In my job as a Deputy Sheriff, confidence can mean the difference between going home safely and being in a potentially deadly situation. As a female officer who stands 5’4” and weighs 130 pounds, I am not a physically imposing person. However, the people I work with are often as much as a foot taller than I am and many pounds heavier. I work in a jail, and my typical work day finds me in a room alone with as many as 96 inmates who have charges ranging from traffic offenses to murder. Yet as part of my job, I am required to keep these individual safe from themselves and others and to enforce rules that may seem petty, such as not allowing inmates to wear the legs of their uniforms rolled up to the knee. The key to staying safe and keeping my community safe is confidence. While your job may not include people who want to (literally) kill you, chances are you could benefit by being more confident at work.
The first tip I would give is to walk the walk. By this, I mean both a literal and metaphorical walk. When I move in the jail, my walk is confident- long strides in a purposeful direction. My head is up, showing that I am alert; my actions show that I know what I am doing, and I make eye contact with everyone to show them that I am there. Even in an office position, you can use this same technique. Always walk as if you have a job to do, be purposeful in your movements, look people in the eye no matter who they are. If you have a confident walk, people naturally assume that you know what you are doing and you will make a great first impression.
The metaphorical meaning of walk the walk is that you need to show your confidence through action, not words. When a challenging task comes up, you must look like you are confident, even if that is not true. In one situation, a male inmate who was 6’8” and over 300 pounds challenged me in front of a ward of 71 other inmates. I was scared to death knowing that this inmate had the ability to kill me long before help could arrive. I knew that if I betrayed that fear, not only would this inmate win, every inmate in that room would see me as weak. And so I stood my ground, steadied my voice, and gave clear verbal orders for the inmate to back away and sit down. Despite being terrified, I chose to appear confident, and it paid off. Even two years after the original confrontation, inmates in the facility still tell each other that I squared off against this guy and won. Again, your job hopefully will never require you to be confrontational in this way, but you need to appear confident whenever you are scared. Volunteer for the tough assignments, stand up to an obnoxious coworker, stand your ground with a difficult client. When you tackle an assignment that scares you, your confidence will increase when you succeed, and people around you will remember that.
The final thing that I would recommend is for you to pick something about yourself that makes you feel less than confident in your job. Take that weakness and be proactive in fixing it. For me, my size makes me worry that I will be looked at as an “easy target.” While I may never be big enough to prevent that from happening, I pay consistent attention to reducing the image that I am a target. I work out and practice hand-to-hand combat so that I can defend myself if necessary. Working on these skills increases my confidence so that when I do have to stand up to someone, I know that I can handle myself accordingly. Whether your weakness is educational, technical, or just people skills, have faith in your ability to make yourself stronger. When you take control of the things that scare you, you will be more confident knowing that you have the power to improve yourself. Realizing that you are in control of your life is a natural confidence booster.
While these tips may seem a little too simple, confidence is a mindset. Studies have shown that inmates who attack officers will often let some officers walk by before they choose one to attack. Why is that? When these inmates are asked, they admit that when they see someone who is confident, they assume that person will be easy to assault. In the business world, confidence is equally important. When your boss looks at the people who work for him and tries to decide who is worthy of that promotion or raise, he will naturally assume that the people who are confident are the ones who know what they are doing. Start by changing your walk, and watch your confidence grow. Remember, confidence is contagious- if you are confident, people around you will be confident in you.
This was a guest post by Catherine Bynes. Catherine is a career blogger who mostly writes about work related ethics and problems and how to tackle these problems on a day to day basis. She also writes about becoming a nurse over at CNA Training Tips.