Confidence, courage and failure – a formula for career success

Written by Caroline Dowd-Higgins. Posted in Business, Featured, Health & Wellness

Published on November 19, 2014 with No Comments

“Quite simply, competence can be taught and self-confidence is something you bring to the table – or not.” -- Caroline Dowd-Higgins

Recently, I spoke at the Indiana Governor’s Conference for Women. It was a day brimming with professional development to empower women to lead and take control of their careers and lives.

Confidence was a key theme throughout the day accentuated by the luncheon keynoters Katty Kay and Claire Shipman, co-authors of the best-selling book, “The Confidence Code”. They unpacked the science and art of self-confidence and specific ways we can tackle the beast so many fear.

The legendary author and journalist Gail Sheehy spoke about how to be more daring and to embrace the art of failure. Her “Daring Project” showcases stories of women who tried, failed, and tried again.

Honoring these extraordinary women, I have distilled my favorite take-aways from their sessions that will enable you to take control of your confidence, dare to fail, and muster your courage to take control of your career.

Competence or Confidence?

Shipman and Kay spoke about research that points to how competence is over rated in the workplace and many employers value confidence above competencies. Quite simply, competence can be taught and self-confidence is something you bring to the table – or not. We all know someone who is tremendously competent (perhaps it’s you!) but her lack of confidence prevents her from moving forward because she appears unsure. Become the woman who is hired or promoted for her potential and lead with your self-confidence. Trust in your competencies and focus on your gravitas. There is no reality – only perception. Remember that you are in control your professional story.

Be Specific

Women often lack confidence because they can’t pinpoint what they do well. They attribute their success to luck or being in the right place at the right time. Nonsense! Take a close look at what you really do well. Ask friends and colleagues for specifics so you have a clear picture of your strengths.

If you are a boss, supervisor, or a parent, the next time your colleague or child does something noteworthy be specific, don’t just give a general compliment like “good job.” Be specific and help grow confidence in others by sharing details.

Give Up Perfectionism

Striving for perfectionism is debilitating and unattainable. Most women set their bar so high that “good enough” is still amazing. Give yourself permission to let go of the quest for perfectionism and know that you alone are in control of that unrealistic expectation.

Hillary Clinton summed it up well this quote excerpted from the Confidence Code blog:

“Too many young women get stopped by the perfectionist gene. You think you have to be perfect instead of good enough. And believe me, there are so many young woman that artificially stop themselves from progressing because they’re not perfect. And I have rarely met a young man who doesn’t think he is already, if not perfect, darn close to it. So why do we impose these types of burdens on ourselves?”

Ignore the Obnoxious Roommate in Your Head

Arianna Huffington wrote about that nagging inner voice that can feed your self-doubt and stifle your self-confidence. Shut down that voice and surround yourself with people who recognize and value your strengths. You become like the people you hang out with so choose your professional and personal posse wisely.

Think Less – Do More

Many women suffer from analysis paralysis and spend too much time thinking and not enough time doing. Stop ruminating and start doing. You might fail, and that’s ok. Get comfortable taking a risk and handling rejection. Get into the game and try. You will certainly be more visible and recognized for trying than for silently thinking about your big plans.

Silicon Valley Failure Mentality

Failure is a badge of honor in the land of start-ups and no matter where you reside geographically you should embrace the art of failure. Failing fast, forward, and often will allow you to try new things. Adjust your plan and learn from your mistakes. Sitting idle gets you nowhere. In the start-up world, you have not earned professional respect until you have failed multiple times and kept going.

I Dare You

Gail Sheehy never let being a woman in the male dominated career field of journalism stop her even when she was a rookie in the 1960s. She spoke about how dreaming changed her life and encouraged all of us to dare to dream big and dangerously. Gail instructed us to act confidently and cited the study in “The Confidence Code” about brain and gender differences in the workplace illustrating that acting confidently is the surest key to success. Put your game face on – and go out there and do it

Help More, Judge Less

Women spend a great deal of time being self-critical. From appearance to professional expectations, we beat ourselves up so it’s no wonder we lack confidence. I encourage you to create a culture of advocacy in your work and home environment. Help others recognize what they do well. Be a mentor, a sponsor or a champion for someone doing great work. We need to throw the ladder down, across, and sideways to help other women and ourselves thrive in the workplace. Creating a culture of advocacy is reciprocal. Soon you will be the beneficiary of well-earned recognition.

The simple formula for career success is confidence, courage, and embracing the art of failure. Now get out there and do it – I dare you.



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About Caroline Dowd-Higgins


All opinions, conclusions or recommendations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Chronicle. Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" (now in the 2ndedition) and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Vice President of Career Coaching and Employer Connections for the Ivy Tech Community Collegesystem and contributes to Huffington PostThrive GlobalEllevate Network,Mediumand The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana.Her online show:Thrive!about career & life empowerment for women is on YouTube. Caroline hosts the award winning podcast, Your Working Lifeon iTunesand SoundCloud. Follow her on FacebookLinkedIn,Google+,and Twitter.

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