Confidence: What Every Career Professional Needs to Succeed

Confidence level meter

As a business owner, I had periods of time where I experienced “impostor syndrome.” That is when you feel like you have no clue what you’re doing and you worry someone will figure it out! And apparently, it’s more common amongst women. It really epitomizes, for me, what lack of self-confidence feels like. Over the years, I came to internalize the belief that confidence is what every career professional needs to succeed.

If you genuinely don’t know what you’re doing, obviously training is the answer, but if you actually do know what you’re doing, there’s no real issue; it’s all a matter of confidence.

Here are three tactics that I have used to grow my self confidence:

1. Take the First Step!

This famous Chinese proverb, quoted by Lao Tzu in the Dao De Jing, says it all: “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Whether the steps are training, networking, reading, or a physical step, you don’t need to do everything in one day, nor do you have to be fully prepared to just start!

I value knowledge above all. For many years, I took every online training I could find; in cover letters, interviewing, recruitment, LinkedIn, résumé strategy and design — you name it. And, I took many related trainings, generally free online webinars, in human behaviour as well as business-building. And finally, I read countless leadership and career-related books.

2. Get Over Your Ego!

Sometimes it’s been a fear of failure and the potential judgement from others that stopped me (when I was younger). Today I am more likely to determine if it’s right for me by “checking in” with myself. And if it feels right, I go for it!

And on those few occasions where I was in over my head, I sought out help. Personal counselling, professional or business coaching — help exists and I definitely found suitable professional and personal growth partners.

I am no longer steered by my ego, which really hates looking small, seeming foolish, or facing critical eyes or judgemental words. I can face that easily now, because I know that I’m brave enough to give it a try, and I well know my capabilities to learn, apply, grow, and “feel the fear and do it anyway“!

3. Control the Controllable!

You can’t control it all; heck, you can’t even control most of it! But you can control you. You can manage your own thoughts and attitude, and the actions you take or don’t take. A lot of life is about curating — selecting what matters and helps, and deselecting/editing/deleting what doesn’t serve you.

Confidence – Stephanie Clark

Stephanie offering free résumé critiques at a job fair.

Once painfully shy, lacking self-confidence to a draining degree, and suffering from debilitating social anxiety, I overcame all that to open my own business! I ran New Leaf Resumes for almost 15 years, and in this business I learned to speak with clients — even those who forced me into extremely uncomfortable-to-me, potentially confrontational conversations. I also learned to not only conduct public speaking, but to love speaking to large groups. It’s now a favourite activity.

These activities informed my personal growth. I’m so much more mature, self assured, and resilient than I ever was. Why? Because I put one foot in front of the other, I got over my fear and did it anyways, and I got out of my own way, i.e., set my ego aside, to learn and grow emotionally. In short, I learned that I could depend on myself – on just me – to solve problems, handle criticism, and learn and apply new things.

Every once in a blue moon, I get a slight case of butterflies or feel some jitters when needing to step outside my now broad – but not all-encompassing – comfort zone. But it’s okay. I know that I can handle lots of scenarios and, if I cannot, I can reach out for help. It’s truly all okay.

As for the impostor syndrome, it vanished and I’m now quite comfortable to accept that I can own my role as a well-respected career professional.

Stephanie Clark has earned her rank among North America’s top résumé services. Enhancing her innate talent for the written word with training in business communications, Stephanie was recognized in 2015 as a Master Certified Résumé Strategist by Career Professionals of Canada, as well as a Master Resume Writer, conferred by Career Thought Leaders (US). Stephanie’s skill at capturing and communicating each client’s distinctiveness has revitalized more than 1500 job searches since 2007. You can find her work published in Best Canadian Résumés and Best Canadian Cover Letters, Modernize Your Resume, and Expert Resumes & LinkedIn Profiles for Managers and Executives. Stephanie retired in 2020.

Image by nasirkhan on 123RF

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I can relate to your experience, Stephanie, on so many levels. I have been in the field of career development since 2006 and like you, have continued to take classes, read books, articles, eNews, posts and anything else I could get my hands on to continually stay up to date and informed. This has helped me to know that the information I share with clients is relevant and accurate.

I like your strategy of “checking in”. When I feel that imposter syndrome creeping back in, I know it’s time to slow down, breathe and find out what’s going on with me internally. Often it is because I am too tired, or I need to have that uncomfortable conversation that has been put on the back burner one too many times.

One thing that really helps me keep my ego in check is reminding myself that it’s not about me, it’s about doing the best job I can for the person I am working with. And if my ego is getting in the way (always easy to ascertain because that’s when lack of patience, resentment, jealousy, and comparing myself to others) it’s usually because I am fearful of something. Getting in touch with that fear and taking steps to work through it is the only way I know of to take away its power.

I’m going to stop now and thank you for sharing so honestly and from the heart on this sensitive topic.

It was nice to read your comments, Jude. And you’re so welcome. Vulnerability comes much easier with age, I find! LOL One does accumulate some wisdom, thankfully! Your clients are lucky to work with you as it sounds like you do indeed put their interests first.

Last week the leader of a Facebook group I’m in asked, “What was the hardest thing you’ve had to learn to get to where you are?” My answer was “Asking for help makes you stronger, not weaker,” which ties in with the second tactic in your article. Although I made the mistake of trying to do everything myself in the early days of my business, I hadn’t recognized it as an ego issue. Thanks for pointing it out – I will definitely bear it in mind the next time I find myself struggling with something.

I used to joke, Janet, that I had many bad hair days due to the need to wear oh-so-many hats as an entrepreneur. But yes, some issues require expert help, I do agree. And if we never ask for help, it likely is that the ego is flexing its muscle, given that the ego doesn’t like admitting it doesn’t know everything or cannot do it all on its own!

This is such a great article. Thank you, Stephanie! I really appreciate the advice and strategies that you’ve outlined to help grow confidence, not only in my career development practice, but in life in general. It’s a good reminder that confidence is the result of actions, not the precursor; and that taking active steps and keeping a growth mindset and keeping that locus of control in mind can keep me moving forward to higher heights in my professional development.

So right, Jaime!

I did indeed do a bit of the “fake it til you make it tactic- successfully, thankfully – and taking action definitely builds one’s confidence.

Thank you, Stephanie, for the practical tips to developing confidence as CDPs. Most of us struggle with the Imposter Syndrome at some point or another. You make very strong points and I wanted to share a couple of thoughts to bring value:

  • Practice and experience help develop confidence.
  • Practicing mindfulness helps to stay present in the situation and connect with the other person/ people and stop the internal critic.
  • Physical symptoms for anxiety and excitement are the same. We can reframe our anxiety and tell ourselves we are excited and joyful to experience this and bring value to the other person.

Thank you again for sharing great tips!

Wonderful additional points, Ksenia! I’m glad that you chimed in. I particularly like the second point about mindfulness. We cannot listen to “monkey brain” chatter if we are completely connected to our client, and we must be tightly attuned in order to do a fabulous job of their career portfolio documents. Thank you!