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Ask Lawrence: How do I ensure I continue to be confident in my abilities?

30 Oct 11:00 By Lawrence Akers

Ask Lawrence

Gemma had been with the same company for nine years before she was let go.

Nine years!  Yes, that’s a long time to give your loyalty to one company and then to be told one day that, sorry, you’re no longer needed.

I don’t think there is a single creative out there who does this job because it is a ‘way to earn money’.  Being a creative is part of their identity and part of what makes them tick.  When you’re told you are no longer needed, it can leave you with lots of questions about where you’re going and what your worth is.

For Gemma, because she had been with the one company for so long, she had no comparison to whether she was any good or not.

As a result of this, she felt a lot of anxiety around uncertainty.  She was uncertain if she had the skills required that would secure her another job.  What if she had spent the past nine years working in a company that had not developed her skills to an industry standard?

When she eventually came in to meet with me, I could tell that she had let that anxiety really convince her that she was potentially not that good.  I knew it was nonsense.  No one lasts in a job that long and produces the quality of work that they do unless they’re good at what they do.

The challenge was how to get Gemma to stop listening to that voice in her head and to start listening to mine instead.

When the opportunity came to place Gemma into a freelance role, I could tell she was nervous.  She was going to be regardless of if that opportunity came through me or someone else, so it was lucky that she had someone on her side that could coach her through the experience.

I reassured her that everything was going to be ok.  I told her how it was all going to go.

She was going to rock up at the assignment.  She was going to meet with the person who she was reporting to and they were going to brief her.  She should ask questions to determine exactly what was required and agree on how long each requirement should take.  If she had any concerns, she should phone me straight away.

On the day, I checked her in.  Yes, she was nervous but she also said she felt that she could do the job.  By the end of the day, she had completed her first successful day as a freelancer.

What are the lessons we can take away from all of this?

The first is that it is normal to wonder how you benchmark against others in the industry, especially if you’ve been in the same role for many years.  Having said that, if it is causing you to feel anxious about your abilities, focus on your strengths instead of focusing on how you compare to others.  

If you are truly concerned about how you benchmark, reach out to someone who can act as a guide for you; an industry mentor or a niche recruitment specialist who can tell you where your strengths are and where you might consider further development.  Then you need to make sure you take their advice and act on it.

Come up with a continued professional development plan and place it into action.  Ensure you commit to it.  All the best creatives I know in the industry take their continued professional development seriously because it pushes them outside their comfort zone and they learn something new that they can bring to the table.  

If you leave your success to the quality of your thoughts around if you have a skill of value or not, then you’re inevitably going to suffer.  Have a support network of peers, commit to your continued learning, and you will find that the confidence in your ability will continue to build from that.