Few of us are happy being stuck in a career rut. Many of us know that career success requires strategy and work. However, you might be surprised at the types of things that can help you improve in your career over time. One of the best ways to boost your career prospects now and in the future is to develop confidence — or at least learn how to portray a confidence that you might not feel.
One of the realities of the workplace of today is the fact that soft skills are becoming increasingly important. The abilities of writing and presenting, as well as showing leadership, are prized highly in a corporate setting. Problem solving and creativity, as well as flexibility, are also important. If you want to advance, you need to develop these skills. However, there is another soft skill that you might overlook — and that is quite important. There is nothing “softer” and harder to define than confidence.
Confidence and Career Advancement
When it comes to career advancement, confidence is one of the biggest keys. In fact, studies find that confidence can help you more than talent and/or education. It might seem surprising to understand that, but the way you present yourself probably matters more than your innate abilities or the education you receive. How others perceive you has more to do with your long-term career success than the actual qualifications you possess. No one will know how qualified you are if you don’t have the confidence to show them.
If you are able to portray a confident attitude, you will be viewed as more competent — even if you really aren’t. When you are confident, people instinctively see you as a leader, as a good communicator, and as someone who is probably right. Not only that, but confidence can give you the ability to speak up and showcase your abilities. If you aren’t confident, you are unlikely to take credit for your successes or put yourself forward for a promotion. Your lack of confidence makes you less likely to be noticed, and that can mean the kiss of death for your career advancement.
Think about it: Do you harbor a little resentment toward someone who was promoted above you? That person might have made mistakes, and might not work nearly as hard as you. Even if you are more competent, you might not get the promotion if the other candidate is more confident and willing to call attention to the successes he or she does have. Confidence makes a bigger difference than you might think.
Now, if you could take your skills and knowledge, and then add a dash of confidence to the situation, you could very well become an unstoppable career force.
How to Portray Confidence
If you want to come across as more confident in your job, you need to take active steps to portray it in your nonverbal cues. This means that you need to have a plan to show that you believe in yourself. Jacquelyn Smith, at Forbes, offers 10 items that can help you signal confidence to others:
- Eye contact: Make appropriate eye contact. Don’t shy away from others. You do have to strike the right balance so that your confident eye contact doesn’t turn into uncomfortable staring. But being able to make eye contact shows that you have faith in yourself and that you are serious in your claims.
- Handshake: Should be full and firm (but don’t squeeze). Shake up and down once or twice and make eye contact and smile, according to Forbes. This shows that you are confident and capable, and you will be perceived as more likable and as a leader.
- Gestures: These should be meaningful and purposeful. Use gestures that emphasize what you’re saying, but avoid gestures that undermine your confidence, such as fidgeting, or playing with your clothes, hair, or accessories. Practice gestures that portray confidence, while learning to control signs of nervousness.
- Clothes: Professional and well-tailored. Your clothes should fit you, and complement your body type. Dress for the job you want. This means that you need to be careful about over-dressing as well as under-dressing. Understand what’s appropriate in your work setting and use that as your guide.
- Posture: Stand tall and straight — and don’t be afraid to take up space. Use armrests, and stand with your feet slightly apart. Your posture, and the space you take up, indicates a certain level of power, authority. That presence makes a difference.
- Facial expressions: Make a conscious effort to bring your facial expressions in line with what you’re saying. The Forbes post points out that this can take practice since we’re used to letting emotions dictate our facial expressions. You need to practice hiding the emotions that would lead others to assume a lack of confidence and play up facial expressions that indicate surety and competence.
- Initiate: You should be the one to make eye contact, offer to shake hands, or speak up. That puts you forward and shows your confidence. If you always wait for others to make the first move, you won’t be perceived as a leader.
- Voice tone: Like facial expressions, you need to make sure that your voice matches what you want to convey.
- Full attention: When you communicate open body language, and when you offer your full attention, others see you as confident and engaged.
- Respond: Make sure you are responding to the cues of others. When you respond, you turn your interaction into one of equals and offer your own confidence in your abilities.
While it can feel uncomfortable to make these moves, the reality is that they are important. Take the time to practice these signs of confidence in your interactions, and others will like you more, and be more likely to see you as a confident leader worthy of a promotion or raise.