How to Overcome a Lack of Confidence

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Tim Handorf of Best Colleges Online.

Have you ever found yourself facing an unfamiliar situation that seems impossible to resolve?

Have you ever felt as though your previous experiences and current skills haven’t sufficiently prepared you for this newest task?

I ask because I recently faced my toughest challenge yet, and I want to share with you what I did to persevere.

Last May, I lost my job. I was teaching literature at a university when I learned that they could not renew my contract due to budget restrictions. I had earned a PhD in Literature, had devoted myself to sharing my passion with others, and suddenly I could no longer pursue my dream.

I worried about my teaching prospects. I had moved to a city to be near my family, and I didn’t want to leave them again, so the chances of relocating were unlikely. The economic downturn had hit education hard, and nearby universities and high schools had no openings. I realized that my specialized skill-set, which made me a great candidate for a teaching job, hurt me as I looked for a new career. So here’s what I did to overcome my lack of confidence. Hopefully my process can help you too.

Find Support

I turned to my support network: my family, my friends, and my colleagues. If I wanted to find a job, I would have ask for help. I relied on a friend’s human resources knowledge for resume and cover letter tips. I asked my teaching colleagues to be references. I vented to them on my bad days.

In stressful times, you must lean on those closest to you for support, whether you’re getting ready for a big presentation or setting out on your own business venture.

Apply your Skill-Set

I had to make potential employers see me as a valuable asset to their organization.  I made a list of my skills and experiences and brainstormed possible applications. For example, I taught many college students, so this translated into an ability to communicate well and collaborate with others. Because I graded papers, I had a strong understanding of the writing process and could apply it to different contexts. I soon created a skill set that made me an ideal writer for a communications company. I only lacked professional experience.

Try to list some ways your own skills and experiences apply to new situations. You might have to think creatively in order to match them up, but you might surprise yourself with how capable you really are!

Set Reasonable Goals

I came up with a list of goals I had to accomplish in order to find a job.  I tutored part-time, in order to maintain my employment status. I decided to start blogging in order to create some writing samples that I could show to employers. I sought freelance work, which gave me practice at writing projects on a deadline.

When you have a large goal for yourself, you can sometimes ease the stress by breaking your process into steps. Each step has a goal that is easier to attain.

Develop a Routine

In the mornings, I searched for jobs, writing down anything that looked good. Mid-mornings, I tutored for a couple hours, came home, ate lunch, and then began writing my applications and working on freelance projects. By the end of each week, I had sent out five applications. Even though I didn’t have a job, I felt like I was working hard.

You can use a routine to help keep your mind busy, to make yourself feel productive, and to get useful practice for when crunch time finally rolls around.

Never Stop Dreaming

My hard work paid off. Four months later, I was offered a position as a content writer for an internet company, and my freelance business is increasing. Despite my new career, I will always dream of being a tenured professor. While I am committed to my new job, I consider it another step along the way to realizing my dream.

In my opinion, this is the most important step: never stop believing that you will one day achieve your goals, regardless of what those goals are or how difficult the process becomes.

Bio: This guest post is contributed by Tim Handorf, who writes on the topics of online colleges.

7 thoughts on “How to Overcome a Lack of Confidence”

  1. Debbie @ Happy Maker

    Tom this is a great article. It shows that when one door closes another will open up. With the right atitude anything is possible. I do agree that you have to follow your dreams. Dreams are what leads you to your future.
    As for needing help at times, we all need help sometime in our lives and when we use the resources that are provided for us it makes others feel good to be there. I do believe that people are put into our lives for a reason,even if they just cross our path for a short time.
    Hard work does pay off and good luck you are right on track for a very bright future.

  2. Hi Tom,

    This is a great article. Not only does it demonstrate how you went about regaining confidence in a difficult job market, but it also shows how you recognized and used your transferable skills.

    Ah, yes, the interesting dilemma of being “over-educated” or “over-qualified” in a tight job market! Well, that’s the reason that’s usually given for not hiring people with advanced degrees. The irony was that even though I knew I had a great set of transferable skills, I often felt woefully inexperienced for some of the jobs.

    I wish you great success in your new position and freelance work and I hope one day you can realize your your dream of being a tenured professor again. It’s the ideal for someone who loves both teaching and research/writing.

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  4. Confidence is just about being positive and thinking things are going to work out all right. There was an interesting study recently about lucky vs unlucky people and it turned out that lucky people were just people who expected to be lucky and unlucky expected to be unlucky. Confidence is similar.

  5. I think the key point to notice here is that you kept engaged, working – maybe not for what you thought, but working, taking one step at time forward. When you looked at the possibilities and determined a direction (goal) the opportunities were there, ready for you when you were. Part of confidence is being centered in yourself for who you are not for the roles you have in your life. You were able to do that, set aside the job (teaching) as you and look beyond into who you were and where you wanted and were willing to go. A great story for many others who are still on the journey and struggling to find their confidence.

  6. This article is very motivating. I am currently going through the fellowship application process and being denied can be a very difficult hit someone’s self-esteem. Realizing that dreams come true but sometimes through different means is one thing that keeps my self confidence high.

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