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Gain Confidence in Your Career (9 Tips to Land Your Dream Job)

Gain Confidence in Your Career (9 Tips to Land Your Dream Job)

A career setback–which can negatively impact our self-confidence–can happen at any moment of our life. Imagine the impact of the experience of being demoted, overlooked for a promotion or feeling as if you are the last person on the team to receive recognition.

Despite hard work, there are times when it seems impossible to get ahead; this can certainly have an impact on efforts to be more confident or motivated in your career.

Can you relate? You are not alone.

A Gallup Survey reveals, “85% of employees are not engaged or actively disengaged at work.”[1]

Yet, unhappiness in your career no longer needs to be your reality.

In this article, we hold the golden truth to help you learn how to gain confidence land the dream job that you deserve. Read on to find out how to change your life forever.

True Secrets to Career Happiness

1. Do Some Soul Searching

What is the point of soul searching? It is a process of self awareness.

Now is the best time to look deep within yourself to discover what will make you truly happy in your career. For example: there are many people that have pursued a career simply to make their parents happy. Society often tells us certain careers, like being a doctor, are most rewarding because they offer high earning potential.

True happiness can present itself in many ways. The key is to find the career that will make you happiest. Here are a few ideas to help you start soul searching:

  • A road trip with colleagues
  • A one-week vacation
  • Beginning a career journal
  • Meditation

Approaching a career without a plan can turn towards the opposite direction of what you originally intended.

Giving yourself an opportunity to clear your head of negative thoughts is a great way to get started.

Here are several helpful things to consider on your soul search:

Personality: Most of us do not realize that certain jobs are designed for people with certain personalities.

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For example, an introvert can succeed as a human resources manager, writer or in information technology (IT) professional. An extrovert may be happy in a sales role, working directly with customers or working in public relations in front of the camera.

Happiness: You might need to switch careers in the pursuit of happiness. Think about the environment and job responsibilities that will match how you interact with people.

Performance: Its time to be honest with yourself. How well are you performing? Do you keep making the same mistakes? The only way to grow is to review mistakes and commit to stop repeating them in the future.

Progress: Pursuing a goal and letting it go because of a disappointment is common. Think about the personal groups you joined last year you stopped attending.

It is better to be honest with yourself that the ambition to continue pursuing a goal has discontinued and it is time to resume where you left off.

Soul searching can be a liberating experience.

Instead of searching for answers outside of yourself, search within yourself to help guide you in taking your first step towards your dream job.

2. Ask Your Manager for the Truth

There is a difference between the job we want and the reality of the job we can get.

Your manager is the right person to ask for real advice on whether you are fit for a new position. The advice from a family member or friend is tempting, but it can potentially prolong the time it may take for you to succeed.

A direct manager spends most of the day working with you and can offer specific examples of strengths and weaknesses.

Here is a list of questions to ask a manager for the truth:

  • How can I improve as an employee?
  • What career advice can you offer?
  • What are my chances of promotion?
  • Do I meet or exceed expectations?
  • How do I rank on the team?
  • What was my best piece of work?

The truth hurts, but it can set you free from setting low standards in a career. Document the conversation with a list of actions steps on what to do next.

In today’s workforce, most managers do not have time to sit one-on-one with employees to develop their skills unless it is impacting work performance.

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Be proactive and request a quarterly meeting with the manager to track your progress.

Tracking progress can be a confidence booster. It will help keep you on track of your goals making you feel as if you have full control of your destiny.

3. Create Personal Branding Tools

Personal branding tools amplify your skills and talents. These could be:

  • An up-to-date LinkedIn profile with a mix of weekly social engagement with your connections.
  • An eye-catching resume template with a colorscheme that matches your personality.
  • Business cards customized to your industry that you are proud to share at networking events.
  • A reference letter about your skills from a professional with experience working directly with you. (Create an effective reference letter by giving the writer the job description you are targeting so they can highlight your most relevant skills).[2]
  • A 30-60-90 plan that will engage a recruiter (what you can offer an organization in the first 90 days of employment).

You can use these personal branding tools to increase your chances of being hired for a new job.

A few of these tools can be used when connecting with people online that are interested in learning about you for an upcoming opportunity.

4. Jot Down Your Achievements

A list of achievements tucked away in your wallet or purse can make you feel better about where you are in life.

When I experience a disappointment, I read my list to boost my self-worth. Other people will not always be available (or willing) to remind you of your greatness. So do it yourself!

A list of achievements can include the following:

  • Awards received
  • Buying a new house
  • Completing a salsa class
  • Moving for a new job

It is a confidence-building ritual that can be used whether you are at the pinnacle of a career or are just starting your journey.

5. Help Out New Employees

One of the best ways to become a confident person is to create positive change in the lives of other people.

If you participate in a mentorship program or help guide the career of a new employee, once that person succeeds it will make you feel better about yourself. They will think highly of you because of the influence you have had on their journey.

Here are a few ways to help newbies on the job:

• Introduce new hires to experienced employees

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• Invite new employees out for lunch to teach them about the company

• Offer to help a new hire when you notice they are struggling

• Sit near a new hire to be a direct contact for help

How does this improve confidence? If your advice can help new employees increase work productivity, your manager will recognize the hard work.

This could  turn into a positive conversation with your manager that leads to a promotion or a raise.

6. Stand Out From the Competition

The conventional way of applying for a job online will not set you apart from hundreds of people in your field that want the same job.

Have you heard of the hidden job market? According to Fortune, “job market in which the commonly quoted statistic tells us 70-80% jobs are not even published.”

The secret to getting ahead is tapping into your talent to find creative ways to stand out.

Listed below are a few tips to help you succeed:

  • Start blogging if you are a subject matter expert.
  • Start a group on LinkedIn to connect with people in your field.
  • Invite a few colleagues to start a committee outside of work and become the president of the group.
  • Write an e-book on an ongoing topic in your industry offering a compelling solution to a problem. Remember to share it with colleagues.

At times you need to do things other people are not willing to do.

Imagine implementing a new idea at work that helps the company achieve a high level of success. You will feel good about this success no matter where you are in your career.

7. Get Inspired

The most successful people in history experienced challenges in their career. Read the biography of a person that you admire who has had major career success. It just may change your thoughts about your own situation.

Not only can it teach you about their mindset and decisions they made, it will also give you the confidence to continue on the path to pursue your dream job.

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8. Seek Out a Career Coach

Let’s face it. We can’t achieve a high level of success without guidance.

Most of us expect our family and friends to have all the answers. Yet, they are not career coaches and can only provide the advice they would do if they were in your shoes which is limited.

A career coach will have an in-depth conversation about the full scope of your career aspirations. Most are well connected to key decision makers at organizations and can provide advice that a friend simply can’t offer.

Benefits to working with a career coach are:

  • They work with people like you every day
  • They offer unfiltered, honest feedback on your progress
  • Provides direction when you are confused
  • Holds you accountable for your goals
  • You’ll get an unbiased opinion from a qualified professional

You don’t have to go on your career journey alone. Interview several career coaches to ensure you find a great fit to guide you.

9. Trust the Journey

We live in a society that expects results overnight.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “life is a journey, not a destination.” It is about enjoying the process whether you succeed or fail.

Once we accept that our journey can be met with unexpected results, experiencing a setback becomes part of the process.

Here are a few ways to successfully trust the journey:

  • Don’t have high expectations
  • Remember there is room for improvement
  • Pursue one goal at a time to avoid disappointment
  • Re-write your list of goals when you experience failure

Think of life as a stock market chart: wins and losses are inevitable. By trusting your decisions, when you are faced with failure you’ll rest assured that it is a normal part of life to overcome.

Capture Your Career Confidence

The key to succeeding in life is stepping outside your comfort zone.

It can be terrifying to reach out to a manager for honest feedback or soul search to find answers. A daily success ritual of reading a list of your achievements and trusting that journey is a step closer to fulfilling your dreams.

Featured photo credit: Photo by Pete Bellis on Unsplash via images.unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Makeda Waterman

An experienced online media journalist blogs about work and career development.

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Last Updated on April 23, 2019

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

How to Set Stretch Goals and Keep Your Team Motivated

Stretch goals are a lot like physical fitness. When you adopt a physical sport such as running, continual practice leads to increased stamina, growth and progress.

While commitment to the sport improves performance, true growth happens when you are stretched beyond your comfort zone. I know this from personal experience.

For years, I was an avid runner. I ran with a variety of running groups in the Washington, D.C., area and in Columbus, Ohio, where I lived prior to moving to the nation’s capital in 2011.

While I was initially fearful about slacking off on my exercise habit when I moved to D.C., running enthusiasts in the area provided continual motivation, inspiring me to lace up my shoes day after day. Much to my surprise, many of the area’s running stores (including Pacers and Potomac River Running) boasted running groups that met in the mornings and evenings. So, it was relatively easy for a newcomer like me to connect with like-minded peers.

I was never a particularly fast runner, but I enjoyed the afterglow of the sport: being completely drained but feeling a sense of accomplishment; setting and reaching goals; buying and wearing out new tennis shoes. The sound of throngs of feet pounding the pavement in semi-unison is still enough to bring tears to my eyes. Yes, I sometimes tear up at the start of races.

Of all the groups I ran with, the Pacers Store group that met on Monday nights in Logan Circle boasted the fastest runners. I met up with the group week after week only to be the slowest runner. It was difficult to muster the courage to get up every week and meet the group knowing what was waiting for me: sweating and watching the backs of fellow runners.

Each time I joined the group, I was stretching myself without even realizing it. Instead of feeling like I was transitioning into a better running, for a long time I felt I was torturing myself.

Then something remarkable happened. I went for a run with a different set of runners and noticed my time had improved. I was running at a faster pace and doing so with ease. What was once uncomfortable for me I now handled with ease.

The reason I was becoming a better runner was because I was taking myself out of my comfort zone and challenging myself physically and mentally. This example illustrates the process of growth.

Fortunately, we can create situations that stretch us in our personal and professional lives.

What Is a Stretch Goal?

A stretch goal – as authors Sim B. Sitkin, C. Chet Miller and Kelly E. See detail an article “The Stretch Goal Paradox” in Harvard Business Review[1] – is something that is extremely difficult and novel. It is something that not everyone does, and it’s sometimes considered impossible.

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In general, you establish stretch goals by doing things that are difficult or temporarily challenging.

For instance, when I was first promoted to a senior communications management role, I knew I needed to beef up my relationships with media personalities. I set a goal to once a month book a day of media interviews in New York City – which is home to many media outlets, including SiriusXM radio, CNN, NBC News, HuffPost, VIBE.

This was a huge goal because it meant not only identifying the right people to meet with but convincing them to meet with me and my team. While I didn’t end up meeting the goal of doing a full day of media interviews in New York City, I met more people than I would have met had I not established the goal and instead stayed in the comfort of my D.C. office.

It is important to note that just because you establish a stretch goal doesn’t mean you’ll achieve the goal each time. However, the process of trying is guaranteed to provide some level of growth.

The Importance of Creating Stretch Goals

The beginning of the year is a perfect time to assess where you are excelling and where there is room for you to grow. I typically start the year by creating a yearlong strategic plan for myself.

I think about the things that are necessary to do and things that would be cool to do. I assess the people I should know and think through how to meet them. Then I ask myself if the goals are realistic and what would need to happen for me to achieve them.

Over time, I have learned that there are five things I can do to set stretch goals:

1. Get Outside of Your Head

If I exist within the confines of my imagination, I imperil my own growth and creativity.

If I examine my accomplishments and celebrate them in isolation of others’ accomplishments, my vantage point is limited.

I want to be comfortable with what I accomplish, but I also want to be motivated by watching others. In some respects, stretching is about expanding your network of friends, associates and mentors. These are the people who will propel or slow your growth and development.

Since two are better than one, I always value being able to share my progress with others, seek feedback and then map a plan for success.

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2. Focus on a Couple Areas at a Time

When setting goals, it is important to focus on a couple of areas at a time. Most of us are only able to focus on a few things at a time, and if you feel you are unable to tackle all that is before you, you may simply disengage.

I see this in so many areas of life:

When people get in debt, if they believe the debt is insurmountable, they refuse to look at incoming bills for fear of facing down the debt. Unfortunately, many businesses go awry when setting stretch goals.

In “The Stretch Goal Paradox,” Sitkin, Miller and See note:

“Our research suggests that though the use of stretch goals is quite common, successful use is not. And many executives set far too many stretch goals. In the past five years, for example, Tesla failed to meet more than 20 of founder Elon Musk’s ambitious projections and missed half of them by nearly a year, according to the Wall Street Journal.”

Goal-setting is like a marathon, not a sprint. It doesn’t all need to happen at the same time, and pacing is extremely important if you want to get to the finish line. It is better to focus on a couple goals at a time, master them and then move on to the next thing.

3. Set Aside Time Each Year to Focus on Goal-Setting

When I was a managing director for communications for the Advancement Project, I spent the first part of every year facilitating a communications planning meeting.

The planning meeting began with the team members assessing the goals the team had established in the preceding year, and whether those goals were realistic or not. If we failed to meet certain goals, we broke down why that happened. From there, we brainstormed about possibilities for the current year.

For instance, one year we set a goal of pitching and getting 24 opinion essays published. This was audacious because no one on the eight-person team had the luxury of focusing exclusively on editing and pitching opinion essays to publications around the world. We would need to focus on pitching in between the rest of our work.

We hit this goal within the first eight months of the year. Remarkably, in total, we ended up getting 40 opinion essays published that year, which was an indication that our original goal was too low. We upped the goal to 41 the next year, and amazingly, we hit 42 published opinion essays or guest columns.

From this experience, we not only learned what was feasible, we also learned the power of focus.

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When we focused as a team on getting the commentary on our issues out in the public domain, we were successful. The key in all of this is that there was a ton of discussion around which goal we’d pursue and why.

Equally important, as a manager, I didn’t set the goals alone; the team members and I established the goals collaboratively. This ensured buy-in from each individual.

4. Use the S.M.A.R.T. Goal Model to Set Realistic Goals

S.M.A.R.T.

is a synonym for specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. For the sake of this article, the realistic portion of the acronym is most important.

While you want to set audacious goals, you want to ensure that they are realistic as well. No one is served by setting a goal that is impossible to accomplish.

Failing to meet goals can be demoralizing for teams, so it’s important to be sober-eyed about what is possible. Additionally, the purpose of setting goals is to advance and grow, not depress morale.

For instance, my team would have been discouraged had I begun the year asking it to pitch and place 40 opinion essays if we didn’t already have a track record of placing close to two dozen essays.

By using the S.M.A.R.T. formula, we were able to achieve all that we set out to do.

5. Break the Goal up into Small Digestible Parts

I am a recovering perfectionist. As a writer, being a perfectionist can be counterproductive because I can fail to start if I don’t see a clear pathway to victory.

The same is true with goal-setting. That’s why I join Lifehack’s fellow contributor Deb Knobelman, Ph.D., in noting that it is critically important to break goals into bite-sized chunks.

When I had a goal of doing daylong media meetings in New York City, I had to think through all the barriers to achieving that goal and all the steps required to meet the goal.

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One step was identifying which reporters, producers and hosts to engage. Another step was writing a pitch or meeting invitation that would capture their attention. Another step was thinking through the program areas I wanted to highlight and the new angles I could offer to different reporters.

Since reporters want to cover stories that no one else has written, I needed to come up with fresh angles for each of the reporters I was engaging. An additional step was thinking through who from my team I’d take with me to the various meetings.

I was clear that, as a talking head, as public relations reps are sometimes called, I needed the right spokesperson in order to land repeated meetings with different outlets.

A final step was thinking through what I needed to bring to each meeting and which reports, videos and testimonials would buttress our claims and be of interest to media figures.

As I walked through what was needed to bring my goal of doing daylong meetings to reality, I realized that not only was the idea within reach, but I was excited to tackle the challenge.

From that point until now, I have learned to break down goals into smaller parts and tackle the smaller parts on the path to knocking the goal out of the park.

The Bottom Line

These are my recommendations for setting stretch goals, and there are a ton of other resources to support you in the workplace and in your community.

For instance, LinkedIn’s Lynda.com platform has a wonderful suite of leadership development videos, including ones on establishing stretch goals. This is a paid resource but may be worth the investment if you lead a team or want to invest in tools for your own growth and development.

Featured photo credit: Avatar of user Isaac Smith Isaac Smith @isaacmsmith Isaac Smith via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Harvard Business Review: The Stretch Goal Paradox

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