Show of hands: Who has heard the phrase “confidence is key” before? Are you with me on this? From elementary school to iPhone screensavers, this common phrase is plastered everywhere, and for good reason. I truly believe that confidence is key for many areas of your life but if you’re like me, I only think about confidence in personal settings. My personality, looks, and sense of humor are all things that I easily see as areas needing confidence. But the one area I’ve always struggled feeling confident in? My career. And that’s where Heather Monahan comes in.
Monahan is a best-selling author, keynote speaker, entrepreneur and founder of Boss in Heels. Having successfully climbed the corporate ladder for nearly 20 years, Monahan’s new book Confidence Creator illustrates the tough lessons she’s learned throughout her career that have helped her develop the self-assurance necessary for getting what she wanted in life. Now she’s sharing 11 ways you can take your career to the next level by feeding your own. Here’s what she recommends.
Figure Out Where Your Passions and Talents Lie
“When you are spending your time in your superpower you feel so confident. What I mean by that is if your talent is highlighted when you are interacting with others, but you are currently in a job where you only interact with spreadsheets on your computer, you need to change roles. Figuring out where your passions and talents are is critical to becoming your most confident self at work. This is the single most important thing you can do. When we speak about what we know and love, we are more confident. Identify your superpower and spend your time there.”
Bring Your Confidence to Work (Even If You Have to Fake It Sometimes)
“Confidence everywhere is important. Here is an example: I was hired by an association to give my keynote speech. On the conference call the week before the event, the new president was laying out expectations for me. This is what he said, Heather, this is my first year as president and there is so much pressure on me to create a stellar event. If your speech is amazing then I am golden, if you blow it I fail. You cannot blow it. I laughed in my head. I could hear how he was lacking confidence in his new role. Thankfully, I am very confident in my speaking abilities and here is what I said, Have no fear. I will nail this and you will look like a superstar. You can take that to the bank.
“He started laughing and thanked me for being so confident, it put him at ease. However, if I had said to him, I am so sorry you are feeling this pressure. It sounds really hard. I can promise I will try my best (while a fair response) it would not have been the confident response my client needed in his moment of fear. Bringing confidence to work is the difference between existing and excelling. People want to work with people that are confident because it makes them feel comfortable.”
Confront Your Misconceptions and Limiting Beliefs
“This is the million dollar question. Statistics show that women feel less confident than men beginning at age eight. What this says to me is the way we are raised—the self-limiting beliefs that are imposed on us through culture, society, media and the ‘lanes’ that are created for women—all impact our confidence. We are told to be a certain weight, look pretty, be kind and gentle, be smart but not too smart and on and on. What I have learned over the last two decades is pretty much everything I was taught as a child needs to be re-examined now.
“I was raised as the ‘social’ one and my sister was the ‘smart’ one. I walked through life carrying these labels with me and allowing myself to be limited as a result. Confronting these misconceptions and moving into my fear allowed me to create confidence in myself; however, it was pretty scary. Realizing that we create our own reality and we allow for or choose not to accept others opinions or limitations is incredibly empowering. For years I had played small at work because I saw that it allowed others to feel more comfortable. When I would rise up or step into my power I would see others feel uncomfortable. Deciding to own my power has allowed me to take off in business and in my life. It starts with you and me deciding to live our lives by our own rules. Confidence is a choice.”
Make Goals and Stretch Yourself Every Day
“There are so many things. Leverage LinkedIn. Everyone has a personal brand. Make the conscious decision to hold the pen when orchestrating your personal brand. If you don’t do this others will be writing the outline for your brand and deciding your story. LinkedIn is a fantastic place to showcase your highlight reel at work. This is where you want to list your accomplishments, accolades and reviews. We live in a word-of-mouth society and the best words are the ones others share about us.
“The next time someone says, ‘great job!’ convert that feedback in the moment and ask that person to write a review of your work on your LinkedIn wall. Get in the habit of doing this and watch the credibility and traction you create. Have a goal. Whether it is to make 10 sales calls today or to reach out to three new potential mentors—you need to have a big picture goal and vision of your future and you need to have micro goals that you will accomplish each day. Surround yourself with people that are ahead of you, as they will help to stretch you beyond what you see as your current potential.”
Be Prepared to Step Into the Uncomfortable Sometimes
“If you lack confidence, you will not pitch yourself for the job that doesn’t exist or for the promotion right in front of you. The first time I pitched myself for a vision I had, which was not an existing job, others said to me that it wouldn’t work and others had the same idea, but the company wouldn’t want to implement it. In that moment, if I lacked confidence I would have accepted that answer and backed away. Thankfully, I was confident in my abilities at work and I called the president of the company, met with him face-to-face and closed him on my idea.
“That idea more than doubled the company’s revenues during my tenure at the company. If you want to move up, you need to create confidence so you can step into the uncomfortable and move beyond what has always been. When you create confidence you also allow yourself to innovate and see things others might not be able to see. Confidence allows for creativity and authenticity which are key in getting ahead at work.“
Confidence Is Earned
“I love this question. Confidence is such an interesting thing. I believe we are all born with the same baseline. However, we are immediately impacted by our surroundings and the individuals we are interacting with. There are so many people that I meet who have amazing parents, wealth and health and create confidence immediately from their surroundings. What is interesting is those same people as adults when faced with losing their parents crumble. When your confidence comes from an external place it can’t be sustained.
“I know this first hand. I had associated my confidence with my job title and my paycheck. The day I got fired my confidence came crumbling down. The important thing to know is regardless of if you have confidence today or don’t, you can create it in any moment. The act of reading this article is creating confidence as you are accessing knowledge to better yourself. Confidence is not something that some are born with and some are not. Confidence is something that anyone can create and that can falter at different times in your life or different areas of your life. Some may be confident in their personal life but not at work and some may be really confident in their workout but not when dating. Confidence is different at different times in your life and different situations, but through practice and discipline you can become masterful in creating it and realizing your true potential.“
The “Fake It ‘Till You Make It” Mantra Works… Until It Doesn’t
This mantra served me well in corporate America. Back in the day, I lacked confidence at work for many reasons. One of the big issues is because I had been told by many to dress a certain way, look a certain way, and change how I really am. The more you move away from the authentic you the more you chip away at your confidence. Over time my confidence was dropping. When that happened I began to allow others to treat me poorly at work. When I allowed for that, my confidence started spiraling. I still had a very high position in the company and would have to address employees and audiences often. In those moments, I would fake my confidence. I would take the stage or the mic and ‘pretend’ I was ultra-confident. This worked and so many people believed it. The real fail is I didn’t believe it. Faking it till you make it will help you to get through difficult times, but it is never the long term answer.
Practice Gratitude and Visualization
“-Using affirmations daily works.
-Writing notes on the bottom of your shoe is a great reminder to pick you up when your confidence dips.
-Wearing your power color to work will allow you to feel your best.
-Putting yourself first and investing in you will build your confidence.
-Deciding to no longer apologize and instead thank others will help you to feel stronger.
-Taking others off of the proverbial pedestal will allow you to feel on level ground with others which creates confidence.
-Scents like lavender or anything that resonates with you can help when you are lacking your confidence. -Creating a confidence playlist and theme song will help you to ignite confidence before a big meeting. -Writing down three things you are grateful for each day will shift your mindset.
-Practicing visualizing the life, promotion, meeting you want to happen will start things in motion and ready you for your dreams to manifest.”
Read Confidence Creator
“My book. Confidence Creator is my most amazing creation only behind my son, of course. It’s a compilation of my lowest moments and how I learned to create confidence from them and how you can too.”
Clothing Can Be a Powerful Tool
“Absolutely. For years, I would wear a navy blue pant suit because I had listened to the prescriptive direction others had imposed on me. These days I rock ripped jeans and bodysuits and I feel powerful. Being true to your style and what you feel great in will always help you to be more confident. Trying to follow what others tell you will work is a recipe for failure. You have the answers for you. You know what you like to wear and what you don’t like to wear. Show up as you and shine your light ripped jeans and all.”
Ditch the Fear and Do It Anyway
“You are my people. For years I sat paralyzed by my fear. I would go to work in a toxic environment and cry at home at night because I felt stuck at the job that paid my bills. I was so fearful I would make excuses as to why I had to stay. I never thought, why don’t I leap and see what happens? I now see fear as a green light that means GO! Not only go but go faster. If I had leapt years ago I would be so much further now. Done will always be better than perfect and failure only occurs if you quit. I am not a quitter.
I have had countless fails since I was fired and re-invented myself as an entrepreneur but each failure leads me to a new place, a better place as long as I just keep going. Like anything you can build your strength and conquer new levels of fear. Start small and take baby steps. Talk to a new person in line at Starbucks today. Then tomorrow use that experience to allow you to share your new idea at work with your boss. Keep amassing these small wins by confronting your fear, and before you know it, you will have momentum that will propel you to smash through fear. What’s the worst that can happen?