Last month I shared how I’ve been feeling overwhelmed at work and my strategies for feeling better and more in balance. These emergency measures did make a huge difference, but I hadn’t realised the knock that this experience had had on my confidence until a recruitment consultant called me about a new job.
It was a level up from what I am doing now, but squarely in my field of expertise and offered a significant salary jump. I agonised over applying though because of how low my confidence had become – I didn’t feel I could take another hit, or that I would be successful. I realised then and there that I needed to increase my self-belief even more than I needed that new job.
Other than our rental property, we don’t have multiple income streams so career and salary optimisation is an important route for us to build wealth. It’s not something either of us are good at though. We haven’t boosted our pay by regularly switching jobs, or made the most of negotiation opportunities. Given that I’m hoping to create more work flexibility, I’m not even sure I want to move to a new 9-5, especially now that I’m able to work 4 days a week where I am.
That said, when I imagined life in the new role, I realised how earning more in my day job would impact my mindset. I might get some of my free time back as I wouldn’t feel so compelled to think of ways to supplement our income and reach financial freedom faster. Even if I were only in a new role for one, max two years before going freelance, I could boost our investments, speeding up our investments and widening our safety net. I certainly didn’t want to feel held back from earning more due to a lack of confidence.
I also realised that a shift to freelance would require more self-belief anyway, and that I had to prioritise building it if I had a hope of making a career transition like that.
Finally, feeling like I’m doing a good job is a very important component to my sense of fulfilment. Sure, a big part of my desire to work independently and my dream to be financially free is to be released from the insecurities and stress that can come with a job. But how great would it be to tackle those head on, make the most of these working years and embrace everything that is great about my 9-5 until I have other options?
Very great, is the answer, which is why I’ve decided that giving myself a confidence overhaul is the best investment I can make in myself right now.
The Game Plan
My starting point was understanding where I get my confidence from, at times when I have felt confident. This idea came from a one-off coaching session I had a few months ago with a friend qualifying to be a coach. “What makes you feel confident?” she asked, when we were discussing a challenging conversation I was planning and how to prepare.
For me it’s when I’m on top of my subject, when I have a sense of ownership and autonomy and when I’m feeling energetic and able to have fun with a situation.
So, these are the things I’ve been doing over the last few weeks to feel more confident at work and here are some takeaways if you are in a similar situation:
Investing some time and money in personal development (even on the weekends)
When you are not 100% happy at work then there’s a natural resistance to spending more time than you have to thinking about work-related things in your free time. I have a career development book that I’ve had since before the pandemic and hadn’t finished because I couldn’t face opening it at the weekend. The irony is that I’ve had plenty of weekends over that period that have been ruined because I couldn’t stop thinking about work anyway.
Since dropping this rule and actually reading this book, and others, I’ve been more able to switch off from work than ever. I’ve realised that thinking about my skills, potential and career is very different from thinking about work. I’m taking ownership of my career and more able to reframe work situations as learning opportunities, experiments even.
I’ve found temporarily deleting Instagram has given me a lot of time back!
Takeaway: Treat yourself to books that you think will help you and invest your time in reading them. Think about what you could give up to open up more time.
Joining a professional network
This has helped me to both update my knowledge of the area I work in but also start to think more creatively about how my career could develop. I’ve also just finished a book that passes on wisdom from women in my field and another about becoming an entrepreneur in this area. It’s allowed me to think bigger than my current role.
Takeaway: Join new networks and find ways to learn from people working in your area outside of your company. Make the most of this by reaching out to someone if they write an article you found interesting and sharing your own experiences if joining a live meeting.
Making time for breaks and movement
I presented at a meeting recently after a hectic day where I had to take my son to an appointment in the middle of the day before the meeting. I had prepared well for it, but at the very last minute.
The meeting went surprisingly well and my boss said afterwards that I had been the most confident she had seen me in ages. I realised that my rushing around that day and my focus on getting my preparation finished in time had given me a rush of energy that came across as confidence.
So, I decided to try to recreate that and the next time that I had to present I scheduled my day so that I could go for a walk before the meeting, and also revisited my speaking strategy shortly before the meeting. The walk loosened me up and the element of improvisation gave me more energy.
As an added bonus, listening to Viv Groskop’s How to Own The Room podcast as I walked also gave me inspiration and tips that I could immediately put into practice.
Takeaway: Understand whether you feel more confident when you’ve built up your energy (like stoking a fire) or when you have calmed yourself down. I’m naturally calm and softly spoken, so I can afford to be more animated and to project more, and this definitely gives a more confident impression.
Being open to feedback and constructive criticism:
A more senior colleague that I do not know very well reached out to me recently to offer help preparing for a presentation. My immediate response was to say that I was ready and didn’t need help. Of course I took them up on it though and learnt so much – things that I can apply to many more presentations in the future.
The presentation went better because I was open to learning and the positive feedback increased my confidence further. It also helped me to remember that people, generally, want to see you succeed. Having more trust in other people is sometimes as important for confidence in having trust in yourself.
Takeaway: Sometimes mentors or coaches will gravitate towards you. It may be a one-off offer rather than an ongoing relationship, but in either case, grab it with both hands as you will learn so much more quickly than by going it alone.
If confidence is holding you back from enjoying your job then I really recommend adopting some of these strategies, or finding some of your own. It’s made all the difference to me in terms of being able to relax and switch off when I’m not at work.
I’d love to hear whether this resonates with anybody and other things they are trying. How do you invest in your personal development and what steps are you taking to get more out of your day job?