Have you ever decided not to apply for a job because you didn’t meet 100% of the qualifications? You are not alone. This phenomenon is known as the confidence gap. In the book “The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance — What Women Should Know,” authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman acknowledge that even when women are overqualified and overprepared, they still lack confidence pursuing a career or promotional opportunities.
Similarly, other historically underrepresented populations such as LGBTQIA+ and people of color face systemic barriers to promotion and advancement. Very little research exists on how the confidence gap impacts non-binary and gender non-conforming individuals. However, due to the underrepresentation of diverse groups in the workplace, they may experience imposter syndrome or a lack of confidence in their skills and qualifications.
There are many reasons why the confidence gap exists. Studies show that a lack of informal networks where women can make essential connections and few female role models in senior management can make women feel less confident about their readiness for a job. Similarly, biases about women’s leadership capabilities, such as being evaluated for promotions primarily on performance, while men are often promoted based on potential, impact their growth.
However, these biases couldn’t be further from the truth. Studies have shown women are more likely to be emotionally intelligent leaders, value empathy and make more inclusive decisions all critical attributes for an increasingly multicultural society. Moreover, having diverse identities in the workplace leads to more thoughtful decision-making, opportunities for creativity and innovation and increases profits and productivity. These unique experiences help build more transparent, innovative, empowering and inclusive work cultures.
Women and LGBTQIA+ populations shouldn’t feel that the burden of change lies on them alone and they must conform to traditional male standards. There’s more work to be done and policies to be explored to increase gender equality in the workplace, such as more objective performance metrics, downplaying gender differences in male-dominated work environments and broadening the scope of attributes that are valued in organizations.
The good news is that confidence is a soft skill you can grow over time, and there are ways to help yourself feel more self-assured and qualified when applying for jobs or promotions. As an experienced career coach who helps women succeed in their job search, here are my tips on four ways women can conquer the confidence gap and thrive in their careers.
1. Use Your Network
When finding a job, it’s not just what you know — it’s who you know. Networking can help you stay competitive in a job search and according to a LinkedIn survey, 85% of jobs are filled through networking.
Making strategic connections with people who can vouch for your skills and fit for a job can not only help give you an in with hiring managers but talking to your network about your strengths also can help build your confidence. During your job search, consider trying the following tips with your network:
- Ask for an Informational Interview: Identify a person in your dream job at an organization you’re interested in and see if they’re willing to discuss their role. Ask how they prepared for the position, if there is required training or skills are necessary, what the culture is like and how the hiring process works. Be sure to convey your interest in the company and role, add this individual to your LinkedIn network and stay connected with them.
- Stay in Contact With Past Colleagues, Supervisors and Professors: Ask them to write a recommendation for you on LinkedIn or to endorse you for a specific skill. Both are visible to recruiters on LinkedIn and can boost you over other applicants.
2. Acknowledge and Overcome Learning Gaps
Women often believe they must come into an interview ready to show how they’ve mastered every skill in the job description. However, an interview is also an excellent opportunity to advocate for yourself, identify your areas of growth, demonstrate your commitment to the role and resolve to address your skill gaps.
If weaknesses or areas of growth are causing you to lack confidence in an interview, showcasing ways you’ve been tackling these areas can help build your self-esteem. For instance, if your growth area is public speaking and that is a component of a role you are applying for — you’ll want to provide examples of how you have overcome this weakness and what you’re doing to enhance your skills. As you begin to identify your areas of growth, think about implementing the following plan:
- Identify the Skills You Need: Explore the job descriptions of your dream role, and identify four to five skills, qualifications or expertise that are your areas for growth.
- Plan How to Gain the New Skills: Once you identify the skills you need, figure out how you plan to achieve them and how much time you’ll need to do so. For example, getting a project management certification can be an excellent strategy if you aspire to be a project manager, but it can require a significant amount of time.
3. Identify and Sell Your Strengths
Knowing your strengths can help clarify your career goals and build your self-confidence. Assess your strengths periodically to ensure you understand how to market yourself. Here are some strategies to try:
- Ask others for input on where you excel
- Revisit past feedback from a performance review and highlight words or phrases that demonstrate your strengths or skills
- Take a strengths assessment test, such as Clifton Strengths
Society often doesn’t conceptualize women as leaders. Yet, a KPMG study found that 66% of women are willing to take on a new project and 57% are willing to pitch a new idea, showing women are innovative and take calculated risks. These are essential leadership skills, so it’s important for women to include these strengths on their resumes and provide specific examples of them during the interview process.
4. Focus on Past Work Achievements
Typically, you’ll want to include your skills and responsibilities on your resume. However, to sell yourself better, your resume should balance your day-to-day duties and accomplishments you’ve made in your role. Provide examples highlighting how you’ve exceeded employer or supervisor expectations, such as exceeding a sales goal or increasing fundraising by 20%.
Self-confidence plays a role in career success. It can help you land a job and aid in salary and promotion negotiations. We need more women in leadership roles as women play a significant role in improving the overall social health of the workplace. Use these tips to build your self-confidence and ensure career happiness and success!