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How to Build Confidence at Work, According to Experts

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At one point or another in our professional lives, we’re likely to face moments of self-doubt and imposter syndrome. As a result, we may feel at a loss for how to build our confidence. Gen Z’ers are even more likely to report feeling anxious about their job — nearly half feel “particularly anxious” about their job, and over a third feel like their skill set is not usable in the workplace, according to a study by LHH. 

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Yet confidence is a critical factor in workplace success and growth. It’s crucial to rid these feelings of anxiety and doubt before they negatively affect your work life.

Why is confidence workplace-critical? Do you know how to build confidence at work? In this guide, we’ll cover:

Why Is Confidence Important in the Workplace?

“If you don’t believe in what you’re saying or doing, nobody else will either,” says Zach Smith, co-founder and chief activation officer at Activate 180, an employee performance and career coaching platform.

Confidence affects not only your perception of your work but how people perceive you.

“A healthy level of authentic confidence shows people that you value your own work, opinion, and ideas, which leads to opportunities that wouldn’t be accessible without your boldness,” Smith continues.

But confidence also affects your working style, making you feel empowered to reach your career goals. 

“When you’re confident in your skills, abilities, and value, you’re more likely to take on assignments and roles that will grow and stretch you professionally,” says Sally Anne Carroll, transformational life and career coach. “Take initiative, take risks and be more comfortable with constructive feedback and making mistakes — all of this will open up more opportunity.” 

>>MORE: Forage Roundtable: Overcoming Anxiety and Imposter Syndrome

How to Build Confidence in Yourself at Work

How do you build self-confidence and hopefully reach more success at work? Here’s what some career coach experts had to say.

Get to the Source

First, figure out where your lack of confidence is coming from. To find the cause, J.R. Lowry, founder of PathWise.io, a career coaching company, recommends running through a list of possible culprits:

  • Is it your boss?
  • Is it your peers? 
  • Is it someone else, or just the company’s culture more generally? 
  • Is it a specific project or task you’ve been assigned? 
  • Is it your work?

“If the root cause is people-related, ask yourself how an outsider would view the situation that’s causing your self-esteem issues,” Lowry says. “You ultimately need to figure out whether you need to change — what you’re doing or how you’re internalizing the situation — or whether the other person needs to change.”

If it’s not about the people and instead about your work, Lowry advises considering what would make you feel more confident about performing the task. “Do you need to learn a new skill? Is there someone you could enlist to help you with it? Are there parts of it that you feel better about than others that you could start with?”

This exercise gives you a tangible way to identify where your lack of confidence comes from, then take concrete steps to overcome that confidence gap.

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Separate Facts From Feelings

Imagine: you ask your boss an important question, and they come back with a single letter response, “K.” Are you suddenly freaking out that your boss hates you and think you’re getting fired tomorrow? 

In a more virtual working world, it’s especially easy to misconstrue online communication. We can’t see our boss’s body language or even their schedule (which might show they were so busy all they had time to respond with was, “K”).

>>MORE: Top Communication Skills for the Workplace

Instead of letting our feelings of doubt get in the way, Tim Toterhi, CHRO and ICF certified career coach, recommends getting a second opinion.

“​​Outsource your perspective,” Toterhi says. “Ask a thoughtful objective person for an honest assessment of your ability. Sometimes our mirrors are cracked or warped and send back false images. See the truth. Then act.”

If you’re uncomfortable asking someone else, you can make a fact vs. feeling list. In one column, list the things you know are true about your situation. This can be a list of your achievements, honest assessments of your work, and ways people have communicated with you. In the feelings section, write down the doubts and worries you have. This can help you see where your brain is jumping to conclusions.

Reframe Your Lack of Experience as a Strength

When we land a job with no experience, we may have doubts about our qualifications when we start working. Why did this company choose me? What skills do I really bring to the table?

“‘Newness’ is not a weakness,” Toterhi says. “It’s a wondrous, quickly vanishing strength that lets you approach the complexities of any job with fresh eyes.”

In fact, your little to no experience in many ways is an advantage. You’re approaching problems a company might have been dealing with for years with an entirely new perspective.

>>MORE: How to Write a Resume With No Work Experience

“If you need to acknowledge your relative inexperience, position that knowledge gap as a strength,” Natanya Wachtel, Ph.D., therapist, and certified life coach, says. “You could say something like, ‘My fresh perspective on this topic gave me an idea that’s out of the box, but I feel deeply confident it could be the solution we all need.’ Take what makes you feel unsure and imagine it as an advantage instead of an obstacle. Your confidence will follow.”

Set a Goal to Be More Confident

Just like any other workplace skill or achievement, setting a goal is a great way to learn how to build confidence. However, it can be difficult to measure confidence, so start by setting goals in areas that are confidence gaps for you. For example:

  • Do you lack confidence in meetings? “If you’re generally shy and quiet during meetings, a worthwhile goal would be to share one comment, question or idea during each meeting,” Wachtel says. “Start with a smaller meeting, like a team or department meeting, where you already know everyone and work your way up to full staff meetings.”
  • Are you nervous when interacting with coworkers? Make it your goal to start a conversation with someone new each week or jump into conversations on Slack.
  • Do you feel shaky about your skill set? Research what kind of experience, training, or support you’d need to build those skills.

Confidence can feel like a vague enigma to crack — something you either “have” or you don’t. But setting clear, tangible goals in areas you’re not confident in can help you build it up. 

>>MORE: What Are SMART Goals? Template and Examples

Carroll recommends setting confidence goals just like you would with work performance goals.

“What would you like to accomplish in your first 30-60-90 days on the job?” she says. “You can think about this in terms of what you’d like to accomplish — your impact, based on what you know about the organizational goals for your new role — and what you’d like to learn, your development.”

Then, it’s all about sharing those goals with your coworkers. She recommends setting up a 1:1 meeting with your manager to discuss this plan or bringing it to a meeting with them. You want to ensure your goals align with business goals and that your manager clearly understands how you want to grow — so they can help you get there. 

How to Build Confidence: The Bottom Line

If you’re not feeling confident at work, all hope isn’t lost. Confidence is a “developable skill,” Carroll says. “It’s not a feeling, it’s more often a result. That means showing up, even when you’re feeling less than confident.”

With practice, concerted efforts, and tangible goals, you can build your confidence at work — and hopefully, see more work success follow.

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Zoe Kaplan is a Senior Writer at Forage. Prior to joining Forage, she wrote and edited career and workplace content for Fairygodboss, the largest career community for women.