BY ERIN EWART
One of the biggest frustrations with job searching is that it can can feel like so much of the process is in someone else’s hands. What we often forget is that the biggest success factor is in our control: coming from a place of confidence. If you believe you can do the job, you will project that and help the employer believe it too. Conversely, if you have doubts about your abilities, are trying to figure out the “right” answers to their questions, or are trying to be someone you’re not, that will come through. The key is to be the best version of yourself by projecting your strengths and confidently sharing how your unique combination of skills and experience will solve their problems. Yes, there are other candidates and they bring different things than you, but no one else has your exact combination of knowledge, experience, and skills.
Of course, this is easier said than done, but here are three proven ways to build your confidence:
- Review your past accomplishments and know them inside and out. Remembering your past successes helps remind you what you’re capable of and builds your confidence about the value you bring to employers. If you start working on this early on in your job search it will help you on several fronts, including zeroing in on your top strengths and skills, identifying accomplishments to highlight on your resume and LinkedIn profile, and preparing for interviews. Not sure what accomplishments to highlight? Look at old performance evaluations and ask coworkers, friends, and others who know you well what they think you’re best at. Once you’ve gathered examples, write them out using the STAR framework and include as many details and metrics as you can. One of my clients refers to her list of examples as her “confidence database”, which is a great way to think about it. Once you’ve built this list, commit to keeping it up moving forward. Put a reminder on your calendar to add examples on a regular basis so that you don’t have to dig up your entire past next time you’re job hunting. And next time you leave a job, create a detailed transition document (a win for you and for your employer) and make copies of important files and documents with details about your work so you can refer back to them later.
- Practice and prepare. Then practice some more. In the job search the winner is not always necessarily the best qualified candidate, but the best prepared. There’s nothing worse than when you know you could be great for a job but you didn’t perform as well as you could have. While you can’t control the ultimate outcome, you can ensure you’ve given it your all by rigorously preparing. Start with the job description and any information you’ve gathered through networking conversations and map out the themes or questions you’re likely to be asked. Put yourself in the employer’s shoes: what do they care about most? What questions or concerns might they have about you as a candidate? Then review your accomplishment examples for stories that address those topics. Finally, practice. Practice with friends, with a career coach, in the mirror, by recording yourself. You can have the greatest response in the world on paper, but it doesn’t matter until you get comfortable actually saying it out loud. Of course you don’t want to be overly rehearsed in the interview, but in most cases practicing in advance actually allows you to be more flexible in the moment. The more you’ve practiced and built your confidence about what you want to say, the more brain space you’ve freed up to ad lib or adjust to any unexpected questions that come your way.
- Have options. You’ve probably heard the job search compared to dating, and I think that’s pretty accurate. Success in dating is about having confidence, which is what makes you attractive to others. The same is true in the job search: the more confident you are, the more attractive you’ll be to employers. One thing that can help build confidence is pursuing enough options to ensure you don’t get so caught up in getting the one “perfect” job that you ruin your chances by being overly nervous. Of course there will be jobs that you’re really excited about (that’s good!), but knowing that you have other eggs in your basket will help you approach them from a place of confidence and not desperation. So what does this look like in practice? Pursue multiple job opportunities, keep actively networking and applying throughout the process and do not stop until you have signed an offer letter. Nothing is guaranteed, business needs change all the time, and even if there is one job that is clearly your front runner, you should always pursue all leads. If you end up with multiple offers to choose from, that is a great place to be and can give you a lot of leverage in a negotiation process.
Even if you do all these things, there will probably be days when your confidence is low and you feel like giving up, and that’s completely normal. This process requires resilience, and it’s tough to maintain your confidence in the face of rejection. However, I often see that the time after these low points brings the biggest successes – the connection that will change everything, the interview you’ve been waiting for. So take a break if you need to, but stick with it. If you need a little confidence boost, read back through the accomplishments you’ve documented and spend time with the people who know and appreciate you, so they can remind you just how great you are. Then get back in the game.
What else have you done to build your confidence in the job search? We’d love to hear your strategies!