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Building confidence and capturing employers' attention


Published: 09 Dec 2022

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Entering the world of work for the first time can feel daunting, but demonstrating your skills and abilities can make you stand out from the rest. All you need is a little confidence.

Assurance, certainty, courage, determination, poise, spirit and tenacity all really boil down to one thing - confidence. Possessing and projecting confidence at the workplace requires a tricky balancing act of these different attributes, especially as situations and colleagues change around you. It’s something that many of us never stop working on - at work or in our personal lives - and something that countless books and seminars have been dedicated to. But just a few simple steps can have you thinking about confidence in a different way, especially when it comes to boosting your career.

When pursuing your career interests, confidence helps you to be more assertive and push yourself forward for more opportunities. Confidence allows you to communicate more effectively, clearly demonstrating your skills, experience and ability in a concise and efficient manner. And the pro-active spirit that comes with confidence is an attractive quality in an employee and managers will take notice.

How to build confidence

The benefits of confidence go beyond your career, too. It’s integral to your wellbeing as well. When we are confident, we better understand ourselves, allowing us to try new situations without fear of the outcomes. That level of personal security will reduce anxiety and make you feel more motivated for the future. In other words, confidence builds self-esteem and self-respect.

Take a second to think about yourself. What are you good at? What have you achieved? Whether you are a good listener, have passed your exams with flying colours, or volunteered for a local charity, listing your qualities and accomplishments can help offer clarity in what you have to offer your personal and professional networks. Thanks to your mix of skills and experiences, you have a unique contribution to make to the world.

Think about the times that you have made a positive impact on others, even if they may feel small or trivial. Gathering this knowledge will help build a picture of your own particular skills and attributes; as well as providing confidence in what you bring to the table when you are tempted to compare yourself with others. Try to focus on thinking about things positively, too. Reframe negative experiences like job rejections as opportunities to learn how you can improve, or focus on the parts that you did well. Don’t give time to negative thoughts.

Look after your physical and emotional wellbeing more broadly, too. Confidence at the office doesn’t solely come from the experiences in your working life. Make time to do things you enjoy, whether that’s reading, spending time with friends or going to the cinema. Share your feelings, whether they are positive or negative, with a trusted family member or friend. And make sure you have opportunities to relax, perhaps with music, meditation or yoga. A varied and fulfilling personal life will give you more experiences to draw on at work. And taking time to prioritise self-care will prepare you for situations where you need courage and self-assurance.

Finding the right level

When people project confidence, they help put others at ease, motivating them and engaging them more readily. Confidence gives you a sense of presence and authority among other people.

Body language is essential to demonstrating confidence. Avoid staring at the floor or crossing your arms - they can signal that you are disinterested or even feeling defensive. If you need to, you can ‘fake it ‘til you make it’. Visualise how a confident person looks and speaks and emulate some of those qualities. As well as giving others the impression we have inner self-confidence, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, too. Acting confident breeds genuine confidence.

However, there’s also the danger of going too far in the opposite direction. If confidence tips over into arrogance it can be off-putting for your colleagues and employer. A simple difference to remember is that confidence is knowing you are good at something and using that knowledge to assist yourself and others, while arrogance is displaying confidence purely for others to see. In the end, arrogance may make you feel more insecure because the confidence you’re projecting isn’t backed up by skills and experience.

To avoid confidence becoming arrogance, don’t imply you are good at everything. Acknowledge your limitations and take ownership of any mistakes you may make. Make sure you listen to others and celebrate their successes as well as your own. Demonstrate your vulnerability by asking questions you don’t know the answers to. Be upfront about your insecurities - everyone has them - and where you might need help.

Capturing employers' attention

Companies want people who speak and act with conviction, who they can trust to get the job done, and who are eager to experience new things and learn new skills. And confidence can help you demonstrate all of these things.

Employers respond positively to people willing to step outside their comfort zone and accomplish new goals. Confident employees, with their own career and personal goals, can better demonstrate how they benefit an organisation. You might be applying for your first role, but if you are able to articulate your achievements, attributes and skills clearly, potential employers will be thinking about your future as much as you are.

Demonstrating confidence to employers means thinking carefully about what you say, how you say it and how you present yourself more generally. Fully understanding what you have to offer - your skills, experiences and knowledge - will help you communicate more clearly. During a job interview, take a moment to think carefully about each question you are asked, so you can weave in your experience and skills to your answer in a precise way. Preparing for common interview questions can also help, giving you the time to think creatively about how you can demonstrate you are the right person for the job.

Communication is key. It’s a valued skill in itself, as well as enabling you to demonstrate all of the other skills you bring to the table. Make an effort to talk slowly and clearly when speaking with employers and hiring managers. Avoiding mistakes and any instances of having to repeat yourself will help boost your confidence. It will also project confidence to employers by demonstrating strong interpersonal skills.

Consider your body language, too. Stand or sit tall with your shoulders back to project confidence. Make sure you maintain eye contact, especially with the person speaking, so it’s clear you are engaged. And if you are speaking with a number of people, give them equal eye contact, so they all feel included in the conversation. Keeping your hands visible and making the occasional gesture will also help you illustrate your talking points. It’s all about making sure you are a visible presence in the conversation. Minimising your body, or not looking people in the eye, can make yourself and others feel nervous.

Confidence may come naturally to you or it may be something you have to work on over time. Whatever your story, there are many ways to build confidence and capture employers’ attention, helping you start your career on the right foot.

Quick exercises and resources

  1. Keep a gratitude diary. At the end of every day, write down three things from that day you are grateful for. It could be anything from enjoying a hot cup of tea to finishing an assignment. You’ll soon see the impact it has on your positivity.
  2. Create a list of your achievements and goals. Write down a list of your successes, such as passing an exam, taking up a hobby successfully or giving a presentation. Looking back on previous achievements can boost your confidence. Looking to the future and what you want to achieve can motivate and inspire you.
  3. Practise positive body language. For example, try the ‘power pose’. Stand with your legs shoulder width apart, your hands on your hips, and your head and chest tilted upwards. Popularised by politicians in recent years, power poses are thought to change hormone levels to make you feel more confident.
  4. Listen to music with energy. Whether it’s rock with a heavy bass, dance music with a pumping beat, or disco that makes you dance, sounds that you like can help boost excitement and a sense of power.