Wearing the trousers: How I became professionally confident

8 January 2019

Rewind back to April 2017, I had a multitude of graduate job offers to consider following the completion of my Economics degree, and I had accepted one to start in June of that year. I woke up one morning in April ( probably after an intensive study in the library, or maybe it was after a night out - the exact details are merely irrelevant) and I panicked, composed an email to the company that I had accepted the job offer for and told them to delay my start date 2 months because ‘I required time to move cross country’. This was fluffy talk for “i don’t know If I’m ready to leave university and start a job, I need time to assess what I want in life and I’m scared’ - the last two words being the most important.

Starting *proper* adult work that summer made me feel like a baby coming to big school still in their diaper. You see women that walk past in the office all flawless, whilst you have a leaking Biro running down your hand (been there, in my first week too). Moral of the story is you're not going to have all the confidence of Donald Trump stepping into office before you’ve even step foot in the door - these things come with time, patience and looking back on your failures and learning from these. And although my journey from education to professional working life is a mere 1 and a half years in duration, I have seen my confidence grow exponentially from the girl that had a Biro leak all over their hand (and moleskin notepad) to the girl that is leading meetings with senior directors, strides into the office knowing she can kick ass in the 8 (usually 10 hours) she is there and is invited to universities to talk about her albeit short career journey and advise students. So I had a sit down and thought about the reasons why I had become more confident in my work life....


Become a boss at what you do
No-one is born with exceptional presentation skills or can master how to use excel before they can walk. A great step to becoming confident professionally is knowing what you do and how to do it well. Like I said, no-one is born a genius at excel or with any programming tools but if you know you have to use it day in day out, why not learn to become a pro at it. In my old job, it took me a good 3 months to become confident ant the monthly deliverable i was responsible for. Once i had nailed this, I was able to confidently answer any questions regarding it and become an expert in my field. Becoming an experienced in your field requires looking at what you do and assessing both your strengths and weaknesses. When you have strengths, it’s important to know what these are and use these to your advantage. If you see an opportunity that requires a lot of public speaking and your strength is public speaking, use this as your chance to shine. It’s also important to monitor your successes, keeping track of your daily accomplishments will also give you continuous confidence in the fact that you know you can achieve something and by documenting you are more aware of your constant achievements. Storing congratulatory e-mails, milestones reached, kudos from bosses or peers, notes to yourself on challenges overcome, thank you letters, and recognition and praise all come in handy when it comes to realising your value.

And equally recognising weaknesses was a key step in overcoming my lack of confidence in the workplace. Those weaknesses that impact your confidence need to be eliminated or rescued to the point where you don't even care about them as knowing your weaknesses and putting the plans in to work on these weaknesses will work wonders for your confidence. If you’re like me you will live for the challenge of overcoming something, so that’s exactly what looking at your weaknesses and putting a plan in action to eliminate those does.

Look yourself in the mirror and say to yourself ‘I can do this’
You’re there for a reason. For most graduate level jobs, there is a extremely lengthy recruitment process. I’ve coached 2 people into gaining job offers and given them both the same advice which is looking into a mirror and saying to yourself that you can do this. Although it may seem quite silly, it boosts your confidence by loads because if no-one else believes in you, at least you do. Even if you’re not feeling it at the time you say it, it does wonders hearing those words, it’s a case of once you hear it, you believe it.


Weirdly enough, it’s not just you that is in this ‘I suck at work' boat,   and as they say, a problem shared is a problem solved. 

Partners are people too
In both of my jobs I’ve had to work with someone pretty senior people, the CFO of a major NYSE 100 company in my last place of employment, and communicate with partners and senior stakeholders on a  regular basis in this one. And take it from me, it can be pretty daunting having to do a presentation in from of them, or turn around a piece of work. But take a breath and remember senior managers and those at a high level are people too. And at some stage in their successful career, they would have been in your shoes. They will not bite your head off and don't expect the world of you without any mistakes.

Make your own mistakes.
As cliche as it sounds, it’s all about individuals making their own mistakes and realising how to best thrive in an environment. There are no strict guidelines of how to gain confidence in the workplace. Not all the tips I've mentioned are going to work for everyone, but they’ve helped me in the process.

Outfit details
Jumpsuit - NastyGal
Boots - NastyGal
(Damn their continuous 50% off sales)

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