“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-position their careers and reputation for our digital age. I meet and work with hundreds in this space every year. Clever, driven, passionate professionals who want 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. And that was true before COVID et al. The pandemic has simply put that change on Fast Forward x 30!
The ‘New World of Work’ is not coming …. it’s here! And it is disrupting everything you thought you knew! Making sense of what Work From Home and other remote working arrangements will look like going forward is, again, the latest iteration of that trend. If you are over 40, chances are you are feeling uncomfortable (although younger readers are certainly not ‘all good’).
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. 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.
You need to TRANSFORM – and that’s hard
TRANSFORM is a Big Word. But it’s the right one. The shift required is neither small nor incremental.
It’s BIG. FUNDAMENTAL. LIFE-CHANGING.
It requires you to adopt new mindsets, attitudes and behaviours. You must look hard at where you are ‘at’. What do you need to change? What should you unlearn? What limiting beliefs (‘not creative’, ‘don’t get tech’, ‘too old’, ……) do you need to throw out?
It’s not surprising that in the face of all of this, your self-confidence may be challenged.
Confidence is foundational to helping us to navigate this change successfully. In many ways, confidence is a mysterious quantity. Most of us build it up slowly over a lifetime. There were obvious structures of reward and recognition in the old world of work by which we knew we were doing well.
In our new paradigm, everything appears more chaotic. VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, Ambiguous) is not a recipe for confidence-building. The events of the last year have done nothing to help.
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 by establishing a destination 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 prepared to balance and power themself.
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. I’ve modified these slightly to create a list of 9 TO DONT’S.
9 Things Confident People Don’t Do!
- Believe they are worth less than others
Feeling ‘not good enough’ is such a common part of the relaunch journey. Understanding that it’s a universal ‘affliction’ creates context and the will to press in.
- Fear self-doubt
I’ve played in the (not so) ‘New World of Work’ for over 10 years. There are still a few, ‘what the f**k am I doing?’ days. Knowing that this is part of the rhythm of the game we choose to play helps us place those days in their rightful place.
Just a bad day – not an existential crisis!
- Focus on themselves
This is about seeing the bigger picture. Most people have so much more to offer. When you can see the possibility of what you can achieve and who you can help, the laser focus on yourself (with all your faults) is diffused.
- Wait for the ‘Big Move’
Progress is rarely found in a silver bullet, single move, or mega decision. Any version of reinvention, career transition, stepping up, re-branding, re-positioning, or in any way significantly and intentionally changing the way you are showing up is a journey of a thousand steps.
As you move beyond the early stages, you learn to enjoy (rather than endure) that journey.
- Confuse confidence with arrogance
When we access our humanity, we unlock our conviction and authenticity. This is mightily persuasive (and very different to arrogance).
- Avoid feedback or conflict
Feedback is key to your growth – especially as you are likely to be charting new waters. It’s about developing a curious mindset and a teachable attitude. When you move away from rigid and binary ‘positions,’ you are so much freer to grow.
- Obsess on perfection
This was the sticking point for my client. The game is about productivity and creativity. Leave perfection for others. It always takes too long and rarely serves.
- Fear failure
This can be a difficult mindset to unlearn, particularly if you have grown up in a corporate environment. When you pivot to adopt the mindset of a scientist – forever experimenting, failing, learning and adapting, you free yourself to succeed.
As the great thinker, Seth Goden said,
“Liberate yourself of the need to be right!”
- Avoid trying new things
Re-discovering your 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. This is one of my biggest personal fears about COVID-19, where, particularly in Australia, where I live, there have been a rush to limit travel and over-manage risk.
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!
It’s Your Time
The flip-side of the COVID-19 is that it has given all of us a chance to re-assess and re-start. There has never been a better time to have a crack at unlocking your full potential and showing up at your best.
If you find your confidence is a little shaky, these ideas may help you 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 life and career your best ever.