How To Build The Confidence You Need For Your Career Change

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Newly Updated

Image: Benjamin Davies

Want to do something different but don't have the confidence to break out of your current situation? Richard shares an alternative view on where confidence comes from, and how you can create it.

Here's a question for you:

If you don't feel confident now about your career change, where is the confidence you need going to come from?

I would wager that it's not going to be from the place you expect it.

Confidence isn't fixed; it's something you can create

Think about the words you use to talk about confidence in your day-to-day life. They're often tied to your identity.

"I'm not confident about this." or "I'm not a confident person."

But is that really true?

Entrepreneurship coach Dan Sullivan makes an important distinction:

"We tend to think of [confidence] as a personality trait or an emotional response, but my experience is that it isn't as passive or reactive as that. Real confidence is a capability, and when you know how to create that capability for yourself, you can have it in endless supply."

In other words, being confident isn't something you are; confidence is something you have.

And anything you can have, you can develop.

You can build your 'confidence capability' through four steps

Sullivan says there are four building blocks to confidence. These apply equally well to the confidence you need for your career change.

1. Commitment

Commitment is where everything starts.

It's also what will decide whether you're ultimately successful or unsuccessful in your shift.

It's the decision you make that "I'm going to make this happen. There's now no other choice. It won't necessarily be easy, but I'm going to do it."

Sometimes commitment comes from a major, jarring life event – the death of a loved one, a sudden change in circumstances around, or your role being made redundant / you being laid off.

Other times, it comes when the pain of staying where you are outweighs the pain of doing something about it.

Commitment provides the foundation for everything else.

It's what will keep you going when you have no idea what else you want to do (and wonder if you ever will); when you can't yet leave a job you hate; and when you come home from work with barely enough energy to do the things you need to do, let alone anything on your career change.

2. Courage

When you're committed, it opens up the space for you to be courageous.

The answers to what you really want to do (or how to get there) likely don't lie in your current world.

If they did, you'd have found them by now.

Instead, they lie somewhere outside of what you're currently familiar with.

You therefore need to venture out of your 'norm' – and this takes courage.

It takes courage to admit to yourself and others that your work isn't working for you; it takes courages to start to even consider a career change when your finances are so directly tied to what you do; it takes courage to start taking small actions when you don't yet have a clear final destination; and it takes courage to approach inspiring people and organisations you don't know when exploring other options.

3. Capability

When you're courageous, you develop new capabilities.

Remember what it was like as a kid to jump off a diving board?

The first time you did it, you might have stood on the board looking down at the water with your heart pounding before finally building up the courage to make the leap; the next time, it was easier; and then, the more you did it, the more it became something you could just 'do'.

Your capability is like a muscle.

You can grow it, but you need to stretch yourself to do so.

This doesn't mean you have to take huge gambles – see our lean career change method for keeping risks to the minimum – but it does mean you need to be continually taking small, courageous steps.

4. Confidence

Finally, as you develop your capability, you also build your confidence.

Notice the order of these steps.

It's not "I need to be confident to take action," but instead "I need to take action to be confident."

Not the way you might expect it to be.

As author David Storey says: "Self-confidence is simply the memory of success." – in other words, it's a learned skill.

That means, however much you feel you lack confidence right now, you can develop more of it by following the steps above.

How can you apply these principles in your career change? Leave a comment below.

See also our on-demand Masterclass on 'How to develop the confidence you need for your career change'.

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Richard Alderson is the founder of Careershifters. Disillusioned with corporate life, Richard quit his job in search of something more meaningful. He's since gone on to found / co-found multiple social businesses in India and the UK.