How to boost your confidence at work

Dear Jess

A friend asked me a few weeks ago whether I'd read anything on how to increase your confidence at work. As I wracked my brain for any books or articles I'd come across, I realised that whilst nothing specific jumped to mind, I nevertheless had some ideas as well as some things that have worked for me.

Skills: It really helps to have a proper understanding of your skillset. Unfortunately often we are blind to the skills we have aquired over the years and only see the gaps. This is where an outside friend comes in handy, or someone in HR! As the first step I would recommend reviewing your job description (HR usually keep these on file) and seeing how your day-to-day ticks fits with the various skills set out in the job description. Then think about what you do that falls out of this - is there a way you could frame those activites as skills? For example, do you provide moral support for more junior members of staff? You may just think of it as friently chats by the watercooler, but that can translate into a great mentoring skill. The administrative faffing you hate to do each month? "Process management". Grab someone who has a bit of distance and perspective from your day-to-day and set out exactly what your skills are. Because you can bet they are more than you think.

Strengths: Following on from assessing your skills, take a serious look at your strengths and weaknesses. Strengths first though! We often tend to focus on our weaknesses, the things we're bad at or the things we assume we can't do. And often we frame these as some kind of fundamental shortcoming that means we're rubbish at our jobs, rubbish at life, and just a general failure (or is that just me?!) Again, this is where some outside perspective is useful. If you take the time to thoroughly map your strengths, you have a firmer grounding to be assertive at work. Because when you know your strengths you know where you can push for greater responsibility, or greater recognition. The flipside of this is that you know where you can develop - so when that new project comes in it is no longer a reason to find yourself coming up short. Instead you can openly acknowledge that this is perhaps not an area you are strong in, or an area where you have the exact skill-set, but at the same time see it as an opportunity for growth, to augment the skills and strengths you already know you have. 

Style: Your strengths and skills will feed directly into your individual working style, and understanding this style can be crucial in terms of boosting your confidence at work. For example, I am one of those people that spends chunks of the working day on the internet (Buzzfeed animals anyone?!), on my phone (the Bloglovin' app is fab!), or just generally gazing about with a blank look wondering what snacks might be available. All this might sound like I'm inefficient, or unmotivated. But in fact the opposite is true - I have a heavy workload, but one which I get through quickly and one which keeps me engaged. So what gives? It's is a matter of style... Over time I've realised that I work best in bursts of intense activity - I'm not someone who inches forwards through persistence, but instead I benefit from backing off a bit when I find myself stuck. I used to beat myself up for not being able to push through at my intense pace all the time. And in fact some of the people I admire most professionally admit to spending work time on the Daily Mail sidebar of shame as they warm their brains up or get some needed distance from whatever they are working on. Now I realise those moments of downtime (cute puppy gifs anyone?!) are the reason I can push as hard as I do when I am really focussed and productive: they are a help rather than a hindrance, the oil to my brain's machine if you will. And now I realise it I no longer beat myself up, or undermine my own confidence by wishing I worked in a different way. Everyone works differently, the key is to know the strengths of your working style (as well as the weaknesses) and play to them. 

On the subject of style, I couldn't really miss an opportunity to talk about my current obsession - a capsule wardrobe! Now most of the things I read about capsule wardrobes tend to be from bloggers or creative-types that have a much more flexible working wardrobe than I do. Nevertheless, capsuling your work wardrobe can be a real godsend. Fed up with never feeling like I had quite the right thing to wear for days in the office, and inspired by Matilda Kahl, who wears the exact same thing to work every day (yes really - read about it here - link!), I decided to get serious with my work wardrobe. Rather than a work uniform, I narrowed my wardrobe down to two basic silhouettes that work easily for me and are appropriate whether I have external meetings or just a day at my desk: skater-style dresses in good materials (think merino rather than jersey), and slim-legged trousers with a peplum-style top. I keep my work clothes together at one side of my wardrobe and getting dressed has never been easier. And in terms of confidence... Never feeling like I don't quite look professional enough, or feeling uncomfortable in my clothes, is a thing of the past. And as far as my confidence at work goes, that's worth a lot!