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…

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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.’

Man up

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!’

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