When we’re little, we’ll confidently launch ourselves into every new and exciting thing with no regard to our complete lack of experience. Even in our twenties, we’ll start applying for jobs straight out of university on the assumption that any employer would be lucky to have us. Fast-forward to when we have ten or more years of experience in a particular job and industry, and it’s a very different story.
Last week, I wrote about how confidence requires three things: knowing what you want to do and why it’s important to you; having a plan for how you’ll do it; and having the conviction as well as the support you need to actually do it. This week, I want to look at some more concrete steps you can take to build your confidence as you change your career.
1. Document your transferable skills
When recruiters or hiring managers look at your CV, they will immediately put you in a box based on the experience and skills you obviously have as a result of your current and most recent roles. They’re blind to the potential you would have if you were to make a change and tend to forget about your transferable skills and more nuanced experience. Whether you’re applying to a different job and need to show employers that potential, or you’re creating your own business and simply want to assure yourself that you can do it, documenting your transferable skills will be a useful exercise.
Discover some of the common signs it's time to re-think your career
Do you fantasise about a world in which you love your job to the point that you jump out of bed in the morning with excitement at the thought of what you’re going to do today? Do you long for more freedom and flexibility in your daily schedule? Do you wish that you were creating something really meaningful, that could make a difference to something that matters?
Think beyond the job title and look at the day-to-day responsibilities of your work. In particular, think about the softer skills – for example, presenting to high-level executives, negotiating with suppliers, managing a team without necessarily having the hierarchy to support you. Map out everything that you can do that will be useful beyond your current job and industry. You’ll find that you’re more than capable, not to mention the fact that you’re willing and able to learn quickly.
2. Pinpoint your unique strengths
Your hard and soft skills are important, but they can be learned – if you’re missing a critical skill, then you can sign up for a course or get additional experience to fill the gap. Beyond these skills, you’ll also want to consider your unique personal strengths. What would you say are your particular strengths? How are you different from some of the other people you’ve worked with? What would they say about you? What are you known for in the organisation?
Although a personality test can never give you the full picture, I’m personally a big fan of Myers Briggs and find that it can really give you a lot of great insights. Try this one: 16 personalities. The profiles are each written in a way that makes you feel that your particular strengths are really unique and special, so this helps with confidence as well!
3. Start a compliments collection
Over the years, you will have received praise in some form or another. We don’t want to be dependent on other people telling us that we’re good at what we do – it can be risky to rely solely on external validation. Still, it does give you a boost when someone tells you that you’ve done well and you can use this to your advantage.
Start to collect these little notes of thanks and compliments and you’ll find it a great resource to dip into when you’re having doubts. It might be an email folder where you collect people’s messages, or it might be a glass jar where you write each compliment on a little note – then you can literally dip into that jar when you need that little boost!
4. Prepare and plan for the change
I talked about this last week but it’s worth repeating: being prepared for something is the best way to feel confident about it. Just think of public speaking, which a lot of people find uncomfortable, and contrast a situation in which you go up on stage with a poorly prepared presentation with a situation where you’ve thought through each and every slide of the talk and you’ve practised it over and over so that you’re fully comfortable with the material.
What can you do to prepare and plan for your career change? This might mean considering the worst-case scenario and putting contingencies in place; it might mean saving an amount of money as a buffer; or it might mean booking onto a course or a programme. Proper preparation and planning will reassure you that you’ve considered the different eventualities and give you the confidence to move forward with the change.
5. Take your ‘one step’
I’m always talking about the one step – it’s my brand, after all – and that’s because it’s incredibly powerful. We often think that we need motivation and confidence in order to take action but the reality is the opposite: when we take action, we get the motivation and confidence that we need to move forward. We also tend to think in black-and-white terms while there are really a lot of grey areas in between.
What teeny tiny step can you take today to move in the direction of where you want to get to? Can you send an email, contact someone on LinkedIn, do a bit of online research…? Taking that one step will create momentum and soon you’ll be taking more and more steps towards your goals, with the added confidence of seeing results. If you’re feeling stuck and unsure of what your one step might be, you can book a free ‘one step’ call with me here >>
6. Find your ‘tribe’
Changing career and, especially, working for yourself can feel incredibly isolating. The reality is that you are alone – this is your life, you are the only one who can make these decisions, and you are the one who truly cares about creating this alternative path for yourself. That doesn’t mean that you have to do it completely alone! Having supportive people around you is absolutely critical to setting you up for success.
There are plenty of online and offline communities now that support people going through career transitions and you can explore which one feels like a good fit for you. You can join a group programme to have peer support while you each go through your own specific transition. You can even start by just finding like-minded, friendly people who will encourage you in whatever you’re doing. Don’t lock yourself away and think you have to go it alone! (If you haven’t already, you can join the One Step Outside Facebook group as a start >>)
7. Be curious and willing to learn
Finally, the truth is that you don’t know everything – and that’s okay! It’s completely natural that you’ll have some doubts and that you’ll make mistakes as you move out of your comfort zone and into the unknown. Of course you aren’t completely confident! If anything, heading into starting your own business or working for yourself with blind confidence and even arrogance is going to block you and make for a much harder fall when you’re inevitably disappointed.
Instead, give yourself time to explore your options and approach the change with curiosity and a willingness to learn. Talk to people who have made similar transitions and are a few steps ahead of you, ask questions, read articles and listen to podcasts. Recognise that you don’t know everything and ask for help when you need it. It’s not that you can’t do it alone – but it will be that much more fun and enjoyable when you are open to partnering with others and learning new things.