7 Ways Women Can Build Confidence at Work

Focused business team working at the office with computer and phones

By Lindsay Olson

When it comes to appearing confident on the job, many women follow what men are doing. A few sports analogies, a neutral business suit ... what could exude confidence better than acting like a man? Try this instead: Be yourself.

Women still are underrepresented in many industries, in government positions and in the board room. But that can change. Exuding confidence is one step toward getting off that sticky floor and moving up the corporate ladder. And you don't have to act like a man to get there.1. Be aware of your word choice. Women tend to undermine themselves by using softer wording, such as "I think" or "maybe," or even apologizing for interjecting. You don't have to interrupt or be rude, but use more confident words that make a statement – not a gentle suggestion.

2. Pretend you're confident. We don't all feel like Oprah, even on our best days, but the rest of the office doesn't have to know that. Realize that how you walk, shake hands and make (or avoid) eye contact each tells someone whether or not you are self-assured. So stand up tall, square those shoulders, walk with purpose and look everyone in the eye. You'll soon find that even if you don't feel confident at first, you will soon.

3. Dress the part. You don't have to wear pantsuits to prove you've got grit. Always dress appropriately, but own your style. If you're more bohemian than shoulder pads, you can still wear what you love and exude personality. You'll come off more certain of yourself if you like what you wear, rather than if you dress like you think others expect you to.

4. Speak up. You were hired because of your smart ideas, so it's time to share them! Don't be a wallflower in meetings. Don't over-assert yourself, either. Find the balance between holding back what you're thinking and dominating the conversation.

5. Play to people's preferences. Your boss can talk about golf all day. Sally in accounting likes commiserating about work over coffee. Steve glows when you laugh at his silly jokes. Everyone's got a different button, and knowing what makes them light up can win you points around the office. We're not talking brown-nosing here, but simply paying attention to people can help you build relationships.

6. Go in a different direction. It's sometimes tempting to do what the successful people in your firm are doing, but realize you'll stand out if you go in the opposite direction. If you're the only person who thinks the proposed logo is horrible, don't be afraid to say so. You might be surprised when others agree with you – once you're brave enough to say how you feel.

7. Leverage that performance review. When it's time to sit down with your boss and assess the past year, don't be shy. Come armed with a list of accomplishments, as well as goals for the coming year. He'll appreciate your forthrightness, and that bonus will be all but in the bag.

Confidence doesn't always come naturally for us, but it still remains an important component for advancing in our professional world. With a little practice, you'll ooze confidence from your pores!

Lindsay Olson is a founding partner and public relations recruiter with Paradigm Staffing and Hoojobs, a niche job board for public relations, communications and social media jobs. Hoojobs was voted as a Top Career website by Forbes. She blogs at LindsayOlson.com, where she discusses recruiting and job search issues and is chief editor of the HooHireWire – The Hoojobs Guide to Hiring & Getting Hired.
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