Your career may be a big part of your identity, so lacking confidence in that area can be incredibly demotivating. Confidence is one of the most important factors in professional success, but it can be tough to feel secure in your career and your qualifications.
Many people view confidence as a trait that you either have or don’t have. It’s not always an inherent characteristic, though. For most, confidence is something that is built rather than something that naturally exists. With some self-reflection and habit-building, anyone can increase their confidence.
Here are eight steps you can take to find confidence in your career:
1. Speak with a mentor.
More people struggle with a lack of confidence than you may think, and speaking with someone who has overcome this challenge can be enlightening. If you have a trusted mentor in your field, talk to them about what you’re going through. They’ll probably have some valuable words of wisdom about what you should and should not do to find confidence.
If you don’t have a professional mentor, reach out to a close friend or family member. Although they won’t be able to give advice that’s specific to your career, they can listen and support you.
2. Identify thinking errors.
Many people have a critical inner voice that provides a constant stream of negativity. The more you listen to it, the stronger it gets. Your negative inner self may tell you that you’re not good enough, you won’t be successful, or that someone else in your workplace deserves more opportunities than you.
Notice when these thoughts start to pop up. Try to recognize that inner voice as someone else who’s trying to harm you rather than your own true conscience. Distancing yourself from your critical inner monologue can help you dismiss it.
Also, notice whenever this voice tells you illogical things. For example, your inner critic may say, “You’ll never be promoted.” This is a thinking error, though, as no one can predict the future. Another common negative thought is, “Everyone thinks you’re incompetent.” However, you’re not a mind reader, so there’s no reason for you to believe that. When you point out the errors or inconsistencies in your critical inner voice, you’ll start to care about it less, and your self-confidence will grow.
3. Determine your goals.
The best way to build confidence is to see yourself grow, improve, and make accomplishments. It’s difficult to grow without goals to work toward.
To create strong goals, use the acronym “SMART.” This stands for specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. You should know exactly what you want to achieve, when you want to achieve it, and how it will benefit you personally or professionally.
Write your goals down on paper to make them official. Then, break down your main goals into smaller goals that you can accomplish within a shorter window of time. This will help you stay on track, and it will give you small victories to celebrate along the way.
4. Seek out opportunities for learning.
Boosting your knowledge and improving your skills are great ways to increase your confidence. Most people enter their professional field with plenty more to learn, and there are always opportunities to expand your knowledge.
Seek out books, journals, seminars, certificates, or other educational resources to learn more and feel more confident in your professional skills. Work on both your weaknesses and your strengths. Improving upon your weaknesses will help with any feelings of incompetence or inadequacy, and improving upon your strengths will make you feel even better about the unique skills you bring to the table.
5. Ask questions.
Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues or supervisors questions. If you’re unsure of how to complete a task, you’ll feel better if you get clarification than if you risk doing it wrong.
Your questions also don’t have to be limited to specific projects. If you notice that one of your peers has a particular skill or strength that you struggle with, ask them how they learned it. Ask your supervisors for feedback on your performance so that you can continually improve.
To build confidence, you must be sure of yourself and your skills. This is an active process, and asking questions is a valuable step to take toward growth.
6. Notice your progress.
It’s much easier to focus on your weaknesses than your strengths. To feel confident, though, you have to celebrate your accomplishments.
Whenever you achieve a milestone toward your goal, acknowledge the hard work it took to get there. If you easily complete a task that used to be a challenge, recognize the progress you’ve made. In the moments where your self-doubt is strongest, remind yourself of all of your professional successes and strengths.
Progress should be your priority in your career, not perfection. No one is perfect, so hoping for perfection while ignoring all of your progress will be detrimental to your mental health. If you’re making an effort to actively improve yourself as a professional, you’re exactly where you need to be.
7. Find fulfillment outside of work.
Your career can be both a source of self-esteem and self-doubt, but it shouldn’t be the only part of your identity. When work is your only source of fulfillment, even the smallest amount of self-doubt can feel terrible.
Try to have at least one hobby or interest that is completely unrelated to your professional life. This could be playing a sport, volunteering in your community, pursuing an artistic endeavor, or simply spending quality time with loved ones. When you find purpose and confidence in your life outside of work, it can become easier to feel more secure in your career.
You may have to force yourself to make time for your hobbies, but you should participate in them at least weekly. If possible, take some time every day to do something you love. Detaching from work is important for both your personal and professional life.
8. Fake it.
“Fake it till you make it” can be an effective strategy for building confidence. Pretending to be confident may lead to real confidence if you persist for long enough.
Think of the people in your life who exude confidence. Notice the way they act and speak, and try to mirror them in your professional interactions. It will feel very uncomfortable and unnatural at first because it’s as if you’re playing a character. Over time, though, your performance of confidence will become genuine.
You can even boost your confidence just by changing your body language. Some people find that standing up straight and pushing their shoulders back makes them feel more confident regardless of the situation.
A lack of confidence can take a toll on your mental health and stop you from pursuing opportunities to advance your career. Remember that many people struggle with self-doubt and that increasing your confidence is a process that takes time, thought, and energy. Your confidence won’t skyrocket overnight, but you can gradually become more self-assured by taking small steps every day.