How do you communicate confidently as you explore new career opportunities? It’s not easy to project confidence when your future work role is a “work-in-progress”. Read this article for 3 ways to coach yourself to be more confident about your career communication during career transition.
1. Prepare Your Personal First Aid Response
Do you remember your first day at work? My first real job was in a hospital. The first day was a mixture of excitement and terror. Newness and fear. Lots of interesting things to learn, but fear of making a harmful mistake because of what I didn’t yet know.
If you have spent years honing your professional skills, you have a natural confidence that comes from knowing what you’re doing. This confidence makes it easy to talk about your work, especially with peers who “get” what you do.
But when you’re going through career transition, things are different. You can no longer assume that others will get the value of what you do. Yet to succeed, you need to communicate confidently about your career with a wide range of people. You need to intentionally put yourself in new situations.
So how do you handle this? The first thing is to recognize that feeling some anxiety is a natural response in unfamiliar situations. For most of us, our default response to anxiety is to think that there is something wrong. Feeling nervous can shake your confidence.
But if you know to expect some anxiety you can take simple steps to manage how you feel. How? By preparing your personal first aid response.
Simple strategies work well for many people. Think of other situations where you experience some anxiety, but it is manageable. Maybe it’s going to the dentist. Or going to a party where you don’t know anyone. How do you respond?
What do you already know works for you? Examples might be slowing down your breathing. Or having a short phase that you can repeat to yourself when you start to feel nervous. Remind yourself of the tools and resources you already have. This will help you feel more confident.
2. Prepare to Answer the “What Do You Do?” Question
One of the questions that you can expect to be asked is “what do you do?” Yet many career change clients worry that they don’t know how to answer this during their transition.
The first step is to recognize the question for what is is. It’s frequently a culturally accepted way of connecting in social and professional contexts, where you are meeting new people.
Once your recognize this, you can let go of some of the pressure you might otherwise feel to explain exactly what you do. Rather than worrying about saying the right thing, plan a succinct response ahead of time. Then redirect the conversation with the intention of connecting with the questioner. Ask a question. Share something you want to learn more about. Listen carefully and build on what you hear to continue the conversation.
3. Be Intentional and Positive in Your Communication
When you are communicating about your career, it’s important to communicate intentionally. Especially if your career transition is tough. Here’s why. The human brain has evolved to pay more attention to negative experiences. Because your frustrations and concerns may be top of mind for you, it’s easy to focus on these when you’re meeting others socially and professionally.
Support yourself to communicate more confidently by thinking about what you want and using that to guide your career communication. Say, for example, you have a lot of experience in finance, and want to transfer your skills to a new industry. You are networking with people in this new industry. This can be challenging. It’s clear to you that your skills are transferable. But less clear to others. But it’s up to you to help them bridge these gaps.
If you lead with your frustrations, the focus is on you. Instead, focus on what you can learn. For example, each industry has their own jargon. By getting familiar with this insider language, you will build credibility. It’s easier to connect when you “speak the same language.”
Change involves stepping into new territory. If the gap between where you are and where you want to be feels too large, confident career communication can feel impossible. Use these three tips as stepping stones to help you bridge the gap.
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