is the Confidence gap holding you Back?
If you want to take that next step in your career, it might be time to start self-promoting in a serious way…
In a world dominated by Instagram likes and pictures of Kim Kardashian’s bum, it’s no surprise that narcissism is on the increase. Defined as ‘an excessive interest and admiration for oneself,’ it’s usually associated with arrogance.
Despite its bad rep, career experts say that singing your own praises can pay off in a work environment – and there’s plenty of successful women to prove it. From Taylor Swift to Millie Mackintosh, the idea of selling your brand and standing out from the crowd has never been more acceptable. But how to get there?
Erik Vilaca, head of business development at recruitment firm, Sales Point, believes a bit of narcissism is essential for getting you noticed at work. ‘You need to value yourself before other people will,’ he explains. ‘In my job, I’ve generally found that women are less confident when it comes to promoting themselves – and that’s one reason why men find it easier to get ahead. Women often have the same skills but they don’t always sell themselves as much.’
As budgets are tightened it’s harder for employees thrive. ‘You need to sit down with your manager and explain what you’ve done and why you’ve done it well. In a busy office it’s rare that someone will just pick up on how great you are and automatically give you a pay rise,’ says Vilaca.
The issue of Confidence
Charlie Christie, 27, an account executive for a reward and recognition company, admits she finds it hard to put herself out there – despite positive feedback from managers. ‘When a chance to apply for a more advanced role came up recently I just bottled it. It’s harder to apply for an internal role, because people already know you. What if they thought I was deluded in my own abilities? On the other hand I’d hate them to think I was arrogant or big-headed.’
According to Vilaca, it’s a common fear – especially for women. ‘It’s a shame, but women are often afraid to be viewed as ballsy, in case people think they’re too bolshy or aggressive. This stereotype doesn’t exist for men –
You need to value yourself before other people will
they’re just seen as assertive.’
For Charlie, the fear is amplified in networking situations. ‘At office Christmas parties, the more confident employees flock to the senior people. I don’t feel comfortable doing this in case I look fake,’ she says. ‘But people who sell themselves are the ones who end up landing opportunities. I know I need to push myself more if I’m going to move forward and be noticed as an ambitious employee.’
Other women say that acting like a man helps drive their confidence. Katie Deighton, 24, a video reporter and researcher, says she adopted a ‘fake it ’til you make it’ attitude after reading an article about the confidence gap between men and women. ‘I suppose you have to be a bit of a narcissist to get on camera and present a video. After years of pushing myself out of my comfort zone I’ve become genuinely confident in my abilities.’
In her last role Katie gained a promotion after clearly outlining why she deserved one. ‘I’d worked hard and achieved success, so I had to prove that. If I hadn’t had the confidence to sell myself, I wouldn’t have been promoted.’
Sometimes, developing a slightly narcissistic attitude is necessary. Sharol Azzi, a products assistant for a law firm says that in her male dominated office, she has to overcompensate with confidence to get her voice heard. ‘To get my job I talked about multi-million pound deals that I’d worked on to prove my experience was equal to theirs.’
PUTTING Yourself out There
All too often the stigma of a me-centric attitude prevents women from shouting about their achievements. ‘If you put yourself down, even in a jokey way, that negativity will be picked up. Leaders look for confidence’ says Vilaca.
Life and careers coach Susan Grossman believes confidence can be hard, particularly for women who’ve taken career breaks or maternity leave. ‘I’d advise anyone who’s feeling unsure about applying for a role to list the things they’ve done that meet the job specification. You may end up surprising yourself!’