In any career, confidence can make a difference in helping a professional grow their skills and boost their value. It frees us to open doors to new relationships. It controls the fears of taking on new roles and new skills. It helps us trust ourselves and others to trust us.
But while confidence should come from within, it doesn’t come by magic. The good news is that it also doesn’t always require an extensive personal transformation. Instead, reframing some basic and practical expectations about simple parts of our work that we take for granted can go a long way to strengthening a career.
Those expectations are very simple: transparency from your employer, guidance from a career partner, and the direction of your vision. When these expectations are not met, the result is confusion about the basics of your value and the opportunities you have at hand. Understand the influence of each, and you can better steer your work decisions in a positive direction.
Transparency from Employers
The idea that employers hold all the cards in the working relationship is no longer true. With more vacancies than people to fill them, companies cannot afford to be vague or withhold information in a way that puts a candidate at a disadvantage.
In other words, employer transparency is not a luxury; it is essential to a good work experience, and it comes in many forms. For example, pay transparency should be an early conversation with the recruiter or hiring manager. Likewise, expectations around work arrangements, remote or onsite, should be clear. Other areas of transparency include working hours, opportunities for additional projects, and optional (versus essential) requirements for a job.
Don’t be afraid to inquire about the essentials or raise issues when you speak with hiring managers. Whether you are considering work as a contractor or a permanent position, the answers matter. Managers may not provide all the answers to your questions, but in the process of asking, you have equipped yourself with one more level of control over the conversation.
Guidance from a Career Partner
In our business, we often encounter contractors with excellent skills who believe that a recruiter is only there to tell them when a job is open. Over time, the relationship between worker and recruiter at a less than ideal staffing firm can be a series of yes-or-no questions: “Do you like this opportunity or not?”
Don’t settle for a transactional relationship with a recruiter. The quality of the recruiter’s relationship with you may reflect that same recruiter’s relationship with the hiring managers at the companies they represent.
While the recruiter on the other end of the conversation may not have your particular technical skills, they should have the ability to share intelligence about the job itself, what they see in the market, what pays well, and how you can sharpen our strategy. If you are not receiving this level of guidance or feel like you have been trained not to deserve or expect it, think again.
Direction from Your Own Vision
If you don’t have a clear vision or satisfaction about purpose in work or life, you’re not alone. A 2021 Gallup survey found that only 20% of surveyed workers find their work highly engaging. Roughly 52% of US respondents cited a high level of life fulfillment. Nevertheless, not being fully happy or clear about your work doesn’t mean you are 100% unhappy. Whether you are passionate about your job, dream of a different life, or have some feelings about both, it is easy to forget those ideas or grow cynical about them in favor of focusing on the next paycheck.
Revisit those ideas and priorities for your work. The big picture may inform your next small decision, whether to take on leading a workstream, signing up for your next online course, or even deciding NOT to take on an additional task.
A Simple Start Is a Good Boost
Boosting career confidence in the near-term is not about ambition; it’s about control. And in the near term, it doesn’t require a drawn-out self-analysis. Instead, begin by simply acknowledging the importance of employer support, recruiter relationships, and your vision. Then, if you find yourself lacking in any of these areas, you can start asking others the right questions and yourself.
Even if the answers to your questions are not satisfactory, having those answers can be empowering. After all, knowledge is power, which can translate into the confidence and energy you need to guide that next career conversation.