According to an article posted on MSN living, 48 percent of women in a recent study claimed that lack of confidence is holding them back professionally. Seventeen percent of these women admitted they didn’t even have the confidence to ask for a promotion.
Can you relate? Does the idea of asking for a raise or a promotion, or even more responsibility at the office, make you cringe? Do you keep your head down, hoping someone will notice your great work and give you what you want without you having to muster up some courage and ask for what you deserve? Or, did it never occur to you that you do deserve that corner office, that six figure salary, that big job title?
As we all know, sitting around waiting for the world to come knocking on our door is not the way to move ahead professionally. So, how can women (and yes, men, too) build their confidence?
I’d say the first step is some deep, brutally honest soul searching. Ask yourself what is really holding you back?
- Were you raised to believe that women didn’t belong in the C-suite?
- Do you believe it’s not you; it’s the glass ceiling, the men’s club, our society and its rules?
- Are you afraid that if you land a big job, you won’t be able to handle the pressure?
- Is there a part of you that believes business success will somehow rob you of your femininity, ruin your marriage, and/or that you'd be a "bad mom?"
- Are you terrified of taking risks or making mistakes?
- Are you afraid of rejection and its psychological aftermath?
Or, is it just that age-old poor self-talk/mentality that’s affected working professionals for years: “I’m not good enough?"
Once you know what’s really going on inside you, what’s really holding you back, then you can more easily see what steps you need to take to move forward.
This will be different for each woman (and yes, sometimes even men!). Helping you to heal your inner issues is a bit beyond the scope of this blog, but I can tell you that no amount of outer change will really make a difference without the corresponding inner change.
Let’s say that you have no deep-seated insecurities and belief systems that are sabotaging you. Perhaps all you need is some information, some guidelines, a key to unlock the secrets of getting ahead.
In that case, let me start with saying that appearance counts. You need to look the part, polished, professional, well-groomed, well-clothed. Your body language is equally important, as is your manner of speaking.
Do you have a firm handshake? Do you make eye contact? Do you walk into a room with good posture that exudes confidence?
Do you have a good grasp of business etiquette for different situations?
Are you forging relationships with mentors or advocates who can help you guide your career, and give you the benefit of their wisdom and experience?
Knowing what to do is a confidence builder. Knowing you look the part is a confidence builder. All of these things can be learned, through books, mentors, coaching sessions, etc. The only thing you need to start is the desire to find self-fulfillment through your career, and the willingness to learn.
Here is a 6-point self-confidence formula for women that I recently found in an article appearing on the Psych Central website:
- Take responsbility for yourself.
- Begin to experiment with life.
- Develop an action plan and implement it.
- Stick with it.
- Act "as if."
- Find a mentor.
I'd also like to add a 7th point -- Give yourself permission to take risks. That way, you'll never find yourself wistfully asking, "What if ....?" and regret the risks not taken.