What do you do when you know you need to get out there – networking, contacting people, asking for help, meeting people – but you’re too scared? It can be a real issue when you’re trying to change career but are overwhelmed at the thought of all the people you’re going to have to contact.
I had a client who struggled with networking, Andrea. She didn’t have loads of friends, she found socialising tricky, and her confidence was low. She was well aware that her mindset could be quite negative.
Andrea’s dream was to work for a start-up, and write articles about entrepreneurship on the side. The thought of having to get in touch with people who she knew could help with her career change, was crippling her.
She’d have to apply for jobs. She could try to speak to people in the start-up industry who could give her some pointers or advise her about opportunities, maybe ask them for a phone chat or to meet for a coffee. In terms of the articles, she needed people to interview. She would have to make the first move in getting them involved.
Building up to it
Andrea knew that being more comfortable contacting people would be a massive step for her. It was important to her being able to move forwards.
So together we agreed that building up to networking was going to be challenging. But it would help both in progressing career wise and in building her confidence.
Breaking it down
But Andrea had lots of excuses! There was always a reason why she couldn’t do something, always a barrier. So we broke it down. What would doing each task actually look like, how could she prepare? Could she prepare questions, set a time limit on how long the call or coffee would be? Maybe it would help to create a list of contacts and tick them off one by one? We had a think about what was the worst that would happen, was it someone saying ‘no’? Could she cope with that?
Once we’d broken things down into small, easy steps, and prepared for the worst case scenario, Andrea felt calmer about networking. Slowly she followed the steps we’d set out, and things became easier for her. She realised how great it felt having a positive interaction, and saw that people responded well to her.
Do it your way
Andrea is coming on in leaps and bounds. She goes for things and doesn’t feel the same fear around contacting people for help. She made it into the start- up world by starting her own online travel advisory company on the side of her day-to-day job. She’s also completed various courses including and incubator training programme to learn more about the industry she’s interested in.
Networking doesn’t have to be roaming around ‘events’ desperately finding people to talk to. It can be about focusing on what you need, slowly and quietly doing things in your own way. And getting the results you need.
If you’d like to some coaching sessions with me, contact me at email@example.com or here on LinkedIn.
Smiling at strangers. It’s sometimes used as an initiation exercise to practise getting out of your comfort zone.
Walking along, randomly smiling at strangers. Potentially looking like a bit of a weirdo.
It’s the first step in doing something that might make you feel uncomfortable, nervous, out of your depth.
Getting out of your comfort zone
It’s widely considered that ‘getting out of your comfort zone’ is one of the best ways to grow as a person.
If you keep on doing what you know, things that are easy and feel safe and certain, then you aren’t taking risks, and opening yourself up to new experiences. Therefore, you’re not going to do much growing.
You aren’t building your confidence by succeeding in doing things you’ve never done before, or never dreamed you could do.
You aren’t proactively looking to change yourself for the better.
It’s daunting and cringey
Back to smiling at strangers. Some people would really struggle with it, and would find it daunting and cringey. Why would you smile at a stranger? Won’t they think I’m a bit mad? Or want something from them? Or – shock horror – about to talk to them?! Even worse, what if they then strike up a conversation?
Have a focus
It’s really hard to force yourself to do something you don’t particularly want to do. But – if you can see the benefit, and where this action might lead you, it makes it easier. You now have a focus.
You’re not just doing it for the sake of it, you’re doing it because you know you need to change. You need to shake things up a bit. You can’t keep doing what you’ve been doing, as you’re not happy with the result.
It could be that long-term you want to be better at networking. Maybe you wish you didn’t care so much what other people think.
I find smiling at strangers easy, I do it all the time. I’m a smiley person. But for me, being out of my comfort zone looks like public speaking, live TV, performing. Stand-up comedy? Not in a million years.
I actually have no desire to be on TV or perform. But I’d like to not have that irrational fear of public speaking, the few times I need to do it. And I’d like to care less what other people think.
So – I sometimes have to present to groups of people, which pushes me back out of my comfort zone. I regularly give webinars, which sometimes still makes me anxious.
Caring less what others think
And I’m currently more active on social media, (well, LinkedIn), and experimenting with writing posts and video. Partly as a way to connect with more people about my coaching business and the things that are important to me. Partly as a way to care less what others think, to worry less about expressing my own opinion in public.
How about you? What do you find tricky that you know will help you long-term if you can get more comfortable doing it? What would be pushing you out of your comfort zone?
If you’d like to try coaching with me, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or here on LinkedIn.
Sometimes I see other women out there, often way younger than me, and I wonder how they got so confident, how they have such a strong voice. How do you build confidence?
Maybe some of us are born confident, maybe not. But my guess is that for a lot of people out there who appear super-confident, it’s that they’ve learned it.
They’ve had a series of small successes, and built on them.
One person listened to them and showed appreciation in what they had to say, then another, and another, and so their voice has grown louder and more confident over time.
They’ve succeeded in voicing their opinion, using a skill, dealing with a situation, whatever it is; they’ve then done it again, and again, and again.
So perhaps a way to build confidence for yourself is to recognise when you have a small success, and then keep going, trying to build on it.
Maybe you’ve broken out of your comfort zone by succeeding in doing something. It’s well documented that if you get out of your comfort zone regularly, you’ll build confidence. It’s like building a habit. You have to keep repeating until it becomes normal. So carry on breaking out of your comfort zone as often as you can.
Easier said than done right? When you’re lacking in confidence, everything seems too much. But the key is – start small.
When I started writing blogposts, I was nervous about what to do with them. I knew they couldn’t just sit on my website, unseen.
But I wasn’t used to sharing my work. I’d never really posted on social media before. I had all kinds of doubts about my writing and about ‘putting it out there’.
However I’d previously done an interview with Careershifters, and when it was published on their website I shared the link with some close friends and family. I got such good feedback, and a few people told me it had inspired them.
So when I wrote my first few blogposts, I shared the links privately again, and got positive feedback again. That gave me the confidence to send my first tweet with a link to a blogpost. The world didn’t end. The next week I did the same. Then again. Sometimes I’d get a reaction, sometimes not.
After a while I realised it’s not so scary – those who are interested will have a read, those who aren’t, won’t. I became confident in sharing stuff on Twitter, then the next step was LinkedIn. Even scarier – I have lots of contacts on LinkedIn, a big network of people I’ve worked with over the years. Lots of people could potentially see (or criticise) my work.
But same again, I started small with one post, then another; they either got positive feedback or where ignored! Over time, it’s become easier, less of a big deal. I still don’t always find it easy – I’m not always sure if people will be interested in what I’m sharing. But I’m learning to care less, if it helps or interests someone then great, if not, nevermind.
As well as starting small with things you are scared to do, another confidence boost is to keep a little store of nice things people have said about you. Sounds ridiculous but keeping a little of lovely comments, where you’ve helped someone, or inspired them, or they’ve appreciated something you’ve done or your work, is the ultimate proof that sometimes you get things right. It’s a reminder of what you’ve achieved so far. You can take a look whenever you need a boost.
Do you want to improve your confidence? What small step can you take – something you really want to do that scares you a little…write it down. Set yourself a challenge to do it in the next few days. Then pick the next thing, and keep going.
I recently spoke to a friend of a friend, M, about her work. She finds her current job stressful and she can’t see herself carrying on all the way through to retirement. We got talking about what she’d always dreamed of doing – working in interiors and decoration. And seeing the way she lit up talking about it…I asked her if she’d ever consider trying to move into it. But as we talked it was obvious there were a few barriers stopping her from thinking it could ever be possible.
The barriers M put in her way are really common. I don’t have the time. Other people are already doing the work. I’d need a qualification. The courses I’ve seen are far away and too expensive.
What’s it worth?
M was interested in taking a course to learn more and had looked into a couple. But the fact that they were pricey and bit of a distance away was an obstacle. I asked if the prospect of learning more, of enjoying exploring the world of design, of meeting like minded people, could be worth it. M admitted she’d love to give it a try.
So is it worth saving up or cutting back to afford it? Is it a potentially worthy investment? Could she find a way of prioritising the time she’d need to travel there and back?
The qualification issue
Another of the most common barriers, M felt she would need a qualification in order to set up and be taken seriously. I asked her – if someone could teach you how to do something, or could do it for you (with amazing results), would you care if they had a qualification or not?
I know some careers do require rigorous training and it may be the case that a certain level of education is required to be an interior designer. But in so many careers knowledge and experience count for a lot. And there’s always the possibility of studying for a qualification alongside getting work experience or during the very early stages of starting a business. I started coaching while studying for my coaching qualification. This doesn’t have to be a barrier.
For example, say I want to decorate my house. Imagine I have a bit of a budget, but zero interest in actually doing the research and searching for items or considering aesthetics. I would totally want to pay for the services of someone with amazing taste, whose own house is beautifully decorated, and who can make the transformation easy for me.
And get this – M mentioned that a few friends had commented on her style, or hinted that they’d love her to makeover their houses. I got excited hearing this! Proof there’s a market for her and proof she doesn’t necessarily need a qualification to get started. She could get started working with friends, and see what happens with word-of-mouth.
In her free time M’s pinning decoration images on Pinterest and obsessively scanning Instagram. We agreed that dedicating even 30 minutes a week would be time well spent on exploring this potential new career. She can put that research to good use! And use the time to set up working for a friend for free, or calling to find out more about the course and enrolling, or working out what niche she’d focus on. Maybe seeing if she can interview or shadow someone local working as a interior designer. Step-by-step.
So often we put pressure on ourselves when it comes to trying something new, putting immediate barriers in place. What if I don’t enjoy it, what if I change my mind and am no longer interested? What if it’s not for me?
Well on the other hand, what if it’s amazing – and changes everything?
The worst could be that you start taking small steps into that world, and realise you don’t enjoy it. This will help you decide that its not the path for you. You’re still a step ahead. You’re getting closer to what you want. It’s not a step back. You’ve set the gears in motion for change. You’ve shaken things up and you’re showing yourself that you’re taking yourself seriously. You can build on this.
For instance M could offer her services for free and then use the results as a portfolio/case study. Go through the process with a friend/’client’ and learn from the experience. See if she actually enjoys it and if the client is pleased with the outcome (maybe following up with a questionnaire or asking for a testimonial). Was anything tricky? What could be improved? Did anything go well? Did she feel under qualified?
This could all be done on the side of carrying on with her full time employment. I’m not suggesting quitting and starting from scratch. M can slowly build up her experience, and be sure it’s a career path that appeals.
Finally, with I visited M’s home, I was struck by the fact that she’s probably got the most stylish house I’ve seen for a couple with young kids. Her young daughters’ bedroom had simple, lovely colours, kid appropriate but not garish. In one corner of the room there was a massive leafy plant in front of a big shuttered window, with light filtering through. There was excellent storage so there weren’t toys all over the place. Somehow this all changed the room from any old kids bedroom to ‘dream’ kids bedroom.
Their home was sleek, stylish and not overrun with kids stuff. It struck me – that could be her niche. How to have a beautiful home when you’ve got kids. How to achieve the stylish, zen-like look even if your day-to-day is as chaotic as everyone else’s.
Her dream is so big and exciting, and seems so far away that she can hardly contemplate it one day being a reality. But once M can get over her mindset blocks and start believing it could one day be possible, all she needs to do is start taking small steps to make it happen. It might take a while, but it’s possible.
Want some help with
Let me know if you’d like to speak to me about moving forwards with your big dreams, and dealing with your mindset. Removing barriers. I can help! I love doing this. I’ll help you to see the possibilities, and we’ll work out a plan together. Email me at email@example.com to make a booking.
One day, when I was living in Paris, a friend and I made a discovery. It turned out we both had one day every single month when we would feel sad and cry for no apparent reason. We finally figured out that it was always the day before our period. It was quite the revelation. This ‘sad day’ wasn’t out of the blue, it was regular as clockwork. And it was all due to hormones.
But somehow I managed to forget all about this discovery. Every month would come round. I’d have a day or two feeling really sad, blue, wondering what was wrong with me. And then the next day I’d get the answer, oh yes, I was due my period.
I loosely kept track of when my period should come. I’d note in my diary a star on the first day of my period and a question mark on the day 25 days later. Even so, I would without fail forget about the ‘sad day’.
A hormone tracker changed her world
The first time I properly considered how my menstrual cycle affects me was only a year or two ago when I read an article. The journalist had just discovered a free hormone app tracker, and it changed her world.
A very brief summary is that we have four stages of our menstrual cycle. Our hormones are doing different things during each stage. These hormones affect our mood, appetite, energy levels, desire for socialising (along with other things going on in our lives, of course).
Rising oestrogen in week one (the first day of your period and the days following) gives you a surge of positivity and good feelings (having felt fairly crap during week 4). Week 2, as oestrogen continues to rise, you’re likely to feel more upbeat, confident and resilient. Week 3 you’ll probably be feeling quite mellow and sleepy (due to rising progesterone), and week 4 it’s likely you’ll feel irritated, a bit blue, generally p*ssed off at the world as oestrogen is now dropping. (I’d advise you to read up on this, I’m no biologist).
It was amazing to finally understand why some weeks I feel confident, full of energy and good vibes, wanting to socialise every night. Then other weeks I can’t bear to be around too many other people, wanting to cancel all social engagements and just lie on the sofa watching tv.
Amongst other things it also affects productivity; some weeks I’m super motivated and on a roll, others my pep is limited.
We should cut ourselves some slack
The reason I’m sharing this is so that you can learn to cut yourself some slack. We women are good at giving ourselves a hard time. Those days when there is lots to do. Your to-do list is infinite, but you’re low on energy. You just want to sleep, you’re irritated, you’re crabby, you’re uninspired – there’s a reason. It’s probably partly because your hormones are doing their thing (and let’s not forget diet, sleep, exercise, personal issues etc etc all play a part too).
Give yourself a break. Sooner or later the week of your cycle will come around where you’re positive, full of energy, a can-do attitude and great ideas.
If you’re going through a career change or looking to make changes in other areas of your life, it can be tough to stay motivated and focused. There are lots of emotional issues going on. There’s quite possibly a lot of negative chatter, your brain’s way of keeping you safe and within your comfort zone. And then on top of that your mood, confidence and energy are all affected by your hormones.
My advice is to read up a little on hormones, or download one of the many free hormone tracker apps out there. Build your awareness. You’ll start to figure out which week’s great for networking, contacting people, charging ahead with your plans. And which week is a good time for reflection and slowing down. You can start to make plans with this knowledge in mind.
Even with what I’ve learned, I still have to remind myself all this on a weekly or even daily basis. It’s easy to forget. Sometimes you’re feeling the way you feel, simply because of…hormones.
If you’d like to try life coaching with me, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.