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November 18, 2014
By Beth Brooks, CAE

In this competitive world, do you have the confidence and self-esteem to get ahead?

There is a lot of pressure to be the best you can be, get noticed for your abilities and get promoted. If you want to advance in your career, you need to stand up to get noticed – not just sit back and hope somebody else sees you.

So how do you build your workplace self-confidence? For starters, focus on your abilities. What skills do you have? Are you the best in your office regarding those skill sets?  Then build on those skills by learning news ones. Keep adding to your professional worth by learning new things. Volunteer to help someone so that you can see how they do something or do some cross training with other staff members.

Being prepared is another attribute of self-confident people. You might have to do some work at home (practicing for a presentation, understanding an agenda for a meeting, reading background information on a subject, etc.). Know what you are supposed to do, when you are supposed to do it and how it affects the whole project. Think through the “what if’s” - if things went wrong, what would you need to fix it? The more prepared you are, the better off you are if last minute changes/emergencies occur.

Even if you are not completely confident with your work abilities, act like you are. Don’t get flustered when asked to do something new and don’t make excuses. Don’t apologize and don’t keep asking “are you sure you want me to handle this”? Smile. Accept it cheerfully and do it well. And yes, it is okay to ask for clarification if needed.

Be prepared to be in the spotlight. A large majority of people don’t want to have the focus on them, but if you want more responsibility, be ready to be in front of people, whether it is leading a staff meeting, a committee meeting or making a presentation to staff, members or the public. If you are uncomfortable about speaking in front of groups, join Toastmasters. Practice is what you need and there is no better support group for learning how to make presentations than Toastmasters. The more you do it, the better you get.

Pay attention to your personal appearance and dress for success. Your clothes make an impression on everyone in the office. Look at yourself – would you “buy YOU”? Be neat and comfortable in your clothes. When your clothes look good (and I don’t mean expensive) and your feet don’t hurt, you will be more comfortable and able to focus on your job.

Take time to look at how you carry yourself. Slumping in your chair at work, how you walk, your smile and your gestures all add up to how people see you. Make eye contact, smile, stand tall and walk confidently. Be cheerful and watch your facial expressions.  Looking shocked or disinterested will not help you. Be present and engaged.

Along with how you look, pay attention to how you sound. Speak clearly and use a tone of voice that is balanced (not monotone, not too fast and certainly no vocal fry). Listen to how others that you admire speak and watch their gestures and body language.

People see what is on the outside (clothing, body language and facial expressions). They can’t see the fear when you are asked to take on a (daunting) task – it is up to you to show them what you want them to see. Don’t doubt yourself. Smile, think positive thoughts, remember your solid skills and accept new challenges with confidence.

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