What Is Self-Efficacy, and How Can it Help You Succeed at Work?

Mindset matters.

Courtesy of MJgraphics / Shutterstock
Courtesy of MJgraphics / Shutterstock

You’re familiar with the term “self-esteem” — but have you heard of “self-efficacy”?

According to Erica Carleton, Ph.D., an assistant professor of organizational behavior at Saskatchewan University, self-efficacy measures “one’s beliefs about their abilities or skills to accomplish something.” Noted psychologist Albert Bandura first coined the term in 1977. Often, self-efficacy can be directed at specific skills. For instance, your self-efficacy could be high in creativity, but low in delivering presentations. 

So why is it so important? Your ability to achieve goals relies upon whether you “believe you can achieve the goal,” Alicia Grandey, Ph.D., a professor of psychology at Penn State University, says to Thrive. If you doubt your ability — and have low self-efficacy — you’ll wind up approaching situations with a mindset that you’ll fail. Grandey points out that this can result in your giving up sooner than you otherwise would — or you might not even try at all. When you possess high self-efficacy, though, you’re more persistent, more flexible in your methods, and more likely to seek outside help when necessary. 

Essentially, cultivating self-efficacy can make you more successful. Here are four expert-backed tips to help you develop this essential trait:

Keep trying 

In order to increase your confidence in your ability to accomplish a specific skill, force yourself to dive in and just try it. Grandey says that once you’ve made this first step, you should seek out honest feedback and make the necessary changes — then try again. Repeated practice can help increase your self-efficacy. 

Watch and learn 

If hands-on learning feels too nerve-wracking, try shadowing someone else who’s working on the very task you’re trying to get better at. This strategy works well with people in similar stages of professional growth, Grandey tells Thrive. Watching another novice execute the task is best because seeing someone you relate to can help it feel less daunting and more doable. 

Ask for help 

Receiving pep talks from your peers is a great way to improve self-efficacy, Grandey tells Thrive. Verbal influence can have a significant effect on your psyche, so asking a friendly colleague to give you a quick pep-talk before a presentation you’re worried about is simple yet effective — it can also bolster a deeper interpersonal connection, too. 

Visualize your success 

It is nearly impossible to believe in ourselves when we are feeling low,” Carleton tells Thrive. Therefore, one of the most important things you can do to improve self-efficacy is maintaining a positive outlook and envision a great outcome. Try repeating daily affirmations, coming up with a mantra, or visualizing yourself completing the task successfully.

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