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The Confidence of Knowing Yourself

Posted by | March 3, 2015 | Advice, Career

Via LinkedIn : I can remember a moment early in my career when I felt like I was on the edge of a precipice. I had been asked to take on a huge project; I didn’t have experience with this particular challenge and it certainly was not part of my job description. I felt overwhelmed. When I admitted that I didn’t know how to proceed, the advice I received from my manager was critical: “I have the confidence that you will figure it out.” It did two things: first, I felt empowered knowing that others believed in me and, second, it acknowledged that there is no black and white answer, no singular piece of advice I was missing, no right or wrong path.

At the time, I was very lucky. I had an encouraging manager who coached me to jump into the deep end and trust myself to swim. Unfortunately, you won’t always have that external reassurance and it’s important to build the internal resilience to remind yourself: “I am confident that I can find my way.”

Today, disruptive forces are pervasive. Demands for transparency and improved customer experience are driving change across social, economic and governmental conventions. In business, industry lines are blurring and traditional growth areas are being upended like we’ve never seen before. For example, consumer and design-oriented companies like Apple are successfully launching payments capabilities, and brand new business models like Uber and Airbnb are changing the way we transact and interact on a peer-to-peer level.

While extremely exciting, the new dynamics of our professional and personal lives require us to think about our skills, relationships and goals in different ways. It is increasingly likely that we will find ourselves in an unknown situation, at the edge of a precipice where we’ll need to listen to our intuition. Here are some ways to think about how to refine that inner voice, and cultivate self-support:

Be bold. Operate from your strengths. Be willing to jump into the deep end a few times. Our world is increasingly undefined, broad and evolving; people are more mobile in life and jobs than ever before. It is an amazing time to be bold. All too often, we look for reasons why we aren’t qualified to do something, or we self-impose limitations.

For example, today’s sharing economy didn’t exist a decade ago – and it’s tapping into unmet and previously unarticulated demand. New possibilities are all around us. They require new thinkers, new skill sets and new ambitions. I encourage you to take a leap and participate in the opportunities around you.

Think “horizontally.” I talked about this in a recent Fortune.com piece (for.tn/17eq8yI) focused on millennials entering the workforce. Most important: don’t pigeonhole yourself or be limited by what you’ve done previously or what you studied in school. What are your broader capabilities? For example, do you thrive in social situations? Do you like science, creating and testing hypotheses, or do you enjoy teaching? Broad identifiers will help you break out of personal and professional boxes. Think differently about your interests and core competencies, and you will learn about yourself, develop creative solutions and navigate your own path; it is a continuum.

Build a robust network. It isn’t always easy to have confidence and to feel supported, especially in a rapidly evolving landscape where change is more likely than stability. In order to seek new perspectives, surround yourself with a deep network of friends, allies, colleagues and role models. Seek diverse perspectives and insights.

Need a jumpstart to build out your network? I know someone who does three things every week: 1) introduces himself to someone new, 2) reengages with someone he hasn’t heard from in a while and 3) offers his support or answers a question from someone in need. It isn’t enough to make the connections, you have to add value to your network – and ensure it is adding value to others.

Don’t burn out. It’s essential that you cultivate time for yourself and not let yourself burn out. Today, we’re always on, and boundaries are permeable. Work hard to create the balance you need in order to thrive. Your network is both a professional and personal support system – the further you reach and the more you listen and absorb, the more astute you will be at recognizing when you’re pushing too far.It’s important to pause and listen to your intuition and personal well-being – this is a central part of being a great leader. Assess. Reflect. Meditate.

Whatever stage of life you may be approaching, whether leaving home for the first time, entering the job market, or switching careers, remember to be confident that you will find your path. This tidbit has served me well, and I hope it will do the same for you.

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