(3-minute read)

Welcome to January, a month for looking ahead and setting goals. As is true at the beginning of a year, articles and podcasts about goal-setting are everywhere. This is not one of those.

Today’s post is about building and projecting the confidence you’ll need to achieve the career goals you’ve set.

Confidence is a key ingredient for convincing others that you are worthy of a new role or expanded responsibility. Confidence signals that you are trustworthy and capable of mastering new challenges. Confidence assures others that you can, if need be, fake it ‘til you make it.

Whether you’re positioning yourself for a promotion, looking for a new job, redefining your current role, preparing for interviews, or negotiating a compensation package, building the attributes that define and communicate self-confidence is the first step toward your goal.

Confident people look and act differently. They project self-assurance, open-mindedness, and decisiveness and take a measured approach when addressing challenges. Confident people are willing to admit when they’re wrong or have made a mistake. Whether they feel it or not, these people know how to look calm, maintain good eye contact and exhibit positive body language. These are all learnable traits.

Like muscles that need daily stretching and exercise, it’s easier to address change with optimism and enthusiasm when your confidence muscle is in shape. Before outlining tactics that build confidence, take this short quiz to assess your current confidence level.

Building confidence begins with knowing facts about yourself– what you like to do, what you are good at, and how you want to leverage that knowledge into new opportunities. A personal SWOT analysis organizes your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats- all in one place. Once completed, you can align your strengths with opportunities and create a list of possible paths for advancement. Although challenging to look objectively at your weaknesses, your SWOT will help you map out a professional development plan that builds toward the opportunities you’ve identified.

Use the information from your SWOT as the foundation for your larger confidence-building strategy. What follows are activities for building the traits most frequently associated with confidence.


Banish your inner gremlin

Sometimes, we can be our own worst enemy. It begins with the internal voice that says, “I’m not good enough” or “I can never get it all right.”

If you want to kill that gremlin, change your inner narrative. Rather than “I failed,” change the dialogue to “What I learned.” Rather than “It has to be perfect,” lower your stress level with “I can try.”

When we don’t feel confident, new challenges make us feel uncomfortable. Reframe that discomfort as an opportunity for learning. Rely on what you learned from your SWOT to understand your assets and where you’ll need help. Then, put aside your ego and ask for help. Shifting away from a negative internal mindset boosts your confidence level.


Be nice to yourself

There is certainly no shortage of self-care information and advice, so I’ll be brief. Eat well, sleep, exercise, and get outside. Doing each of these directly affects how you present yourself, your body language, and your level of self-assurance.


Seek out a challenge

Try something new, even if it’s a little scary. Anything outside your current comfort zone will do. Pushing your boundaries adds to self-confidence.


Gather support

As with most things, it’s easier when you don’t have to go it alone. Make a list of the people in your network who are good listeners and challenge your ideas. These people will help you identify connections between your work and new opportunities. A network that challenges you makes you better at arguing your point or negotiating a position. Plan regular check-ins and stick with it; these are powerful allies.


Help others

“If you want to be a true professional, you will need to do something outside yourself.” – Ruth Bader Ginsberg

As humans, we are hard-wired to connect with other humans. Helping others elevates our sense of self-worth. There are many forms this can take, from mentoring those starting in their careers to volunteering in the community. Making time for helping others keeps us humble. Humility is an essential part of confidence as it keeps us from tipping into overconfidence and narcissism.

As you put together and launch your confidence-building strategy, pay close attention to colleagues who demonstrate the characteristics you’d like to see in yourself. What do you observe that you can emulate? Are these people good candidates for your support network? Don’t be hesitant to approach others, as your support will help them build their confidence level.

When your confidence muscle is strong, you’ll be a better colleague and a more engaged team member. Above all, you will have a solid foundation for achieving the goals you’ve set for yourself.


To a confident year ahead!


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You can also check out Forbes.com/CFO blog where I write about communicating with and motivating teams.