Self-confidence - if only we could create and bottle it we would make our fortune! The reality is that many women who have taken a career break suffer from a lack of professional confidence. And it’s really not surprising - it’s natural for confidence to fade when we take a long break from an activity that formed a large part of our identity.
The good news is that your professional confidence quickly comes back after a successful return to work. However if you’re struggling with your self-confidence at the moment, take heart from the fact that neuroscience and psychology show that our actions can change our thought patterns to build self-belief. So ‘faking it until you make it’ can often lead to a real increase in confidence.
Top tips for appearing more confident than you really are
- Walk into the room positively, make eye contact and smile to help build rapport and convey confidence.
- Avoid fidgeting with pens or rings - gently closing your hands can help with this.
- If you're standing, stand up straight with your feet apart. If you're sitting, adopt a wider posture with your feet on the floor.
- Avoid crossing your arms as this can make you seem defensive.
And if your confidence needs a quick boost - here's what to do:
- Speak more slowly and deliberately.
- In interviews, don’t be afraid to take your time when answering a question.
- In a networking situation, instead of being preoccupied by what you want to get across, concentrate on listening to what the person you’re talking to is saying and show interest in them. For more tips read Are you missing the point of networking at an event?
The Power Pose
- For a quick boost of confidence before a stressful event try Amy Cuddy’s two-minute ‘Power Pose’. In her 2012 TED Talk, Cuddy asserted that adopting a dynamic physical stance can make can make us feel more confident. And we can personally attest that the Power Pose works!
For more help and advice on increasing your professional confidence, we've a range of articles on the Advice Hub on our website.
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"When you get into a tight place, and everything goes against you till it seems as if you couldn’t hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that’s just the place and time that the tide’ll turn." Harriet Beecher Stowe
Searching for a job after an extended career break can leave you feeling overwhelmed and demotivated. We often find returners have no idea where to focus their job search. They find themselves applying randomly for jobs which becomes demotivating as nothing seems to fit or work out. Alternatively, you can get stuck in “either/or thinking” where you fix on only two options and then become demoralised and give up when neither work out.
We all know that effective job search requires effort, energy and sustained motivation. But how to maintain motivation in the face of setbacks, disappointments and the sheer length of time needed to pursue options, is the difficult part!
At Women Returners, we recognise that a clear focus for getting back into the job market and also strategies to maintain motivation are needed.
We work with returners to help them identify a good rationale for exploring particular career options based on what they want and need in any job role. We also help you to formulate action steps which are behavioural, specific and motivating. We understand the psychological blocks that can reduce your motivation to carry out actions after the coaching has ended, even though you were committed at the time.
Here are our top tips for maintaining motivation:
For more advice on Motivation see this previous post. Make sure you have signed up to our free network for more advice, support and job opportunities.
- Imagine yourself 3 months in the future when your enthusiasm for action is dwindling. What would you like to tell your 3-months-from-now ‘self’ to keep up motivation? Alternatively write a motivational letter to yourself and ask someone to post it to you in 3 months' time.
- Remind yourself of your autonomy in choosing which action steps to follow; no one is telling you what you have to do. That notion can be empowering in itself.
- Revisit the end goal and remind yourself of its importance, especially if the action steps feel removed from what you are aiming to achieve. Consider linking the goal to your sense of identity, self worth and values.
- Identify role models who have achieved their goals through their own hard work and effort. Use the same techniques that they used.
- Remember when you succeeded in achieving your goals in the past. If you did it before you can do it again!
- Make it easy to achieve action steps by physically removing all distractions and having all the materials you need to hand and elebrate. Reward yourself with treats for periods of concentrated activity and actions accomplished.
- Find a group or a buddy going through the same experience and motivate each other. If you're in the Women Returners network, our LinkedIn group can help you to find the returners in your area. It's also a good idea to identify your return-to-work supporters.
- Break down steps into manageable chunks and make them specific and achievable. And find a way of physically marking off action steps when achieved. One technique is to physically throw away action post-it notes to symbolise completion.
- Visualise the steps you will take to achieve your goal.
- Finally just ‘get stuck in’ and commit to action and momentum will build! As Goethe said, ‘whatever you can do or dream you can, boldness has genius, power.'