How I built my confidence and saved $56,897 in one week.
Like many people, I had to take out loans to pay for college, and it piled on a lot of debt during my four years of undergrad. So when I decided to go to grad school, I knew I needed a job to help pay for school so I didn’t need to take out as much loan money.
But how was I, an introvert with nothing but an English degree and some graphic design experience, going to find a job I was qualified for that would come even close to lessening the burden of graduate school while still allowing me to pay my bills?
In this post, I’m going to show you exactly how to elevate your confidence and get big opportunities. The strategies and tactics you will learn are not limited to any one career (and definitely not just useful for paying for graduate school), but are proven to work for things like:
- Getting a raise
- Getting a promotion
- Making powerful connections and building lasting relationships
I needed a lot of confidence for what I was going to do. I knew I had to connect with people that were in high-level jobs and I had never met before to ask for positions that weren’t even available.
I started emailing CEOs, COOs, Presidents, Directors- you name it- to meet with me. I was reaching out to people that didn’t even know I existed, and eventually would be asking them to create a job for me.
Sounds crazy, right? Me. An introverted, sometimes-awkward-to-talk-to, English grad, was emailing these people asking for jobs that did not exist.
It’s proven that 85% of your success at work comes from your ‘soft skills’ and only a mere 15% of success comes from your technical skills.
The positions I reached out for were way out of my comfort zone and I was definitely not qualified for them. But my technical skills were such a minimal part of what I needed to succeed. I knew that if I could reach out to these people and build a great relationship with them that I would be successful.
But how on Earth was I going to do that?
I started to work on building my confidence. Confidence is one of the most influential and motivating aspects of your everyday behavior- when you have confidence, you’re motivated to do things that would otherwise scare the crap out of you.
So if I wanted to reach out, build these relationships, and get a job, I needed to be motivated and unafraid.
Now, like almost everything in life, this takes practice, and quite a bit of it- there’s no silver bullet that will automatically improve your confidence. But there are systematic, proven steps you can take to build confidence and keep it for the rest of your life.
Strategy #1: Shift Your Mindset to Be Optimistic
First, you have to shift your mindset. Instead of thinking how things can go wrong and messing up, you need to focus on what your life will be like once it goes right.
Focus on being optimistic and approach situations with the mindset “How can I make this work?” When you feel defeated or that the odds are not in your favor, focus on the positives of a situation and believe that you can make it work.
The key phrases I always think over in mind head are:
- How can I make this work?
- What will my life look like once I succeed?
- What is the absolute worst that can happen?
Strategy #2: Practice Being Mindful
This may sound odd or weird, and you may be thinking, “Yeah right, I’m not into that hippie stuff” but just hear me out.
Mindfulness does wonders to clear your mind and help you relax. By doing this, you’re able to push down your emotions of fear and see more clearly. This will help you to effectively think through the key phrases above in Strategy #1, and give you more confidence to pursue connecting with important people.
The key tactics I use to meditate:
- Sit upright in a chair or on the floor without being too tense
- Keep your eyes open and focus on your breathing
- Breath in and out slowly
- Close your eyes and focus on how your body feels, starting from the top of your head all the way down through your toes
Strategy #3: Prepare Yourself Effectively
If you want to reach out to important people, you need to communicate effectively so they actually read your email. This means doing the time to research the person, the company they work for, and what it is you want from them.
Find something you have in common to speak to in your email. This is a great way to stand out from the hundreds of emails important people get daily. Where are they from, what college did they attend, where have they worked, what interesting stuff have they wrote about, etc.
Try to find some common ground and a way to make an initial connection with them as a way to get them to actually read your email instead of clicking delete.
By preparing yourself and doing your research, you’ll start to feel more confident. In your subconscious, by researching this person you’ve already put a face to a name and you’ve started to humanize them.
Often, when we see titles like CEO, Vice President, Director, etc. we put that person on a pedestal and it makes us nervous to talk to them. We get nervous about saying the wrong thing or think we’ll look stupid- after all, this person is so accomplished and intelligent.
The tactics I use to do this are:
1. Google them (without being creepy- just learn about their professional life)
2. Write down interesting things- did they work at Google? Maybe they’ve started 5 companies. Whatever it is, write it down.
3. Connect something about them to something about you- but don’t make it up.
By preparing yourself, you’ve molded a better idea of this person and in your brain you’ve made them human rather than superhuman. After using these three strategies to improve your confidence, you’re ready to connect with important people.
Now, I’m going to show you exactly how I reached out to important people for a job that didn’t exist and saved myself $56,897 in one week.
After I knew who I wanted to reach out to and I built my confidence, I was ready to connect with them. I needed to be strategic in my email and plan out how to approach them.
Here are the methods I used to connect with people:
1. Research them and the company they work for.
After doing research on one of the people I wanted to reach out to, I found out that someone I knew had worked for this person a few years prior. I asked the person I knew if it would be fine that I mentioned her. She agreed, and mentioning her name immediately built rapport and a connection with the person I reached out. We knew a mutual person, and that mutual person had left positive impression on the person I reached out to, and so I was immediately associated with these positive impressions.
2. Ask to sit down for 30 minutes to talk about them
I asked if I could come to her office to meet her to learn more about her past experience and the company. This immediately gives them the impression that you are truly interested in them and the company and you aren’t trying to get something from them.
3. Prepare questions and things to talk about
This is critical. If I went in without anything to say, it would have negatively impacted me to meet her. She was doing me a favor by meeting with me and it would have looked bad if I met with her expecting her to steer the conversation. I asked questions like:
- How long had she been in her current role
- Where/what was she doing before that
- What she liked most about her position and the company
And so on. This part might feel daunting, but at this point you’re incredibly prepared and you know enough about them to be able to keep the conversation going without it getting awkward. This is one of the most critical pieces of building your confidence to remember when you meet with someone.
4. Ask how to gain experience
Asking this shows how interested you are in that field and in their company. However, it’s important that you don’t flat-out ask for a job, but instead ask how to “gain experience.”
Since I had already built trust and a connection with this person, she liked me and wanted to help me out when I asked this question. She wanted me to work for her- and I didn’t even ask her for a job. She offered me a position right there, in her office, within 30 minutes of meeting her. I was blown away. The position she offered me also paid for my graduate school tuition, which was $48,000.
Just like that, I didn’t have to worry about taking out more loans to pay for graduate school, which with the interest over 10 years would have cost me close to $60,000.
All because I took the time to build my confidence so I could approach important people. This was a huge win for me, not only financially, but for my confidence, too.
Now, even though this happened in grad school, it saved me years and years of paying crazy student debt in the future. And I learned two very real, applicable skills doing this that I have since mastered and use on a regular basis and teach my clients to use.
This experience showed me the power and importance of being confident and connecting with people. With this experience, I’m able to carry that confident mentality into more and more situations in my life and ask myself, “How will my life improve once I do this?”
Now it’s your turn! Share in the comments below the biggest win in your life as a result of building your confidence. How did you go about building your confidence?
Dominic is a soft skills and leadership coach for early careerists, entrepreneurs, and small business owners. Get his free 3 email-training guide: “How to Elevate Your Confidence (And Stop Feeling Awkward and Uncomfortable When Talking to People)” — free for Thrive Global readers.
Originally published at medium.com