We all look for the magic which can transform our lives and perhaps see this as particularly important in a career context. Is there something special which makes one person more successful than another? Well, maybe. What about confidence? Is that a key attribute which has an impact on determining who is going to get off to a great start in the career race and reach the exalted heights of main board before everyone else?
Have you got the confidence to start the job hunt?
It takes confidence to apply for jobs. Every time you click the “send” button on an application you expose yourself to the possibility of rejection. It’s really important not to take rejection personally. The competition for graduate level jobs is intense, nobody would expect to be offered every job for which they apply. If you’re rejected from some you need to keep going with the job hunt. The only way in which you can guarantee you won’t get a job, is if you don’t apply! You have to be “in it to win it”!
Can you push yourself forward?
Many of us hate the idea of networking and dong a personal sales pitch, but an ability to tell a positive story about yourself is important. Think about the way successful people at university talk. You don’t get to be president of a prestigious society on campus by saying that you’d be rubbish at it and by hiding in corners and not talking to people. Socially successful students have large networks of friends and acquaintances. They’re not afraid to talk about what they are good at. Perhaps you could learn something from their technique?
Lots of students worry that if they promote themselves they will come across as arrogant or boastful, that isn’t the case! There’s a difference between boasting and being positive about your skills. The boastful person says:
“Yes, I’ve climbed Everest, I’ve done K2 as well, to be honest they don’t present that much of a challenge to a good climber.”
The positive, confident approach might be:
“I love climbing and I’ve had some amazing opportunities to visit fascinating places to climb. Yes, I have been to Everest, it was an enormous test of my resilience and endurance and taught me a huge amount about effective teamwork. It was very humbling to see how the Sherpas work and to understand their level of expertise.”
The second person has got the message across in a self-effacing and positive way and has linked the experience to the development of employability skills. You’re going to have to sell yourself like this in application forms and at interviews and assessment centres. Nobody else is going to do a sales pitch for you, so work on doing it for yourself. If you are someone who struggles with confidence then I promise that your personal pitch is never going to come across as arrogant or boastful. Go for it!
Can you compete with others?
If you apply for a job you enter a competition. You have to be prepared to use all your skills and attributes to succeed. That’s not to say that every element of the process will be a competition. At an assessment centre you’re unlikely to be directly competing with others there, there might be jobs for all or none of you, depending on performance! There isn’t likely to be a job however, for the person who doesn’t say anything. You don’t need to be aggressive but you do need to speak up. Don’t just decide when you arrive that everyone else is better than you and that you might as well go home. If you’ve got several stages through a recruitment process then you’re as good as others you meet. Why shouldn’t it be you who gets the job?
What if you simply can’t do all this?
You don’t have to apply for a graduate scheme. You could look for a job in an SME (Small or Medium Sized Enterprise). A well-targeted speculative application could put you in the position whereby you’re the only person who is going to be considered for a job. You might find that you feel more comfortable in an organisation where you are not having to compete to move up the greasy pole! It may be that success in your post will help you to gain confidence. In a smaller organisation it’s likely that you’ll have to turn your hand to all sorts of different tasks and you’ll find you build up skills in many different areas. You’ll probably also find that you get plenty of early responsibility!
There is help out there to enable you to build your confidence.
Most universities are offering programmes aimed at helping you to gain confidence. At Warwick we have the Sprint programme aimed specifically at women. Look out for what is on offer and go to see Careers to get realistic advice and support. If you feel that your lack of confidence is really hampering you in daily life, then you might want to think about getting a referral for counselling or cognitive behaviour therapy. If you’re an academic high flyer and you just can’t find a way to believe in yourself why not see if someone can help you to form a more realistic self image?