The key to finding career confidence

Pursuing a big professional goal takes courage and commitment. Without a little gumption it can be hard to take the first steps towards career success. What if you don’t have as much courage today as you need?

Enter preparation.

In my experience working with a range of job seekers over the years, a willingness to do the preparation that is required to succeed at a career fair, networking event, or job interview is where it all begins. With the right preparation a candidate can go from feeling terrified to feeling self-assured and filled with hope.

Below are 5 preparation tips for common professional situations: 

1.  Know yourself well.

Spend ample time reflecting on your values, interests, personality, skills and strengths as they relate to your goals, needs, and the potential opportunities you are considering. If you are having a hard time identifying or speaking about all the gifts you bring to the table, consider working with a career coach who can help you explore these in depth.

Spending the time to grow in self-awareness will provide you with the sturdy foundation you will need to accomplish your professional goals.

2.  Know your target organization. 

Applying to a graduate program? Found a dream job at a new nonprofit in town? The next step is to really get to know that school, company, or organization. Research online to learn about their culture, programs and/or services, read up on the latest news stories featuring the organization, and consider exploring networking contacts who can offer a personal perspective.

3.  Set goals for yourself. 

Having a clear goal can help motivate you to go beyond your comfort zone. Decide in advance how many employers you want to talk with at a career fair or how many informational interviews you want to conduct in a given time-frame. If you start to feel nervous, the clear goal can be just the thing you need to keep the momentum going as you see the progress you are making.

4.  Enlist support and feedback. 

It is normal to feel vulnerable when you put yourself out there professionally. It is also normal not to like that feeling of vulnerability! Enlisting support of friends and family, a mentor, or a career coach can help you move beyond your own limiting beliefs or fears.

A career coach can also give you feedback through mock interviews or practice networking scenarios so that you feel more confident about your ability to interact with employers and other professionals.

Hearing honest feedback from someone you trust can help you correct for small behaviors that may be getting in your way so that your best self shines.

5.  Celebrate the wins! 

To adequately prepare for professional interactions with employers and industry leaders takes time. When your hard work pays off be sure to celebrate the wins! You set and achieved a goal of meeting with 6 employers at the job fair? High-five! Although you felt intimidated at first, you conducted your first informational interview and it was a positive experience? Bravo!

Preparation can help you when you are just starting out and it continues to be useful throughout your career. Over time you will learn what kind of preparation works best for you so you can more adequately plan for these moments.

What have been your experiences with professional preparation? What are your favorite ways to prepare for job interviews, networking situations, and important professional interactions? Which of the 5 tips above is most helpful to you? Where do you struggle? Is there anything else you would add to this list?