This article first appeared on Forbes.com. Photo via Andrea Chong.
Most of us have had a workplace moment like this: We look at a colleague who was just given a promotion or a raise and think, “I know just as much as he does. How did he get that promotion while I’m still stuck in this same role?”
It may be because they benefit from the swagger of self-confidence. According to studies by Don Moore of Carnegie Mellon University, people are more likely to be swayed by confidence than expertise. In some situations confidence can actually be more important than competence , which can be troubling for women, who tend to report lower levels of confidence, especially in the workplace.
When you’re aiming for a promotion, a new job or a raise, true confidence – the belief in your ability to succeed – is going to be a major factor in your success. Luckily confidence is not a fixed “you either have it or you don’t” trait. It’s something that can be practiced and built over time.
Read on for four methods that can help women boost their confidence – and their profiles – at work.
1. Keep a list of your past accomplishments.
Women do better when they know they’ve performed well in the past. A study done by psychology researcher Zachary Estes shows that a woman’s ability to perform well on spatial tests was greatly affected by whether she believed she was good at the task. In the study, participants who were told they performed well on previous tasks performed better on future tasks, as compared with participants who weren’t given feedback about their past performance. A little positive reassurance went a long way in improving the confidence and performance of the women in the study.
To give yourself a boost, keep a running list of accomplishments (both large and small) to remind yourself of how capable you really are. Bonus: Use this list of accomplishments as a justification for your next raise or promotion.
2. Adopt a growth mindset.
Psychologist and researcher Carol Dweck extolls the virtues of a growth mindset – one that believes skills and abilities can be developed through hard work – as being a key element for confidence and resilience. Rather than believing your talents are fixed (e.g., “I’m not good at math.”), she finds in her research that believing you can improve and master new things is a healthy way to build confidence in children and adults (e.g., “I may not understand this math problem now, but I can learn.”).
To begin adopting a growth mindset, Dweck suggests that we praise the process of effort and learning, rather than praise ability. When kids are praised for being smart, they fixate on performance and shy away from risk. Kids who are praised for effort try harder and become more resilient. The same can work for adults, too.
To develop the mindset, when tackling a new challenge or stepping outside of your comfort zone, remind yourself that you can develop the skills necessary to succeed. Rather than focusing just on the outcome, what did you learn from the effort, even if it wasn’t successful?
3. Make progress in small steps.
Even with a growth mindset and a list of past accomplishments to push you along, tackling something new and stepping outside your comfort zone can feel overwhelming. If that’s the case and you feel your confidence waning, focus on taking small steps.
For example, if you’re trying to become a more confident public speaker, don’t feel the need to jump in and deliver a town hall speech. Instead, look for small ways to make progress that don’t completely overwhelm you. You could start by first making a concerted effort to speak up in team meetings. You could then begin running group meetings and start presenting in front of larger and larger audiences.
Each time you make progress, channel that growth mindset and celebrate your effort and what you learned, not just how well you feel as though you performed.
4. Go from “me” to “we.”
Building self-confidence doesn’t have to do with focusing entirely on yourself, especially for women. In The Confidence Code, Katty Kay and Claire Shipman write that women actually fare better when they think about how their actions will affect their community or team. Women thrive on “we.”
Instead of thinking about how you can prove yourself or how you can succeed, reframe your thoughts to focus on how you are working toward success for the good of your team or your company. If you have a negotiation coming up, for example, and you’re nervous, focus on the idea that you’re negotiating for the benefit of your team. Changing that thought can help give you a boost in confidence when you need it.
While expertise and knowledge are still important, it’s time we start acknowledging that confidence, especially in women, is key to developing a successful career.