You’re in a meeting at work and would like to suggest an idea but feel you are too new to the working world or too young to add value at this point. You choose to say nothing and regret it later. How do you handle this situation in the future? How can you gain confidence at work?
Learning to add your insights and value in the work environment is a process. You are learning nuances to each situation you are in. Remember, your schooling only allowed you opportunities to gain knowledge about your area of focus, it did not fully prepare you for the various situations you will find yourself in at work. You may have never been in these situations before and you will be constantly learning how to handle and approach them.
It will take time, but you will be able to recognize patterns in your company culture; how meetings are managed, when to speak up, when to be silent, how to approach your manager, mentor, or senior manager. It will get easier. In the meantime, here are some suggestions to making the transition smoother for you:
1. Gain Emotional Intelligence
Emotional Intelligence (or EQ) is becoming more and more important to professionals everywhere. Why? Understanding the emotional side of life is just as important as understanding the technical/task side of life. This is EQ as defined by one of the leaders in this area, Daniel Goleman:
“Emotional intelligence (of EI) includes self mastery (self-awareness and self-regulation), plus social intelligence (empathy and social skill),” he states on his blog. “Both are essential: you have to lead yourself before you can lead others. There are sets of leadership competencies that set the best-performers apart from average, that build on these basics – e.g., self-regulation is the basis for the discipline to achieve goals, to be adaptable, and to remain calm and clear under pressure. These leadership competencies are learned – and learnable.”
In other words, you need to be able to understand yourself emotionally in order to understand and work well with others. Once you do this, you will begin to thrive in your work with others.
2. Build Relationships
To be truly successful in the working environment, you must take your EQ and use it to build solid, compatible, and trusting working relationships. Those relationships will be with your manager, co-workers, and colleagues from across the organization. This is essential in building your “currency” among your colleagues. As you are seen as a trusted and effective co-worker, you will gain more and more opportunities to shine.
One of the most important relationships you can foster is with your direct manager and a mentor. Yes, find yourself a mentor either inside the organization or outside. Finding both is ideal, actually. An inside mentor will help you to navigate your company’s culture. An outside mentor will be objective and not influenced by the company or their position in the company. This is one area as a young professional I wished I had latched onto and never let go. Professional mentors are priceless.
Again, this will take time to build strong colleague relationships. Be patient and be authentic – It will pay off in more ways than you can imagine years from now.
3. Take Risks
Don’t go on a political rant or feel free to just enter the CEO’s office to voice a concern – not this kind of risk. The risk I suggest early in your career is the risk of trying new projects or assignments. Be intentional on the projects you would like to work on.
If you see an opportunity to extend your reach, do it, even if it means working a weekend or evening here and there. Be bold enough, especially after you have a feel for the way your organization functions, to ask to take on what you see as an issue and fix it. Take initiative and step up.
And when you fail (because at some point we all do), so what? Learn from it and move on. Don’t get bitter or curl up and nurse your wounds, and never accuse someone else for your mistakes. Your “currency” within the organization will be lost.
However, if you are bold enough to try something new and it doesn’t work out the way you planned, but you hold your head high and learn from the mistake, your stature in the organization will elevate. Your co-workers will take notice and some may even compliment you on your initiative.
As you develop your EQ, use it in building relationships, and then become more intentional in your work activity and direction, your confidence will sky-rocket.
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