8 Ways to Cultivate Confidence at Any Stage of Your Career

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Confidence is one of the most oft referenced qualities of successful leaders and high performers. Yet, it’s also one of the most elusive to define. What is confidence and how does one get it? Are you born with it? Or can you develop confidence with enough time and effort? And why the heck is confidence so important in the workplace in the first place?

It’s a confidence conundrum! But we’re here to provide some clarity around this whole confidence conversation.

What is Confidence?

Psychology Today defines confidence as, “a belief in oneself, the conviction that one has the ability to meet life’s challenges and to succeed—and the willingness to act accordingly. Being confident requires a realistic sense of one’s capabilities and feeling secure in that knowledge.”

A lack of self-confidence often comes from the fact that people put too much emphasis on what others think about them or needing outside validation for confidence to grow. But true confidence comes from within. You are in control of building your confidence and you don’t need any special tools, degrees, or outside help to get there.

Confidence doesn’t mean you have all the answers or know everything. Confidence is being secure in knowing that you can find a solution to any challenge that comes your way. That’s actually a pretty freeing thought. Instead of worrying about all the unknowns, what you don’t know, or the fact that you haven’t done something before, focus on your personal growth (resilience, growth-mindset, self-leadership, etc.). Master that one thing, and you can master anything.

Are You Born with Confidence or Can It Be Developed?

Thankfully, you can develop confidence! Of course, there are some individuals who are more inclined to be confident, whether through nature or nurture. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope for the rest of us! Confidence is not an innate, fixed characteristic, which means it can be developed and improved over time. Read on to find out how!

Why is Confidence So Important?

Executive presence is an important part of leadership and career growth, and confidence is a key ingredient to that. Executive presence, in short, is your ability to inspire confidence in your leader, your colleagues, and your direct reports. For Force Multipliers, by inspiring confidence in your leader you will be invited into the inner circle, be given more responsibility, and get asked to take on higher-profile projects. Right or wrong, it is difficult for a CEO or Executive to give more responsibility to their EA or Chief of Staff if that individual is hesitant to take on challenges or lacks belief in their own abilities. I know many EAs may hesitate to take on new projects until they’re assigned tasks, but don’t wait! In fact, Executives are looking to you to step up and take things off their plates. If you aren’t confident in your own abilities, why would an Executive want to hand off important projects to you?

Confidence is equally important for leaders. Again, it doesn’t mean they know everything and make flawless decisions, but it does mean that they know they’re able to find a solution to whatever issue comes across their desk. If leaders want to inspire their team and have others buy into their mission and vision, then confidence is a must.

Should You Fake It Until You Make It?

“Fake it ’till you make it” is standard piece of advice given to most leaders and professionals, but I’d like to suggest you ignore it. I understand that this advice intends to encourage you to exude confidence and competency, but I would argue, instead of just exuding it, how about you actually have it?  

Faking confidence can lead to failure fast. We all know those people who act as if they know more than they do (which leads to mistrust), whose confidence looks a bit more like arrogance (which leads to a poor reputation), and who can’t admit that they made a mistake or don’t know the answer (which leads to more mistrust). 

From personal experience and after many years in the industry, I would rather you tell me or my Executive that you don’t know and will get back to us with the correct answer within 24 hours than reply with a “fake” a response and ultimately leave everyone frustrated and disappointed. Honesty, coupled with a solution, is going to get you a lot further in business and in your career. It will also help you build trust and better relationships with clients and colleagues along the way. Curiosity and transparency are two great qualities of a leader. It’s hard to have both if you’re “faking it.”

How Do you Cultivate Confidence?

Cultivating confidence is a practice. You don’t develop confidence by reading about it in a book or hearing about it on a podcast. You build confidence through action and experience. A bit more daunting and risky, for sure, but that’s how you develop true confidence. Here are eight ways to cultivate more confidence at any stage of your career.

1. Immerse yourself in your company and industry

Yes, I know I said you can’t know everything. But you can know a lot, particularly when you are focusing your training and education on a specific subject (your industry, your role, and company operations). Attend company trainings, and supplement that with your own research and education. There are endless amounts of free resources — articles, webinars, summits — that will teach you even more about business and leadership. Create a habit from Day 1 where you are committed to learning and growing your knowledge, and you’ll be a confident industry expert in no time. 

2. Prepare and practice

It’s one thing to have the knowledge, but a whole other thing to put it into action. A huge part of developing confidence is preparation. This could be listening to leadership podcasts before the next company meeting. It may mean practicing a presentation before you propose two new hires in the C-suite. Or running through a compensation conversation with a mentor before meeting with your CEO. Doing your research, knowing the facts, and practicing what you are going to say and do will help you feel prepared. And being prepared helps boost your confidence.

3. Create an ideal daily schedule

Consistency is vital in creating confidence. Why? Because it gives you a structure and foundation of success habits that prime you for the day ahead and gives you one less thing to worry about when you are trying to learn all the ins and outs of your career or organization. If every day, you are trying to figure out when and where you are going, what you’re going to do, when you’re meeting with your leadership team, when you’re working on projects, when you’re going to the gym, etc., it gives you less time to be thinking about the things that will help you build your business and career.

At the very least, work on your morning routine. I recommend some combination of journaling, meditation, exercise or breathing. Clearing your head and getting centered consistently will give you a leg up on your competition and give you the confidence you need to tackle whatever the day brings. 

4. Prime your mind and body

Speaking of priming your mind and body – your morning routine is a fantastic first step that will keep you grounded. However, there are other “on call” actions you can take to boost your confidence in any situation.

Wear clothes that are comfortable and make you feel good. If you’re anything like me, I always buy a new outfit (or 17) before a speaking engagement or work event. And then, ultimately, I end up wearing something I already have – something I know I’m comfortable in and looks good. When you’re about to do something new or go into a more challenging situation, what you wear matters – to you (not anyone else). Be comfortable. It’s one less thing to worry about when you’re already worried!

In addition, here are a few other tips and tricks: Move your body or exercise daily. Feeling strong and capable in your own body, leads to feeling strong and capable in other areas of your life. Stand tall, or if you’re on Zoom, straighten your posture. Look others in the eyes. Smile. Being open and receptive to others (purely based on your physical presence) is a great place to start to feel confident in yourself and to create connection with others.

5. Keep a success journal

Keep a journal of your accomplishments, awards, and career successes. Hubristic, you say? I say, why not keep this information handy! It may help to remind yourself from time to time of all that you have accomplished, especially in the face of uncertainty or when you were lacking confidence. You can also save emails or notes from your colleagues, Executive, or other stakeholders, thanking you for your contribution or praising you for your work. A success journal will serve as a reminder that you have done it before and you can do it again. Trust and believe in yourself, even if you need a reminder once in awhile.

6. Be intentional about who you surround yourself with

We all know that we are the average of the five people we spend the most time with. This is incredibly important when we consider who we are getting advice and feedback from. Feedback is excellent, and it can absolutely help you hone your skills, thereby giving you even more confidence. However, be careful about who is giving you that feedback and advice. Ask yourself:

– Are these individuals confident (truly confident)? 
– Are they successful (according to your definition of success)?
– Are they living the life (what you see on Instagram and also what you don’t) that you really want? 
– How are their time management habits serving or hurting them? 
– What do their relationships look like? 

Unfortunately, you may be unintentionally hurting your confidence by surrounding yourself with people who are unsupportive or whose habits are hindering your growth. I believe in the value of role models — as long as you choose wisely. 

7. Take risks

Get uncomfortable and be okay with failing forward. No one is perfect. In fact, if you don’t take risks from time to time and push yourself you are never going to fully realize what you are capable of. And each time you take on a project that you didn’t quite think you were ready for, or have that tough conversation with your Executive and realize that you were able to handle it, you gain a little more confidence. And then a little more. Confidence takes practice. Lean into the uncomfortable moments and know that you can figure anything out. Your leader and your team will appreciate your willingness to try and your ability to get things done.

8. Let go of the outcome

I’m not going to sugarcoat it — letting go of the outcome is one of the hardest things to do. You have to learn to enter situations with a solid base of knowledge, preparation and practice, integrity, and good intentions, and know that whatever happens next is ultimately out of your control 

We can’t own how other people respond and act. We can only control how we show up in each moment. When you genuinely believe in this idea, it gives you the confidence to approach relationships and challenges with authenticity, purpose, an open mind, an open heart, and yes, confidence. Because no matter what the outcome is, you know you can also find a way forward. 

The best part about confidence is that you can develop it. It will take time and the willingness to engage in some of the challenging activities above, but it pays off. No matter where you are at in your career or leadership journey, start now. Start today. You’ll be the embodiment of confidence in no time.

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