Feel Confident at Work, Even When You Don’t

According to Glassdoor, the things that hold us back at work, besides stressful environments or situations, include fear of looking stupid, fear of coming off as a know-it-all, fear of speaking up, and fear of failure. These and other confidence-killers prevent us from reaching our full potential.  

Helene Lerner, author of The Confidence Myth, found that many people miss windows of opportunities — getting a raise or taking a new position — because they wait until they feel what she calls “capital-C Confidence,” or completely confident, which she says is nothing more than a mythical state anyway. “We have to redefine confidence and understand that courage is the main ingredient for success.”  

I sat down with empowerment speaker Kelly McNelis, founder of Women For One and author of Your Messy Brilliance, for a few simple tips to tap into courage to get ahead at work. 

Choose Your Clothes Wisely 

Let’s start with the simplest step. Studies show that what you wear can have an immense effect on your confidence and the way your body responds to stress. The science points to the merits of wearing more formal outfits, which can enhance creative and abstract thinking, feelings of control and power, and help you perform better on tasks.  

To handle your body’s physical response to stress — sweating and the odor that comes with it — invest in innovative base layers. For men, Tommy John makes moisture-wicking underwear designed with a polyester and spandex blend that resists odor-causing microbes and bacteria. There are even more options for women. 

Know How to Cope 

For those situations which trigger your “fight or flight” response, various deep breathing techniques can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure. As part of a regular routine, mindful meditation has also been shown to improve stress response, productivity, self-control, and your ability to focus. Practice meditation just like you would any other workplace skill. 

Shift Your Mindset

Feeling like you aren’t doing a job that leverages your specific skill set can also rob you of your confidence. Instead of harping on where you feel you fell short, celebrate your accomplishments daily. Similar to the gratitude journal trend, which has been shown to improve self-esteem, keep a success journal and list 3-5 successfully-completed tasks and other achievements or positive work-related moments. 

Practice What Makes You Uncomfortable 

According to Lerner’s research, an overwhelming majority agree that using skills and making an impact, as well as being able to make and recover from mistakes, improves workplace confidence. This means taking risks without requiring a feeling of “readiness.”  

The risks you take don’t need to be huge, either. Try things like speaking up more in meetings or offering to help others on tasks. The more you practice performing in moments of discomfort regardless of the outcome, the more comfortable and confident you’ll get.

Join Dana Manciagli’s Job Search Master Class right now and immediately access the most comprehensive job search system currently available!

Thunderbird School of Global Management Alumna Dana Manciagli '84 is the author of "Cut the crap, Get a job". With her 'Career Mojo' column, Dana is the sole syndicated career columnist for the Business Journal nationwide. Her remarkable profile includes a career in global sales and marketing for Fortune 500 corporations like Microsoft, IBM, and Kodak. She has coached, interviewed and hired thousands of job seekers. This article was originally published on her website.

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