Your #1 Business Skill? Confidence. (Here are some tips)

So yeah, this article probably isn’t very good really…There are probably a million other articles 10 times better…Umm…So, yeah. Sorry…

What you should be reading instead is The Atlantic magazine’s audacious new story “The Confidence Gap.” According to the article, evidence shows that women are less self-assured than men — and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence. It’s an excellent piece of journalism, exploring a relevant and important topic in the workplace.

Boys club

But since you’re here… I have a related anecdote to share. At my child’s middle school, they created an afterschool ‘engineering club’ for the kids, with the project of building an underwater robot. After the club’s first session, an email went out saying how wonderful it was that so many kids showed up, but would some girls please come as well?

Now, this lack of female participation may not be entirely related to middle school girls’ confidence levels — but I suspect it does play its part.

Often, us girls are really hardworking students: doing all of our assignments, completing good work in neat handwriting, and following directions well. And apparently we’re better at sitting still, due to physiology. But after moving from school to the workplace, something changes. According to the article:

Women who begin college intending to become engineers are more likely than men to change their major and choose another career, but it’s because they lack confidence, not competence…

When we make our statements, but end them in a lifted, uncertain tone; hesitantly express doubts and concerns about a work product or delivery timeline; or keep too quiet in meetings, we’re just shooting ourselves right in the foot.

Almost 50% of women believe they would be further in their career if they had more self-belief…

What the heck is going here? And what does this have to do with marketing?

Can we change?

Well, marketing is the strategy of sales. And they say you’ve got to love yourself before you can love anyone else. So, it makes sense to assume that a lack of self-confidence is likely to impact your marketing abilities. Meanwhile, many of the best marketing jobs are in the technology sector. And women are missing out.

Is it hopeless for us adults who didn’t have the benefits of encouraging after school clubs? No way. Confidence is a muscle you’ve got to exercise to grow stronger. Here are some strategies for nurturing confidence levels. (In the interest of equality, these are not just for women only!)

12 Exercises for Growing Your Confidence

It ain’t gonna happen over night. Practice these strategies daily (for the rest of time) for best results.

1. Do not entertain self-doubt.

According to The Confidence Gap article, in a study on test taking, both men and women participants got 80 percent right, suggesting identical ability levels. The students were then tested again and asked, after each question, to report their confidence in their answer. Just having to think about whether they felt certain of their answer changed their ability to do well. The women’s scores dipped to 75 percent, while the men’s jumped to 93.

One little nudge asking women how sure they are about something rattles their world, while the same gesture reminds men that they’re terrific.

So, when you feel that uninvited little monster Self Doubt creep up, let it know it’s not welcome and send it packing.

2. Fake the funk.

No matter how you feel in the moment, work to present a confident image at work. Mind your posture. Speak in a clear, even voice. Make eye contact. These are all skills you can practice and fake until you’re not faking anymore.

3. Fail a bunch.

Do not be afraid to fail. Far too often, women assume they will lose or fail and remove themselves from the competition before they even try. Think of all the potential brilliance out there just going to waste!

The most confident people are really good at failing. They know that failing is just a part of achieving greatness. And they don’t let it stop them, let alone slow them down.

4. It’s just a faze.

According to science, women have a bigger chunk of worry receptors in their brains, and we overthink everything. As such, we tend to take failures to heart. If you fail, if you are criticized, if you make a mistake, learn from it. Allow yourself to feel the wholeness of the situation — including the disappoint — but do not linger in it or you may get stranded there.

5. Ask questions.

Don’t hesitate to ask, even when you feel this expresses ignorance. This is the one instance where you do not want to fake the funk. Regardless of possible perception, it’s always better to understand your project thoroughly than try to struggle through it quietly. That never ends well.

6. Do team sports.

You’re never too old to participate in team sports. They teach people valuable workplace skills like negotiation and cooperation — as well as the art of losing and trying again. Ands it’s just one more great way to build strong, supportive relationships.

7. Be fearless.

Okay, this is easier said than done, but it is critical! As a straight-A student, I always knew I would succeed at my projects, because school was easy and defined. In the ‘real world,’ there is much more improvisation, invention, and trouble-shooting. It can be daunting, but luckily, you’re also working on being awesome at faking (tip #2) and failing (tip #3).

8. Seek help.

No man or woman is an island. Don’t try to go it alone every time. When you’re feeling low on confidence, crowdsource that stuff! The people in your life love and believe in you. Don’t be afraid to call on them for support when you need a boost.

9. Keep your integrity.

You don’t need to throw others under the bus to succeed. In fact, encouraging and supporting them is another great way to build self-confidence. And good karma.

10. Ask for what you want.

Stop waiting for things to happen for you. Take responsibility for what you want and understand that it’s no one’s duty to read your mind. Share your ideas and your interests. Ask for the training you want. Volunteer for or propose career-building projects. Request recognition when it’s time. Practice negotiation. Ask.

11. Don’t be a doormat.

This is an especially hard one for women, because it’s been drilled into us for so long. There is a big difference between being helpful and supportive and being a spineless pushover. The best way to avoid falling into the category of the latter is to pay attention to how you feel when asked to take on a responsibility or a favor. That sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach is a pretty good indicator. Confident people understand that being discerning is more valuable than being a superhero. And they know that saying “no” is never a deal breaker.

12. Communicate.

Don’t be that quiet person in the corner who gets stuff done, but no one remembers. Talk to your supervisors, managers, teachers, and mentors. Get to know each other better, and work hard to build strong relationships. That way, when opportunities arise, your name is far more likely to be on their lips.

Conclusion

In business, having confidence isn’t an option. And like anything worth doing, if you want to succeed, you’ve got to practice everyday. Don’t give up!

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One comment

  • Susan June 18, 2015  

    Great article!

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