Confidence at work

When I first started my job, I was terrified that I wasn’t going to do well. I had just moved to New York and landed a job at my dream company after a long, hard 10 months of job searching. This is my first “ big girl” job post-graduation and for some reason, I doubted myself from the start. It could have something to do with my lack of confidence to begin with, or how I let the job hunt get the better of me at times. Either way, I was nervous from the start and with each mistake I made while learning the ins and outs of my job, I grew even more nervous and even less confident in myself.

Confidence in the workplace is important. Being confident in yourself overall, in all facets of your life is truly important, but let’s focus on confidence at work for now. Looking back, my biggest mistake wasn’t making mistakes; it was not having confidence in my ability to learn in the first place. I so quickly assumed that I would fail, that I gingerly took each step, waiting for the day when they’d say, “Well thanks for trying your hardest, but…”

Here’s the thing, though – I wasn’t trying my hardest. I thought I was because I was trying so hard not to fail. But instead of worrying about failing, I should have been trying to succeed. There is nothing wrong with failing. Each mistake we make is an opportunity to grow and learn, and therefore take one step closer to success.

If you don’t believe yet that you can have confidence, or that confidence in yourself plays any part in the work that you do, think about this quote from an article entitled “The Confidence Gap” in the May 2014 issue of The Atlantic:

“Confidence is a belief in one’s ability to succeed, a belief that stimulates action. In turn, taking action boosts one’s belief in one’s ability to succeed.”

Success (and failure) are closely linked to confidence. Both succeeding, and failing to succeed (and then trying and retrying), foster confidence and growth in ability.

After weeks of wavering confidence in myself that resulted in shaky work, my manager pulled me aside and gently said, “Marina, look, I know you can do this. I believe in you. It’s time for you to show me that you believe in you too, and that you can do this.” A switch in my brain flipped as she said this and I realized, yes, I can do this. Of course I can do this. I am smart, and passionate, and capable. I was hired for a reason. I was hired because during my interview, I showed that I was capable at the job at hand, a good fit for the position and for the company, and I showed my true self. My true self, that is, who is confident and quirky and funny (most of the time) and who is passionate about learning and growing.  I may be making mistakes, and I will continue to make mistakes because I am human, but I will grow from them, and I will not make the same mistakes twice. I’ll make new ones.

 These are the things that have helped me gain more confidence at work, and I believe they’ll help you too.

1)    Don’t measure your own success against someone else’s. Everyone has her own strong points, and everyone has her own weak points.

2)    Focus on the positive: when you are feeling a low point, highlight the things you already succeed in, and remember that you are quite capable of rising to the challenge.

3)    Create goals for yourself that are manageable, and then strive to achieve them. Each attempt (and success) towards a new goal helps you create confidence in your own abilities.

4)    Remember that failure is not an end point. Thomas Edison did not stop trying when he was working on the light bulb, and look where that got him.

5)    Ask for feedback. A manager, or a trusted friend or coworker, can provide honest constructive feedback that will help you pinpoint the areas that you need to focus upon. Embrace the feedback, and don’t shy away from reaching out for it. Being proactive helps you succeed in your goals and boost your confidence because you are taking ownership of your success.

It’s hard, but building confidence is worth it. If you’re struggling, take a break. Listen to what you need, and allow yourself to process. Sometimes you might need to refocus on the big picture, or turn away and think about smaller details that may be holding you back. Then, take a deep breath and leap into having faith in yourself.