Some of the most common sentiments I hear from students during career counseling sessions is, “I don’t have any relevant experience” or “I don’t have many skills to bring to a job.” As much as students seem to truly believe in these thoughts, once I get talking to the student about their past experiences, I often find out quite the opposite. These students have had several different types of jobs and a variety of relevant experiences and learning opportunities.
“Calm self-confidence is as far from conceit as the desire to earn a decent living is remote from greed.” – Channing Pollack
Acting arrogant and conceited will definitely limit your happiness and success in life. Self-confidence, however, will give you the tools you need to succeed in your chosen career path. Confidence is rarely gained simply by wishing it to be. Just like anything else worth having in life, you need to work on it. This post will address some of the ways you can focus on the skills that you have already gained so that you can move forward and build your confidence in becoming a working professional.
What you got
You have already had many different experiences in life that you have learned from. You have taken classes with different instructors who vary in their teaching methods. Through your classes, you have adjusted to different teaching styles and different types of assignments. In addition, you may have been part of a student organization that helped develop your decision-making and leadership skills.
On top of the above experiences, you have also acquired life skills from friends, family and your community. You have learned the values of teamwork, cooperation and effective communication. You also have likely gained some skill with technological tools from growing up at a time where most people have access to ever-changing computer software and wireless devices. This makes you an especially valuable employee in a workplace with people from other generations who are much less familiar with modern technology.
Take some time now to jot down at least one example of a time that you demonstrated each of the following traits most desired by employers. You can draw from your experiences in work, class, or your personal life.
- Communication skills
- Strong work ethic
- Teamwork skills
As you have likely seen through this exercise, you have already begun developing many of these skills. Continuing to add different types of experiences during college will only enhance your skills in these areas. Now that you have taken an inventory of some of the skills you already have, it is important to continue to build on them and gain some new skills.
Whether you work at a pizza place, a summer camp, or a banking internship you can make a conscious effort to be your best. Even if you dislike your job, be sure to put your all in to making it a better place for your coworkers and your customers. Try to minimize unhelpful complaints. Instead, seek advice and feedback from coworkers and your supervisors on how you can be more effective in your work tasks.
The same goes for increasing your involvement in on-campus activities. Attending a variety of events, joining or creating student groups, and taking a variety of classes with allow you to further develop the skills you need for future employment.
Be sure that you engage in opportunities in college other than social events and parties. These may help develop your interpersonal skills, but only in one area. You may learn how to socialize with peers, but you will not develop your professional communication skills such as public speaking, writing, and interacting with diverse groups of people. These are all crucial to your future career, regardless of where you end up working.
Look upward and onward
Perhaps the most important advice I can provide is to give yourself some slack. Always remember to focus on what you have accomplished and learned. Self doubt will likely creep in and others will always be around to remind you of what you could have done better. It is up to you to remember to focus on what went well with your projects and work tasks.
If you get a lower grade than expected on a paper, focus on what you did well. Perhaps you turned it in on time, utilized more references than usual, or paid more attention to proper grammar. Reminding yourself of these little successes will help you continue to move forward and improve your skills. Spending energy to blame your professor for the grade or deciding to give less effort on the next paper will only conspire to reduce your confidence and abilities.
“I was always looking outside myself for strength and confidence, but it comes from within. It is there all the time.” – Anna Freud
Building self-confidence takes continual effort and the belief that what you have to offer is valuable. If you continue to work hard and believe in what you have to contribute, you will have a head start on future success.
Lori Bielek is the Marketing and Technology Coordinator at University of Delaware’s (UD) Career Services Center where she advises students in the arts and sciences through all steps of their career development. You can connect with Lori through LinkedIn or her UD Career Services Twitter account (@UDcareers).