4 Ways to Build Confidence in a Job You’re Unfamiliar With
By: Jordan DeTar / April 29, 2019
Anyone who walks into a new job and claims to know exactly what they’ve gotten themselves into is lying. Okay, maybe they aren’t exactly knowingly forging the truth, but it’s very unlikely that they know precisely what to expect. No amount of time scouring the recruiting website or digging through Glassdoor reviews can accurately prepare you for those first few days, weeks, or even months on a new job. Sure, you can absolutely do your best to prepare for a new job by doing your due diligence, but the real work comes once you get there.
After graduation, I (along with dozens of my Vanderbilt classmates) joined the nebulous world of management consulting. I’d been sold on the promise of a job that provided opportunities for “creative problem solving”, “impactful synergy creation”, and “strategic decision making”, but I had no idea what that really meant. I figured most of my work would come in the form of exercising my Microsoft PowerPoint and Excel “talents”, but that was the extent of my understanding.
Conversations with current consultants helped to answer some of my questions, but it wasn’t until training had concluded and I was off to the races on my first project that I really started to understand my role. During those first few months, the following tactics helped me to build confidence in a role that I was unbelievably unfamiliar with:
1. Fake it til’ you make it
The most important lesson I learned during my first few months in the workforce is that you underestimate yourself far more than others do. Just because you might be new to the job doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of killing it. When your boss asks you to present the PowerPoint you created to the client, straighten up those shoulders and put on your best blazer. So what, you’ve never given a client presentation before? You know this content more than anyone.
But remember to use this advice with caution. The Muse makes a good point – “fake it til’ you make it” is great advice when it’s a matter of confidence, but not-so-great when it’s a matter of knowledge. For concerns related to actual information, you’ll want to utilize my next tactic.
2. Lean on your team
Part of faking it requires leaning on others. When you’re working on a project that you don’t quite understand, ask another junior-level person for help.
At my consulting firm, we have a strong knowledge-sharing culture. Whenever we’re tasked with an assignment, our immediate first step is to reach out to our contacts and see if anyone has already done something similar to what we’re doing. Chances are you’re not the first person at your company to take on that task, so find someone who has done it, and soak up their knowledge. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel.
By soliciting your team’s help, you’ll be much more confident as you’ll no longer feel alone.
3. Raise your hand
As humans, we’re creatures of habit that rarely feel comfortable with something we’ve never done. To build confidence in a new job, you need to experience all parts of your role – including stretch assignments. When an exciting, challenging opportunity comes along, volunteer to take it on.
In fact, the uber confident Senior Product Manager and Vice President of the Salesforce Women’s Network (SWN) Christina Petersen claims her secret to moving up in her career was doing just that. “Raise your hand and volunteer for projects that expand beyond your day job! I got where I am today by saying yes to new opportunities and offering to take on projects that were not part of my job description.” Confidence comes with experience, so accept the challenge.
4. Grow Your Skillset
Beyond volunteering for projects, another way to build confidence is to set strategic, pointed goals focused on expanding your skillset.
If you’re feeling anxious about your new job because everything is tracked in Excel, take an online class. I personally did just that before starting my career in consulting, and it allowed me to walk into my first project feeling confident that I’d at least understand the basics.
Skillshare is a great platform for on-demand learning, where you can take classes for free to enhance your work experience, such as a Microsoft Excel Bootcamp or Presentation Essentials. Skillshare classes are divided into short, digestible video snippets that use colloquial language, making them easy to comprehend by any first-timer. With on-demand convenience and none of the intimidating pressure of live classes, Skillshare is the perfect place to build the basis of your knowledge in any business-related capability.
By dedicating time to address your opportunities for growth, you’ll find yourself much more confident in your role and therefore better prepared to execute on assigned tasks.
Building confidence in an unfamiliar environment isn’t easy. Those first few days and weeks will likely be tough, but don’t forget to remind yourself that things will get better.
When I walked onto Vanderbilt’s campus as a wide-eyed freshman, I was unbelievably nervous about what was to come. Walking across that same campus as a senior, I felt like I owned the place. While it may seem that confidence comes more naturally to some than others, it’s likely just the perception of confidence that you’re seeing. Deep down, everyone has fears and vulnerabilities (yes, even your intense boss), so don’t be too hard on yourself.
When starting a new job, enjoy the feeling of novelty and be confident in your abilities. As The Muse reminds us, you were hired for a reason, and don’t forget that. And when things get tough, don’t forget to reach out to the women in your life. As we’re reminded often, empowered women empower women.
Jordan DeTar is the founder and chief writer of The Feminequity Factor, “a girl's guide to owning her life." Her personal blog focuses on embracing femininity, owning your life, and revolutionizing what it means to be a young, successful woman in today’s world.
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