person on my lunch break” or “in Thursday’s team meeting, I will share three challenges about the project I’ve been working on”. Next time, it will be that little bit easier, and you’ll know you’re capable of doing it, because you will have done it before.
2. Write down examples of when you have succeeded
The chances are you have succeeded many times in the past, but when you’re feeling low in confidence, it’s easy to gloss over your achievements. Writing down three examples of times you’ve succeeded in something you set out to do can help you recognise your strengths.
3. Spend time with people who make you feel good
Some people make you feel good about yourself and others don’t. You don’t always get to choose who you hang out with at work, but spending as much time with those colleagues you really gel with, who you can bounce ideas off, and who you get loads done with, can make you feel really good about yourself.
4. Become the expert
Being the house expert can give you confidence in your abilities. This could be an area of your work you find particularly interesting or which you’re already good at. Discuss with your line manager the possibility of developing this area by spending more time on it and even doing some further training to boost your skills.
5. Remember that it’s good to question your abilities
As we mentioned before, too much confidence can be a bad thing, leading to rash decisions. Having a healthy scepticism about your work is therefore no bad thing – don’t confuse being unsure or seeing areas for improvement as low confidence – these can be useful attributes.
6. Be as nice to yourself as you would be to others
None of us are at our best every single day. The difference is, when a friend has a bad day, we don’t tell them they’re rubbish at their job and that it’s all their fault (hopefully not, anyway). We offer them a sympathetic ear and try to reassure them that they did the best they could. Try to be more like this with yourself.
7. Accept your mistakes
On a related note, don’t expect all your work to be perfect all the time. While quality is always important, deadlines and timetables and all the mundane stuff that makes up real life means that sometimes you just have to do your best in the time you have available.
8. Confidence isn’t about being the loudest in the room
The loudest people in the office aren’t always the most confident. In fact, they may be compensating for their insecurity. And to be honest, they just get on everyone’s nerves. Confidence is more about being comfortable in your own skin – and this is a much better aim than to be the person who has an opinion on everything.
When to talk to someone
Sometimes, low confidence can be a real problem and make us feel down. If these techniques don’t help, we suggest you talk to someone you trust. This could be your boss, or a friend or family member. If things are really difficult, talk to your GP, as you may be suffering from anxiety and/or depression – and you can get help for this.
We also have an article on how to manage stress at work, but this is no substitute for talking to someone if you’re struggling to cope on your own.
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