“That was really scary”
These were the words of one of my client’s last week. She was talking about how she had felt about publishing her first ever LinkedIn post. The words had been good to go for some time …… but it took taken her two days to pluck up the courage to ‘PRESS SEND’.
This is just one example of the lack of confidence that exists in so many smart people as they seek to re-launch their careers in the digital age. I meet and work with hundreds in this space every year. Clever, driven, passionate professionals who want to and need to re-boot their career - either as employees, entrepreneurs, start-up business founders, consultants - or a portfolio blend of several.
The game has changed
Blind Freddy can tell you that everything has changed. The ‘New World of Work’ is not coming …. it’s arrived and is currently disrupting everything you thought you knew! If you are over 40, chances are you are feeling uncomfortable (although younger folk are certainly not ‘all good’).
You may feel dudded. You played by the old rules. Work hard, get qualified, join a big company, build experience and - over time - rise in position and pay before sliding effortlessly into a comfortable retirement.
That’s no longer true (someone tell the Universities!). Today you need to be agile, smart, relevant, productive and commercial. You need to solve problems. You are valued for what you deliver, not for how long you’ve been warming a seat. As I wrote recently, you need to Build Your Influence to Stand Out
You need to TRANSFORM - and that’s hard
TRANSFORM is a Big Word. But it’s the right one. The shift required is not small or incremental. It’s BIG. FUNDAMENTAL. LIFE-CHANGING. It requires us to adopt new mindsets, attitudes and behaviours. We have to look hard at where we are at. What do we need to change? What should we unlearn? What limiting beliefs (‘not creative’, ‘don’t get tech’, ‘too old’, ……) do we need to throw out?
It’s not surprising that in the face of all of this, our self-confidence is often challenged.
Confidence is foundational to helping us to successfully navigate this change. In many ways, confidence is a mysterious quantity. Most of us build it up slowly over a life time. In the old world of work there were obvious structures of reward and recognition by which we knew we were doing well.
In our new paradigm of course, everything appears more chaotic. VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) is not a recipe for confidence-building. It’s not surprising that, faced by the new challenges, many formerly assured professionals, now find themselves adrift in a sea of self-doubt.
A Way In
I don’t think there are quick fixes to this. With my clients, I find that we build/re-build confidence over time be establishing their new direction and then getting busy moving towards it. Some clients take their confidence from mine until they are ready to, once again, rely on their own. It’s like the person pushing a child on their bike until they are ready to balance and power themselves.
A Model that may help
I love a model developed by Barbar Markway and Celia Ampel in their book ‘Self Confidence Workbook: A Guide to Overcoming Self-Doubt and Improving Self-Esteem’
. They pose 13 questions, which I’ve modified slightly to create 9 TO DONT’S.
9 Things Confident People Don’t Do!
1. Believe they are worth less than others
Feeling ‘not good enough’ is such a common part of the relaunch journey. Understanding that its a universal ‘affliction’ creates context and the will to press in.
2. Fear self-doubt
I’ve been playing in the New World of Work for over 7 years. There are still ‘what the f**k am I doing?’ days. Knowing this is part of the rhythm of the game we choose to play helps us to place those days in their rightful place. Just a bad day, not an existential crisis.
3. Focus on themselves
This is about seeing the bigger picture. Most people have so much more to offer. When we can see the possibility of what we can achieve and who we can help, the laser focus on ourself (with all of our faults) is avoided.
4. Wait for the ‘Big Move’
Progress is rarely found in a silver bullet, single move or mega decision. This is a journey of a thousand steps. As we move beyond the early stages, we learn to enjoy (rather than endure) that journey.
5. Confuse confidence with arrogance
When we access our humanity
, we unlock our conviction and authenticity. This is mightily persuasive (and very different to arrogance).
6. Fear feedback or conflict
Feedback is key to our growth - especially as we are likely to be charting new waters. It’s about developing a curious mindset and a teachable attitude. When we move away from rigid and binary ‘positions’ we are so much freer to grow.
7. Obsess on perfection
This was the sticking point for my client. The game is about productivity and creativity. leave perfection for others. It’s always takes too long and rarely serves.
8. Fear failure
This can be a difficult mindset to unlearn, particularly if we have grown up in a corporate environment. When we pivot to adopt the mindset of a scientist - forever experimenting, failing, learning and adapting, we free ourselves to succeed.
As the extraordinary thinker Seth Goden said, “liberate yourself of the need to be right!”
9. Avoid trying new things
Re-discovering our curiosity is foundational to creating a happy and successful future. I meet so many people who have ‘put away childish things’ and live in a world that gets smaller by the day. Getting out of our comfort zones is essential. I call it exciting/scary. If you have not been excited or scared recently, time for a re-think!
If you find your confidence is a little shaky, these ideas may help you find a way to start. Once you have some momentum, you’ll find that new people, conversations and opportunities appear. Each of these will slowly and steadily help you to shift your confidence dial until you are able to wholeheartedly play this new game. The game of making the next ten years of your career your best ever.