As an intern or entry-level employee, you might sometimes find it hard to speak up, defend yourself, or stand behind your own ideas and opinions. This is understandable; after all, you just spent 12+ years as a student, where it was your job to be critiqued by people who were (supposedly) smarter and more credentialed than you are. You also have years less experience than your colleagues, make much less than they do, and have to deal with the many negative connotations associated with titles like “Intern,” “Assistant,” or “Coordinator.”
If you want to move beyond those stereotypes and prove your worth in an organization, it may be time to reevaluate how you present yourself to your coworkers. Luckily, there are many easy things you can do to appear more confident as a junior employee without overstepping bounds, coming off as aggressive, or changing who you really are. These 5 easy fixes are a great place to start if you need to sound more confident in your job, or in life in general:
1. Stop Apologizing for Taking Up Someone’s Time
“Hi Jennifer. I know you’re really busy and I’m so sorry for taking up your time, but could you look at this report before I send it off to John? If you don’t have time today, that’s fine. Thank you/sorry again!”
Sound familiar? Too often, interns and junior level employees apologize for the space they take up. Not only does this belittle your role and your work, it makes you look weak and unsure of your own authority. If you want others to respect you, start by respecting yourself.
Try this instead: “Hi Jennifer. Could you look over this report before I send it off to John? Thanks!” Easy fix. Just stop apologizing when you don’t need to.
2. Stop Pointing Out Your Own Weaknesses
When you’re just starting your career, you’re not expected to know everything. Your interviewer knows that you don’t have years and years of experience. Your manager knows you won’t know how to do everything on day one. So stop highlighting your weaknesses and ineptitudes in an attempt to lower other peoples’ expectations of you. Doing so will just make you look insecure and will distract from your strengths.
Instead of saying “I’m pretty bad at Excel,” try saying “I don’t have very much experience with Excel, but I use Word and Powerpoint regularly and learn quickly!”
3. Stop Underselling Your Ideas
I’m totally guilty of this one. Rather than stand proudly behind my own ideas, I sometimes under-hype them or even worse, distance myself from them entirely. In my mind, doing this will make the fall less painful if the idea is rejected. I also like to think that it opens the idea up to criticism from others who can probably make it stronger. Humility is good, right?
Unfortunately, underselling your ideas will make them less attractive, which will reflect poorly on you. Would you buy a car from a salesperson who told you it would be “an okay car”? Probably not. Instead of setting low expectations on your big ideas, try to demonstrate your excitement about the idea while remaining open to refining it. Try saying something like this: “I have an idea that I think could be really great, but I’d love to hear your feedback on how I can make it even better!”
4. Stop Blathering On
Confident people know that less is more. They know to stand firmly behind their words and communicate with both precision and concision. Rattling on endlessly in a presentation, email, or conversation with your manager will make you look nervous, unpolished, and uncertain of your own ideas. Besides, some ideas don’t need to be elaborated upon, so just say what you mean to say and then stop.
5. Stop Speaking Poorly
One of the easiest ways to appear more confident in the workplace and in life in general is to refine the way you speak. Remember everything you were taught to do in presentations at school? Yeah, you need to do that in the real world, too. Project from the chest, speak intentionally slower than you’re inclined to, avoid filler words and ticks (“uhhh…,” “you know…,” “like…,” “I mean…”), and never articulate a statement as a question.
Working on these patterns will take some time and will require consistent practice, but doing so will pay off in many awesome ways. Confident people make more effective and convincing managers, they get what they ask for more often, and perhaps most importantly, they earn respect from their peers, clients, partners, supervisors, employees, friends, and acquaintances.
Whether you sometimes second guess your own ideas or you freeze at the mere thought of speaking to your boss, learning to sound and appear more confident will make life much more rewarding, much more enjoyable, and much, much easier.