You’ve got this. You really do. But do you know that you do?
We all know the feeling well. You’re sitting in the reception area waiting for someone to come fetch you for a job interview. Or maybe you’re in your car in some cavernous parking lot, 15 minutes early for a big meeting with a potential client. And you really, really don’t feel well. Whoever called nerves “butterflies” single-handedly set up the biggest hoax in the history of moments of self-doubt. More like “on a sailboat in a hurricane, seasickness-included.”
The problem, though, is that you can’t let that feeling prevent you from owning your big meeting. Fortunately, research (and there’s a lot of research on confidence, it turns out) shows there are more than a few ways to harness that anxiety and use it in your favor. With confidence in you next job interview, client meeting, or public speaking engagement, you’re going to walk in like you own the place. Here’s how:
RECOGNIZE THE PROBLEM GOES BEYOND YOU
First step: realign how you’re thinking about yourself. As women, we’re up against some deeply ingrained issues—a well-known 2014 piece in The Atlantic introduced us to “the confidence gap,” a very real phenomenon in which women are less self-assured than men.
Then there’s “impostor syndrome,” a buzzy term that thousands of think pieces have explored in different ways. The concept, though, is pretty simple. Feeling of ‘phoniness in people who believe that they are not intelligent, capable or creative despite evidence of high achievement. While these people ‘are highly motivated to achieve,’ they also ‘live in fear of being ‘found out’ or exposed as frauds.
$10 says that description resonates with you—we’ve all felt like frauds at one point or another. And it’s particularly common when you’re about to walk into a meeting where you’re going to sell yourself. To combat it, though, you need stop yourself from thinking that it’s just you. You’re more qualified than you think. So before you even head out the door, take a second to consider the feelings you’re having and remind yourself that pretty much all of it is in your head. Next up? You need a pep talk.
THROW ON SOMETHING POWERFUL
Long before your meeting or interview, you’ll have to make a seemingly benign, yet stressful decision: what you’re going to wear. This will vary depending on industry, instructions from your recruiter, and your own preferences. But one thing’s for sure: you’re not doing yourself any favors if you pick an outfit you think you “should” wear that makes you feel uncomfortable, self-conscious, or boring. Think of it this way: if you want to stand out against other candidates in a job interview, why would you dress to blend in?
There’s a misconception that you need to avoid character in an interview outfit—black blazer, matching skirt, tights, sensible heels. There are several problems with this, but the main one is: do you feel empowered when you’re wearing that?
Next time you’re thinking about what to wear to a big meeting, consider switching it up a bit. Feeling like you stand out (just enough) against the other candidates will place you firmly in the self-confident realm.
Speaking from personal experience, I’ve worn a red lip to every interview (and every first date) since I was 22. There’s a reason why politicians always wear red ties—power colors have long been a thing in men’s fashion and business circles in general. My red lip? It’s a subtle way to punch up a classic black interview outfit, but mostly I do it for me—it makes me feel bold.
I’m not alone in that feeling—The New York Times reported on a study that found that wearing makeup “increases people’s perceptions of a woman’s likability, her competence, and (provided she does not overdo it) her trustworthiness.” When it comes to a red lip specifically, consider this Verily Magazine campaign where top bloggers sang the praises of how empowered they feel in the color.
You don’t have to go nuts, but pick a signature look that speaks to you and you alone. Maybe it’s lipstick, maybe it’s a bright manicure, that pair of shoes you splurged on with your first big raise, or something more sentimental. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to take a little risk—feeling like you’re dressed to own the room will work to your benefit.
SPEAK YOUR TRUTH—WRITE A MANTRA
Being humble is a great thing, but there’s a time and a place for it. Women are less likely to boast about their accomplishments, and that’s a problem because that’s exactly what you need to do when you’re trying to land a job offer or sell yourself or your project in a meeting.
So, when you’re sitting in your car waiting for the appointed hour, try running through your accomplishments (especially the ones you’ll probably discuss in your interview or meeting) without making excuses for them. Your work speaks for itself, and it’s not just the result of “good luck.” In fact, drop “I was lucky” from your vocabulary.
Before the big meeting, talk yourself up—out loud. Before I walk into any room where I might network, I remind myself: ‘You are a badass. Anyone would be lucky to hear your story.’ Saying these words gives me my power back, and I walk into any room ready to take on anything.” Try saying that (or a similar mantra) to yourself a few times before walking in.
REMIND YOURSELF OF PAST SUCCESSES
If you have a hard time thinking of your accomplishments at work, you’re not alone. While it’s fairly easy to think of the big ones—like landing a huge client or a stellar annual review—often we forget the little wins we experience every week.
The best way to avoid losing sight of them? Write them down. We recommend keeping a work journal where you track your daily and weekly projects, feedback, and workplace perspective. Before your interview, go back and read through the past entries. Reviewing what you’ve done means you’ll have countless answers for the big job interview questions (think “Describe a moment where you had to tackle a project without enough resources at your disposal.”)
MOVE, BREATHE, AND TAKE UP SPACE
Try high power poses that will help boost your confidence before a big event. There’s been some controversy about just how useful Cuddy’s recommendations are, but one thing’s for sure: if you’ve got five extra minutes before your meeting, it won’t hurt to take a few deep breaths, stretch, and puff yourself up emotionally and physically. Take up some space. You deserve it. Then walk in with your head held high—because you’ve got this. You really do.