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How to Feel Confident as a Business Professional

by Ruth Mayhew

Confidence as a business professional isn't dependent on how much money you earn, the designer names for tailored suits you might wear -- although appearance does have something to do with your level of confidence -- or, the people with whom you associate. You gain confidence through exhibiting sound business principles and a strong work ethic, plus the ability to articulate your knowledge whenever you're called upon to do so.

Know Your Stuff

Maintaining your job knowledge and engaging in lifelong learning or continuing education go a long way in becoming an expert in your field. Even if you're not widely recognized as an expert, confidence comes from building your knowledge base and understanding current practices. Staying on top of changes and developments in your areas of expertise will serve you well and can build your credibility among peers and supervisors. In its newsletter aimed at helping child development professionals gain confidence in the field, Penn State Extension lists five steps for building confidence. Step 3 is, "Acquire information and current research." Confidence is in knowing that others won't second guess your knowledge or the accuracy with which you approach your responsibilities.

Build a Reputation

Volunteer to participate in industry conferences and association meetings. Serve on committees that provide opportunities to share your knowledge and expertise with colleagues and others who are just beginning in the field. For example, if you're a human resources professional, join your local chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management and sign up to lead panel discussions or workshops during their annual conferences. Also, if you're in a position to share your enthusiasm about the field with students or others who are considering careers in your field, your confidence as a business professional can soar if you convince just one student or emerging leader to consider a career like yours.

Don't Back Down from Challenges

Arguing is neither the polite nor productive way to demonstrate knowledge about your field. But spirited debates give you a platform from which to showcase your expertise. Provided you know your information is correct or that your understanding of certain industry practices is current, don't back down from challenges. The moment you cave while discussing a topic you're supposed to know inside and out is the moment that others may doubt your capabilities. And when others doubt you, it can chip away at your confidence.

Speak Up

Whether you're interviewing for a new job or delivering a speech about your company's new product or service, do it in a way that exudes confidence. It probably sounds redundant to say you have to exude confidence to feel confident, but it's akin to a colloquial phrase that's well-known in business settings: "fake it 'til you make it." This means if you can act or perform as a knowledgeable professional -- assuming you have a solid foundation from which to work -- you'll be successful in your attempts to impress others. In turn, you'll gain the confidence you want as a successful business professional. This technique is one studied by Valerie Young, sought-after speaker and author of "The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women." Young is an expert on a condition called the "impostor syndrome," which means people who are successful may lack confidence because they fear they might be undeserving of their success.

Look the Part

If your shoes aren't polished and your suit jacket is wrinkled, it's unlikely that you'll feel confident in your appearance, especially when you notice disapproving looks from the people around you. Every piece of interview advice suggests that you wear a nicely fitted suit and pay attention to the details of your appearance, because, as the saying goes, "you only get one chance to make a first impression." You needn't spend a fortune on a professional wardrobe, though. It's sufficient to have just a few classic pieces you can rotate, coordinate and mix and match. When you look good, you're likely to feel good about yourself, according to Dr. Neel Burton, in his May 2012 article, "Building Confidence and Self-Esteem," in "Psychology Today" magazine. .

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew began writing in 1985. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry" and "Human Resources Managers Appraisal Schemes." Mayhew earned senior professional human resources certification from the Human Resources Certification Institute and holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

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