How to Believe in Yourself When You Don’t Have a Proven Track Record
I remember starting one of my first jobs as a development director at a university and realizing how much younger I was than everyone else on the team. I already had several years of experience and had worked hard to get to where I was, but I felt like I had to show everyone that I deserved the job.
I held myself to unrealistic standards and feared making mistakes, instead of recognizing this time as an opportunity to learn. Fortunately, I had a supportive boss who provided guidance about how things were done while giving me a safe space to develop new ideas. She delegated important tasks to me, and always took the time to thoroughly explain her expectations.
When you are early in your career or starting a new job, you can get caught up trying to prove yourself and lose your self-assuredness. Confidence in the workplace matters—both in terms of how we view ourselves and how others view us. For example, if you hold back on sharing your thoughts, worrying they aren’t “good enough,” others won’t see you as a contributor, and this impression can hinder your advancement. Conversely, when you present your ideas professionally, others will notice, and be more likely to loop you into exciting projects (and opportunities for growth!).
If you want others to believe in you, you have to believe in yourself first. The good news is you can build your confidence and grow at the same time. Here’s how:
I. Seek Out Learning Experiences
Starting anew is your chance to learn as much as you can about the industry you are in, the organization you are part of, and the role you have chosen. Ask questions of your colleagues and bosses and pay close attention to what they share with you. Research shows that asking follow-up questions demonstrates respect and cultivates relationships.
Raise your hand for new projects that align with your skills. Keep in mind: It can be as important to learn about the dynamics of the office environment as it can about the daily work you will do. If you are open to it, you can gain something from every interaction.
As you discover more about the organization, you’ll have a stronger context for decision-making, as well as more opportunities to practice. All of this, in turn, will build your confidence.
II. Find the Value in Making Mistakes
Stop holding your breath; worrying about whether you will make a mistake. If you spend your time trying to avoid missteps, you will undermine your ability to think clearly.
I like to remind my employees that it’s not a matter of if you’ll make mistakes, it’s when—and that’s how it should be!
The goal is to calm their fears and immediately change the focus to learning. If you are willing to be yourself boldly with your ideas, you will learn the how and why of what succeeds.
Change your mindset to: What can I learn from this experience and how can I get better?
III. Communicate With Confidence
A friend once told me the key to being successful at work is to realize that you are making the best decisions you can with the information you have at the time.
This really stuck with me and has been a mantra at the moments I felt less sure about how to proceed.
This also means that you can change course in the future if you have new information that suggests going in a different direction. No one expects you to have all the right answers—and they will be turned off if you pretend you do.
State what you think in a professional manner and go into the situation knowing that others may have a different perspective or ideas. Being self-assured doesn’t mean always being right.
Above all, remember that building your confidence—and your track record—is a process. The first step is to trust in your strengths and be kind to yourself. Recognize that mistakes will happen, and be resilient and open to new learning when they do. Soon enough, you will find yourself comfortably navigating your new work environment and developing your work portfolio.
Years from now, you will have a strong history of work accomplishments—and I’ll let you in on a little secret. Even then, you’ll occasionally have days when you question yourself, and it will be a good time to refer back to these core themes of learning and making mistakes to continue to grow in your career.