3 Ways To Build Your Confidence At Work


A Pew Research Center poll a few years ago revealed that more than half of Gen Y respondents said that one of their goals is to become famous. It’s no wonder that fame is a goal in a society which values and rewards celebrities who are the highly confident, charismatic personalities that dominate popular culture.

More and more the same is true in the workplace: Confident employees are the “stars” at work. Like celebrities, they are able to self-promote and garner attention. Workers who are confident and more outgoing in the office are often the ones rewarded with promotions and recognition.

“In today’s world, our media personalities, politicians and celebrities are all so telegenic. We now live in a culture that really values that aura of confidence and success,” said Dr. Sally Mounts, president of Pittsburgh-based Auctus Consulting Group, a management consulting firm. “It’s true even for people in the reality television milieu, like Kim Kardashian; you can see that one of the reasons she’s so successful is that she projects an enormous air of confidence. If you don’t have that, what you’re telling your supervisors or bosses is that you’re worth overlooking.”

Washington, DC-based career coach Cheryl Palmer says for any administrative professional who wants to be taken seriously in his or her line of work, confidence is a must. During an interview, it takes confidence to convince an employer that you can handle the job.

“It takes confidence to persuade internal and external customers that you are capable of doing your job well,” Palmer said. “It's hard to make much progress in your career if you don't have confidence in yourself. It's difficult for others to have confidence in you if you lack self-confidence.

You’re already fighting those people in the office that lean toward dismissing you because you’re in the administrative arena and those who come across as superior because they have a higher-level position.

“If you add to that the fact that you are not confident in your own abilities, this can have a chilling effect on your career prospects,” Palmer said.

Raises, promotions, bonuses, better projects — these all come to administrative professionals who exude confidence at work, said Caroline Ceniza-Levine, a New York City-based career coach and co-founder of SixFigureStart®.

“When managers delegate, they want to feel confident in who they are giving work to. The admins that can instill this confidence will get the better projects,” Ceniza-Levine said.

Confidence is also vital because administrative professionals can’t always “hide” behind their work. Mounts points out that it’s the administrative professional who is often the “face” of the company.

“Any confidence that the administrative professional can project reflects well on the organization because he or she helps to sell the organization to the public,” Mounts said. “So anyone that can present a great public face is someone who has enormous value added for that company, and that is the person who is going to be selected for a promotion, that’s the person who is going to be hired, that’s the person who is going to be retained and mentored because they provide so much value to the organization.”

Testing Your Confidence

If you’re feeling that your confidence is a little shaky at work, it may be because administrative professionals are often overlooked in their company, which can undermine anyone’s confidence.

Robyn Hatcher, owner of New York City-based SpeakEtc, a training and coaching firm, encounters many administrative professionals in her work and says that while many do amazing work, they often feel undervalued which chips away at their confidence.

“I have actually worked with some people who are doing amazing jobs, and I asked them the question: What value do you bring to this organization or this company? And they can't think of one thing,” Hatcher said. “What often happens in administrative roles is they’re doing so much of the behind the scenes grunt work and their bosses might bark an order at them. What happens then is people take it personally, and they take it as a personal affront to who they are. It’s that sort of knocking people down a peg and then they don't really know what value they have and their confidence gets eroded.”

Palmer’s advice is that administrative professionals show their competence as well as their confidence without being arrogant. They should demonstrate their value to their organizations by being indispensable to the organization.

Confidence Boosters

How do you become that indispensable admin who knows your value? There are some practical steps that administrative professionals can take to boost their confidence, as well as some psychological tricks that help you “fake it till you make it.”

1. Boost your skills

One sure fire way to feel more self-assured at work is to have the skills needed to perform your job well.

“You may not always feel confident, but when you know your job inside and out, it will give you confidence,” Palmer said. “A real confidence builder is to make sure that you are prepared for whatever situation you may face. If, for example, you are asked to draft a letter on a particular topic, research it thoroughly so that the letter will only need minor tweaks when it gets to the boss.”

Never stop learning and improving your skills. “Engage in as much skill-building as you can,” Mounts said. “Skill-building is an important additive for confidence.  If you have taken classes in the evening in Excel or PowerPoint, or leadership, self-development or management, or any of the soft skills, these are things that can help you get a foot forward in the workplace, because you’re the only persons around who can do them. And so for that reason it’s vital that anybody who’s seeking to gain confidence actively engages in enhancing their skills, because that’s an enormous confidence-booster in the workplace.”

2. Track your accomplishments

Whenever you need to refill your confidence tank, take out a pen and paper or open a blank document on your computer and start making a list of all your accomplishments.

“If you lack confidence, give yourself reasons to feel more confident. Write down for yourself all of the people you support and what they accomplish on the job so you can see your contribution in them. Also, even if you don’t believe it in yourself yet, it will help you better understand your bottom line value,” Ceniza-Levine said.

It’s also smart to save any emails that you receive from bosses, vendors, clients and coworkers that tell you when you did a good job. It’s good for review time and it serves as a brag folder you can look at when you need a pick-me-up.

Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam, an administrative staffing firm, also advises administrative professionals to keep tabs on their accomplishments.

“Often, and it’s interesting if you speak to that group of professionals, administrative professionals will say to you, ‘I did this, but it was my job.’ Maybe it was, but there are a lot of things that can come out of all of that,” Hosking said.

Think about it. If you took something from beginning to end or you managed a process or you created a new process that’s an accomplishment that needs to be noted. Make sure you’re keeping a list of these things.

3. Act as if

Palmer says you can count on blows to your confidence, but sometimes you have to project a sense of confidence even when you don't feel confident at all.

“Fake it until you make it. That’s a mantra for a very good reason,” Mounts said. “People who don’t feel inherently confident can often fool the world, because all the world sees is the face that you present to it. So if you don’t have a lot of confidence, acting as though you do is often a very valuable tool for instilling confidence. If you act as though you do, people will respond as though you have confidence and treat you in ways that will reinforce that behavior. Keep your head up, fool the world, and just keep moving forward.”

Because confidence leads to better assignments, more attention, and possible raises, bonuses, and promotions, it is true that confidence begets confidence, Ceniza-Levine said. “If you can fake it to start, it can likely lead to real confidence as your wins start to happen.”

It can be true that administrative professionals are among the most undervalued and underpaid, but they are also highly valuable members of any organization.

“Understand that you are often the glue that keeps an entire series of workers or an entire division together, and that you really need to value yourself for the value that you bring to an organization,” Mounts said.

(This post originally appeared as an article in the July 2012 issue of OfficePro magazine.)