Stumbling Blocks to Success: Lack of Confidence

For several years I’ve asked the students in my internship class to buy a copy of Strengths Finder 2.0.  After reading the opening section, they then use the access code that comes with the book to complete an online assessment, and the results provide them with a list of their top five strengths (from a list of 34 strengths described in detail in the book). Next I ask them to write about the results of the assessment and describe how they can use what they have learned from the book in job interviews and in their careers. I then take the assignment one step further and ask students to review the 29 strengths that did not show up in their top five and choose two that they would like to develop.

This past year, nearly 50% of the students in my class chose “Self Assurance” as a trait that they did not have, but wished that they could develop. This was unusual in that I’ve never noticed any type of pattern before in the response to this assignment. What was also noteworthy was that so many of the students said that they chose this trait because they feel that they are greatly lacking in confidence.

I’m not sure if this really is a trend, but the lack of good jobs for new college graduates over the past several years would seem to be a good reason why many young people lack confidence. So if you’re one of those people, what can you do to gain confidence when you go on job interviews? Here are some suggestions:

• Be as prepared as you can possibly be for the job interview. Tips 42-47 in my book provide guidance about how to prepare, and you’ll find additional suggestions in Appendices A, J, and K. But without going into all the detail here, I can say that doing research about the organization and developing a good understanding of (and a 30-second pitch about) what you can contribute are a good way to make a start with your preparation.

• Take advantage of opportunities to do practice interviews if possible. Most colleges and universities have career counselors who will work with you on your interview skills, and the more often you practice, the more confident you will feel. You can also find a lot of good information online about how to appear confident.

• I recently heard from a job seeker who just got a job, and she shared an excellent idea about how to prepare for job interviews. She created a written list of all her personal successes and accomplishments, which gave her a good basis for answering many different interview questions. If you’ve had a lot of work experience, think about your successes at work. But if you’re still in college or have just recently graduated, use accomplishments from your classes (team projects are great examples), your extracurricular activities (which show leadership and teamwork skills), and any internships or part-time jobs you’ve had.

When I teach public speaking, I tell my students that the best way to feel confident is to have a solid command of the subject matter: If you feel like the expert in the room, and if you understand that you’re there to share your expertise with the audience, then you’ll feel more confident. While an interview situation is somewhat different from public speaking, keep in mind that you are the expert on your own skills and accomplishments, and your goal in the interview is to show the “audience” how they can use those skills to their advantage. Doing the preparation outlined above will really help you accomplish that goal.