Thursday, 27 June 2019

Tips and tools to boost your professional confidence

Tip to boost confidence

At our 2019 Women Returners 'Back to Your Future' Conference last month, Anna Johnstone, senior coach at Women Returners, led a session on how to boost professional confidence. Here are some takeouts from that session.

One of the recurring themes we see when we coach returners is lack of professional confidence. The women we work with may be very confident in their personal life, but often doubt their self-worth when it comes to returning to the workplace. They may think "What have I got to offer? Will I be able to do the job? What value can I add? Will an employer even want to hire me?" We hear these doubts again and again.

Our senior coach, Anna Johnstone, focussed on tackling a lack of professional confidence head on at our recent Conference by focussing on three key areas - 1) internal feelings of worth and self-belief,  2) outer confidence - your gravitas, the impact that you have, and 3) reframing confidence as courage.

1) Inner confidence - feelings of worth and self-belief

Some people refer to self-belief as having backbone. But Anna says that improving your self-belief is a bit like strengthening the muscles around your backbone which may have become a little weak during a career break. Self-doubt - your inner critic or gremlin - may be telling you that you've lost your skills, you're too old or that you'll never get back up to speed with technology. 
Here are Anna's tips for dealing with your inner critic and boosting your self-belief:
  • Try reframing the way you think. Instead of thinking, for example, "I will never get back up to speed" say to yourself - "my inner critic is telling me I will never get back up to speed"
  • This is a subtle, but effective, change which will make you question negative assumptions. It may also bring out the fight in you so that you think "someone is telling me that I'm not going to get back up to speed - but I am going to get back up to speed."
  • Remember that you also have another internal voice - your inner mentor. This is the voice of someone who cares about you - it's calm, kind and supportive. Learn to listen to this voice and to dial it up so that it becomes louder than your inner critic
  • Remind yourself of the things you are good at - it's a great way to boost self-belief. Remember that you have a wealth of skills and experience developed throughout your career and your career break - write these down and practise saying them out loud

2) Outer confidence - how do you act more confident even if you have doubts on the inside?
  • Think about your body - if you change how you sit and stand this will change the way you think. For example, putting your feet firmly on the ground so that you feel solid can really help if you’re about to go into a situation that makes you feel stressed
  • Roll back and lower your shoulders. This will take the tension out of your shoulders and allow you to breathe better 
  • Breathe deeply from your diaphragm - in through your nose, out through your mouth - five times. This will help dissipate doubts and anxieties and strengthen your voice - particularly important just before an interview!
  • Watch Amy Cuddy's Power Pose TEDTalk - and practise 'power posing'  every morning and before facing any situation you find stressful
  • If you hear yourself speaking quickly make a conscious effort to slow down. People will hear more of what you say and speaking slower has the added bonus of giving you more time to think
  • Feel more confident at interviews and meetings by wearing something that makes you feel good about yourself and gives you a boost

3) Reframe confidence as courage
  • The problem with thinking "if only I had more confidence I would send this email, apply for that role, phone my contact etc" is that you end up waiting to feel more confident, which can stop you from taking action
  • Instead of focusing on having more confidence, try focusing on having more courage
  • Courage is when you decide to do something difficult even though you may have doubts, even though you feel afraid
  • Courage is a much more positive word - aim to dial your courage up a notch to help you to take action despite your self-doubts.

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Wednesday, 12 June 2019

Advice for Employers to Returners - How to Make Yourself Stand Out in CVs and Interviews


At our 2019 Women Returners 'Back to Your Future' Conference, Claire Cohen, Women's Editor of The Telegraph, interviewed five of our employer sponsors who have experience of running successful returner programmes: Bloomberg, Credit Suisse, FDM Group, Fidelity International and O2.

Read some of the highlights on CV and interview advice from the panel's responses below (and see our previous post on recognising your value too).

How can you write a great CV for a returner programme? “Make sure you bring out your career break on your CV - the experience that you’ve had and what you've done, the skills that you've learned. Some people leave this out and just put the dates in instead of explaining what they've done during that period."

“Most people have amazing backgrounds. Demonstrate the skills you want the employer to see, bring those out with some real-life examples on your CV."

“What I really look for is experience - make sure this is fully explained on your CV and at the interview as well, because the experience you bring is so different from other candidates and that’s what really sets you apart."

“Put your career break front and centre of your CV. There’s no point in trying to hide it - why should you? It’s absolutely part of who you are and the experience you're bringing to the role so draw that out at the beginning."


“If you want an employer to give your CV time, to give you time, you need to put the time in yourself. Before you press the send button read it a second, third time and just make sure that it makes sense."


How can you present yourself well during an interview?

“It’s very important to come to the table with what you are bringing to the organisation and not to focus on what you may not have, such as technical/digital skills.”

“Be prepared. When you go to that interview know your CV, know your skills and don’t dismiss the soft skills."

“Articulate what your top strengths are - this can be powerful in an interview.” (see What's your Unique Strengths Combination)

“Don’t define yourself by what you’ve done before. Think about transferable skills. Break down what you’ve done into elements that will help an employer understand what you bring to the table."


“Try to be succinct. Articulate exactly what skills you bring."
 
"Don’t undersell what you’ve been doing - a lot of people undersell what they’ve done during their supposed 'time out'."



Sign up to our free network for more advice, support and job opportunities. You’ll find much more help and advice on our website.