Whatever path your career takes, you are going to be interacting with people on a daily basis. Whether you’re in a shop, a ship, or an office, you’ll have to navigate meetings, confidently take phone calls and make conversation with colleagues and customers.
If you are someone who is naturally shy and already finds interacting with new people hard, the added pressure of a professional environment can be completely debilitating. But, that doesn’t mean you should settle for hiding in the background at work!
Below are 5 tips to help you increase your career confidence:
If you find it hard to speak up, it can feel like you spend your whole life listening to other people. The next time you’re in a meeting or in conversation with a colleague ask yourself: are you really listening, or are you just spending the time they’re speaking being nervous about what you’re going to say next?
Worrying like this in interactive situations is only going to make you more self-conscious, so try to really concentrate on what’s being said by other people. Keep eye contact with the speaker, or, if it’s appropriate, focus on taking notes. Being less anxious about how your responses are going to be perceived should make you better equipped to respond when you are called upon to speak.
Making presentations at work can be nerve-wracking and agonizing for introverts. The important thing is to focus on the aspects of the event you can control ahead of time. Being prepared doesn’t mean just thoroughly researching your topic and having notes, it means practice.
Katie Reed is an online recruiter for RBS Insurance, a UK-wide provider of insurance jobs. She suggests testing your speech out on different audiences: “Choose a trusted friend or colleague as a guinea pig to present to and build up from there to larger groups. They will give you constructive criticism and hopefully allow you to practice over and over until you feel comfortable!” It’s also not a bad idea to practice at least once in the office you’ll be presenting in so you can familiarize yourself with the room’s layout and acoustics.
[Related Post: 4 Amazing Presentation Tricks]
Give Yourself Time
As a shy person, one of your strengths is your caution – you’re less likely to make hasty decisions and more likely to be thorough with your work. Embrace this quality and use it to your advantage: if you feel yourself becoming flustered, pause for a moment, consider how you want to proceed and concentrate on keeping your breathing regular. No-one is going to think any less of you for taking a second to think.
It’s also not a bad idea to give yourself a little bit of extra time at professional functions. Try to get to a venue early so you’re attuned to your surroundings and can visualize how you want the event to go. Don’t get frustrated with yourself if it doesn’t go to plan – in the larger scale of things, you’ve got to give yourself time to master your shyness.
Every day, set a small challenge for yourself that’ll mean pushing the boundaries of your comfort zone. Maybe ask a co-worker a professional question, find out something about the person who works next to you – every challenge you complete successfully is a small step towards overcoming personal barriers and forming friendships in the workplace.
Amy Hamilton, a project manager from Cornwall, says ‘Something as simple as offering to do the tea round is a great way to connect with people; small things like that show you’re a willing member of the team.’
Make Yourself at Home
Sometimes, you need to remember you’re a human being and not just an employee. Bring in a favorite picture of a holiday or special occasion or make your desktop background a picture of a loved one. Having a constant reminder of a situation in which you felt relaxed and positive will help you feel more at ease when you’re at work; having the face of someone who’s near or dear to you in constant sight will remind you that you’re a likable person who’s worthy of others’ interest.
Moreover, your memento will serve as a talking point with colleagues, giving you a chance to open up and share experiences.
Readers – How do you combat your shyness to build career confidence?
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