How to ignite your confidence to change your career?

“Confidence is the difference between being inspired and getting started,” says Brittany Packnett Cunningham, who's amazing TED talk I just watched.

Confidence is vital. No matter how accomplished, knowledgeable, or creative we are, we won’t take action without confidence. A lack of confidence, which I am all too familiar with, can stop us short of achieving the careers and life we want. Missing confidence hinders us, even if others try to convince us that it is easy, obvious, or that we don’t have anything to lose. In her TED talk Brittany describes this situation eloquently in saying:

“A lack of confidence pulls us down from the bottom and weighs us down from the top. Crushing is with a flurry of “can’t”s, “won’t”s, and impossibles. Without confidence we get stuck. And when we get stuck we can’t even get started.”

But she also reminds us that a lack of confidence isn’t an excuse. Choice is a choice that we can and have to make:

“For some of us, confidence is a revolutionary choice. And it would be our greatest shame to see our best ideas go unrealized and our brightest dreams go unreached all because we lacked the engine of confidence. That is not a risk I am willing to take.”

In her experience, we can focus on three things that will help us gain confidence:

1. Permission burst confidence. Confidence can come from seeing role models or “people like us” succeed with the things we wanted to do. If you are thinking about switching careers search and find a person with a similar background, who has the job you want to get into. Here, Brittany herself is a courageous example of someone who started out as an elementary school teacher and who became an activist, a member of President Barack Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force, a TED speaker, to just name a few of her many accomplishments.

2. Community engagement nurtures confidence. It provides us with the support to rebuild our confidence when we feel low or mess up. Chances are we are not alone in your lack of confidence. When I was a Ph.D. student, I worked with Christi ZuberLisa Carlgren, and Maria Elmquist to launch a community called “Design Thinking Exchange.”  The goal was to bring together executives and researchers who work with #DesignThinking for peer-support and learning. It was amazing to see that “we weren’t alone” and to learn from each other’s failures, successes, questions and ideas. Coming together around a niche topic like #DesignThinking — at the time — gives me confidence that there is a group of people like you and me somewhere out there. Search LinkedIn groups, Clubhouse, Facebook, or Twitters Spaces to find active groups. In case you don’t know where to start, and you are looking for a small group to get started with check out Working Out Loud! Or follow us at the School of Becoming in case you want to connect to people who seek to find their way from paycheque to purpose.

3. Curiosity affirms confidence.  It invites us to learn from our “mistakes” and take charge of our development. Two things that reduce confidence are failures and intimidating goals. One of the simplest ways to rebuild our confidence in both cases is to journal. If you have failed, you could ask yourself: “What can I learn from this that will allow me to succeed next time I try this?” This will allow you to increase your confidence and your chance to succeed with your next attempt. If case you are intimidated by a goal, you could ask yourself: “What is a low-risk version of this goal?” Contrary to popular wisdom and the idea of stretch goals, this question allows you to make your goals less intimidating. Here are two examples of how this questions can help. A former client came up with the idea to test his idea pitch for a career change with his family and trusted colleagues before presenting it to top management. A former MBA students came up with the idea to volunteer in an organization for a week, before signing her contract.

I am sure there are many more ways in which we can build our confidence. If you have additional ideas or resources, please share them in the comments below.

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