Talking about your value at work

Talking about yourself at work isn’t easy, especially if you’re from a culture where this might be perceived as boasting, arrogant or self-involved. I’m looking at you, New Zealand!

Long ago, I heard the comedian Oscar Kightley tell a joke that perfectly captures New Zealand’s “tall poppy” culture. Apologies to Oscar if I mess up his joke but here goes…

“A distinguished professor is at a ceremony to accept an award for creating a pill that cures not only the common cold but all major diseases. In his speech he talks about his long career and the hard work he put in and he says how proud he is to have made so many people healthy and happy. The audience erupts in applause. A Kiwi turns to the guy next to him and says, ‘He’s a bit up himself, ay!'”

We laugh at the exaggerated story because it pokes fun at our tendency to expect people to be humble even when it’s perfectly justified for them to talk about their achievements. And we know that we don’t want to be the person seen as boastful or with an inflated sense of self-importance. It feels uncomfortable talking about our achievements and avoid it so that we don’t feel the sting of other people’s judgement.

But should this stop you from speaking up? You might think that if someone wants to know about you, they’ll ask. In reality, most people are probably too busy worrying about themselves to notice if you have done something amazing!

It’s up to you to share your story.

Don’t miss out on opportunities to promote and sell yourself, to grow and progress, to make your contribution.

You have value to offer your team, your employers, and your wider community. 

Stop for a second and think of your value – your talents and skills and contribution.

The gremlins that want you to stop you speaking up are strong, but you can outwit them. Here are a few ways to identify and celebrate your value:

  • Reflect on past achievements – big and small
  • Re-read references, testimonials and positive feedback
  • Make a list of everything you do that helps others
  • Think of the technical skills you’ve learnt, and the personal attributes and experience you bring to your team, your employer and the wider community

Your value is your currency. It buys you trust, respect, and confidence.

Being shy about your value won’t help you land that new opportunity, dream job or exciting promotion. If you want to be trusted with new responsibilities, you need to be able to share your strengths.

If you don’t speak up, someone else might. They might get that promotion or opportunity – simply because they were willing to speak about themselves. Let people know that you’re keen and willing, or you could risk being overlooked.

Tips for talking about yourself with clarity and confidence

  • If you’re anxious about appearing conceited or arrogant, this is a good sign that you’re not. The fact you don’t want to be seen as selfish shows you’re considering other people’s feelings and contribution.
  • Before speaking, ask yourself: “What’s my intent?” If you intend to make other people feel inferior or envious, then you are being arrogant.
  • Get evidence. Find someone who will be honest with you and ask them if you’re coming across as conceited. And also ask if they think you’re doing enough to let people know what you have to offer.
  • Check your facts. Don’t speak from opinion; be specific. Use facts and figures to draw attention to ways you’ve made a tangible difference.
  • If you don’t say something, people may not know. Talking about yourself is like advertising. If you have a wonderful product but people can only find out about it by chance, you won’t make many sales.
  • Be clear. Give other people the right words to use to advocate for you.
  • Be honest. You know what it’s like to listen to someone downplay their achievements. False modesty is irritating so own your worth.
  • Acknowledge other people in your team. Does this achievement only belong to you or were there people who helped you along the way?
  • Share your journey. Say why you’re proud. Most things that make us feel valued have required hard work. So talk about the challenges you overcame to get to where you are today. It’s the difference between: “I said I would win top salesperson and I did,” and “Getting to this point has been a goal of mine and even though it’s taken a lot of time and hard work I’m proud that I persevered.”
  • Describe your accomplishments in your boss’s words. Saying “the Delivery Manager said my suggestions made a big improvement,” comes across better than “I always come up with the best ideas”.
  • Boast! Sometimes we don’t know how something feels unless we actually do it, so try a full on bragging session – to someone you know, or to yourself. Say everything out loud, in the most arrogant way you can. Then reflect. How did that make you feel and how was it different to clearly and honestly stating your achievements? Taking an extreme view can help you find the right balance.

As with everything, talking about your value gets easier with practice. Over time, the voice in your head that says “what might people think of me?” will be replaced with “what do people need to know about me?”.

Don’t leave it to chance. If you have skills and strengths to offer, then you owe it to yourself (and others!) to share your story.

Some thoughts on “staying sharp”

The 7th habit in Stephen Covey’s best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People is ‘Sharpen the Saw’. It’s my favourite chapter in the book.

Sharpen the Saw means “preserving and enhancing the greatest asset you have – you.”

When life gets busy, self-development and self-care are often the first things to be neglected. But if you’re too busy to look after yourself, then eventually your saw is going to get blunt. Stephen suggests making time to sharpen your saw across the four main areas of your life:

  • Physical
  • Social/Emotional
  • Mental
  • Spiritual

I’d like to add a 5th area to this list: Work. In the workplace, feeling ‘blunt’ might mean you aren’t learning or finding opportunities to grow. Or perhaps you’re feeling overworked, under pressure or dissatisfied. Some employers will give you opportunities to sharpen the saw. They might send you on a training course or provide you with a coach or mentor or give you opportunities to develop. But I’d suggest coming up with your own techniques for staying sharp. Here are some ideas:

  • Carve out time for regular learning. For example, ask your colleagues to teach you a new skill or teach yourself online.
  • Attend a MeetUp or networking event. It’s amazing how much you can learn, both from expert speakers and from others in your field of work.
  • Try something new. To stretch your skills you need to try things that you don’t already know how to do.
  • Take care of yourself outside of work, so you can come into the office feeling enthusiastic and ready to learn.

The last point – taking care of yourself outside of work – is often the hardest part. It can be tough to switch off after hours and get the rest your body and mind needs. One thing I’ve found helpful is to find a hobby that’s good at distracting you. I find dance classes are good for me because they require my full concentration – and they’re fun! My husband enjoys making furniture, which is a far cry from his highly technical job as an engineer. (On that note, he’s acutely aware of the benefits of sharp saws – a good blade is safer, it requires less effort to saw, and it’s not going to damage the wood like a dull blade might).

For you, taking care of yourself may mean playing sport, meditation, art, reading, being outdoors or spending time with friends and family. If your job involves working on a computer for much of the day, maybe find something that doesn’t involve a screen. Your spare time belongs to you. It’s not selfish to spend it doing the things you truly enjoy – it’s necessary, so you don’t get blunt. As Stephen Covey says:

“Sharpen the Saw keeps you fresh so you can continue to practice the other  six habits. You increase your capacity to produce and handle the challenges around you.”

This week, I am going to stay sharp by attending a MeetUp to learn new technical skills, and by taking time out to swim at my favourite beach. What about you?

How and why to publish articles on LinkedIn

posts

About 18 months ago, I published my first article on LinkedIn. It’s called ‘Something is better than anything’. Since that day I’ve published 17 LinkedIn articles. Some have generated a great response, others have only reached a handful of people. But that’s not what matters – what matters is that I pushed Publish each one of those times.

Every time I click Publish, I put myself out there and share my thoughts and perspective. And I think you could benefit from doing the same.

Blogging helps you develop your ‘voice’ – who you are, what you stand for, what you’re interested in. It helps people get to know your viewpoint. It’s a perfect platform for introverts – we can do plenty of research, write at home in peace and quiet, and press Publish when we’re ready.

I want you to post on LinkedIn because I want to hear what you have to say. I want to get to know your ‘voice’, and I want a diverse array of content to read.

Blogging is such an easy way to communicate your ideas, and if you’re on LinkedIn, it’s available to you right now!

“But…”

I hear people say they want to blog but… English is their second language. But they can’t write. But they have nothing to say. But maybe no one will like it.

None of these reasons should be good enough to stop you. Every blogger I read has improved over time. We all have to start somewhere.

So let’s get started.

Choose a topic

Draw on your own experience in the workplace to pick an interesting topic. You don’t need to be an expert. Think about the things you can’t help but talk about with your colleagues, the things you get excited about. Or you could describe something you’ve tried at work – a new technique, something you’ve done differently.

People learn a lot from other people’s experiments, successes, and failures. In fact, hearing about other people’s challenges is often the best way to get the courage to try something for ourselves. Your journey could have a profound impact on someone’s life, but you will never know unless you share.

Do some research

If you’re thinking about writing, you probably enjoy reading blogs. Look at a few blogs that you like and see what stands out about their structure, tone, and content. Do you enjoy a list of tips, a personal story, a set of learnings, or something else? Perhaps you could use the same “framework”.

Here’s a simple framework you could follow:

  1. Intro – describe why you’re writing about your chosen topic.
  2. Detail – give some context for your story.
  3. Learnings – provide three takeaway tips for your readers (bullet points work well).
  4. Conclusion – refer to your introduction and summarise your key points.

When in doubt, just write

There are hundreds and thousands of articles online with tips on how to be a better writer, but if you’re starting out the best thing you can do is just write. No matter how many articles you read, you’re only going to learn once you start to write.

Set aside some time in a quiet space and write what comes to mind. Remember, a first draft is just that – a first draft. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece; it just has to be a beginning. It’s also a good idea to set a time limit for your first draft (maybe a couple of hours), then leave it for a day and read it with fresh eyes. Don’t spend too long reviewing and editing before you hit publish. Some bloggers I know publish as soon as they hit their time limit, no matter what they’ve written. They say this gives them a sense of urgency and they’ve found that that there are no major consequences if what they’ve written isn’t ‘perfect’.

Practical steps to writing on LinkedIn Pulse

Now that you know why blogging is important, here’s the nuts and bolts for publishing on LinkedIn.

  1. Click the ‘Write an Article’ link (under your profile details on the homepage).
  2. Write your article (I usually leave the headline until the end – see below).
  3. Use the pre-set formatting to break up your story. You can insert images, links, and videos, and also embed podcasts, tweets, and other media.
  4. Choose a short and specific title that will set the tone for your article. People who follow you and your connections will only see the title in their notifications so try for someting clear and catchy.
  5. Upload an image at the top of the post (700 x 400 pixels). You can create free images on sites like Canva or Pexels. Remember to only use images you’re entitled to.
  6. Do a final read through to check spelling, grammar, and flow.
  7. Click the Publish button. LinkedIn asks you to enter some hashtags to help with searching. Hit Publish again. Once this is done, your post will be live and available to read. This is usually the point I realise I missed a spelling mistake or want to change something! From the homepage click ‘Write an Article’, then top right click ‘More > Articles’. Select Edit, make changes, and click Publish again.

You’ll get LinkedIn notifications each time someone responds to your post. To view stats and interactions, follow these two simple steps:

  1. Go to your profile page by clicking on your photo/name on the LinkedIn homepage.
  2. Scroll down to the Posts section. Click View Stats. Clicking on each post shows you the number of views, likes, comments, and shares for that post. Comments are shown at the end of the post and you might need to click ‘Show More’ to see all of them. Here, you can like, reply to, flag, and hide comments.

And that’s it!

Now all you need to do is write your first post. Let me know when it’s published so I can read it 🙂

 

 

 

How to deal with FOMO

all the thingsYou’ve got what feels like 50 tabs open in your browser. 23 unread notifications demand your attention on Twitter. Another ‘must-watch’ video pops up in your news feed. Do you watch it now, save it for later or risk missing out? Your list of articles to read is growing longer by the day, and you feel as though you can’t keep up.

Does this sound familiar?

You might be experiencing information overload.

I love social media, but last year I started getting too much of a good thing. My phone was constantly buzzing with notifications from emails, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc. Not only was this distracting, but it made me feel as though I was constantly behind. No matter how often I checked, there was still more to read, more to watch.

It soon got to the point where social media felt like a chore, something else on my to-do list, until I had a wave of realisation: Wait, I told myself, I don’t need to read everything!

It was a simple yet profound realisation. In my scramble to ‘keep up’, I had forgotten that I could be selective about what I chose to give my time and attention to. Social media has this way of making it seem like everything is important – news, comments, blogs, updates, politics, television, big and small events … all are treated with the same urgency. I knew I had to draw the line. So I decided to make a change.

Slowly, I implemented a few strategies to take back control over what I read, watch and listen to each day. Below are the things that helped me manage the constant flow of content. Maybe they will help you too?

Be selective
What I said to myself was true: you really don’t need to read everything. You don’t even need to read as much as you think. Choose to limit the content you regularly consume and restrict it to that which adds the most value – whether that value relates to your current role, your career, or your life in general. All the other content can wait or even be completely ignored.

It’s better to follow one or two fantastic blogs than 10 mediocre ones. Don’t be afraid to cull things that are average or unhelpful or time wasters. If you don’t ever get to that article you saved back in 2009 then so what? Stop feeling bad every time you see it waiting for you. Delete it. If you aren’t sure where the good content is ask people you admire for their top recommendations.

Limit your notifications
I’ve written previously about a simple technique that truly changed my life. I changed the settings on my smartphone so that the only notifications I receive are phone calls and text messages. Everything else – email, social media and other apps – needs to wait until I have time to give them attention. Limiting notifications means I’m not constantly being interrupted, and I can focus on tasks that are important to me. I know the updates will all be waiting for me when I log in – there’s no need to have notifications popping up on my phone every 5 minutes.

JOMO is the new FOMO
Next time you suffer from a ‘fear of missing out’, flip this concept on its head and look for the ‘joy of missing out’ instead. For example, you might miss out on watching the 6pm news so you can go for a walk with your family. Or miss out on reading everything that’s filled up your Twitter feed since you last checked, and instead read your favourite blog. Choose to miss out on things that leave you feeling bored, drained, uninspired, aimless. Use your time and energy on the activities that make you feel connected, educated, inspired.  

So, remember:

  1. You really don’t have to read, watch or catch up with everything.
  2. You get to choose what things can interrupt you.
  3. Celebrate being able to miss out on some things. No more FOMO!

I’m interested to hear from you. What you do to manage the volume of content you’d like to get to? Do you have any tips for limiting interruptions? What will you choose to miss out on and what exciting things are you going to do instead?

Ask for what you want

YesssIt’s often said that ‘good things come to those who wait’. Unfortunately, patience isn’t always a virtue in a corporate environment. Sometimes, to get the promotion, project, opportunity or work conditions you want, you have to ask for it.

I understand this is easier said than done. Asking for what you want often means stepping outside of what feels comfortable – especially if you’ve never voiced your ambitions or wishes before.

The good news is, this is a skill that can be learned. With the right preparation, you can find your voice.

Here are some tips to help you get started.

1. Be kind to yourself
Don’t be your own enemy. Remind yourself that you have just as much right as others to state your preferences and desires. You may not always get the outcome you want but you are fully entitled to ask.

2. Draw strength from past success
Think of a time when you did something you were proud of. It’s likely that your achievement was a result of taking action even when you weren’t sure of the outcome. Just because you’re doubting yourself now doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Who knows what might happen?

3. Be specific in your requests
Make it easy for the person you’re asking to understand what it is you want. Other people can’t read your mind, so aim to make your request clear and specific. A good way to test this is to practice your request on a friend. Also, practising in a safe environment means you’ll be more relaxed when the real time comes.

4. Be prepared
Be prepared for the kind of questions that might be asked in reply to your request. What supporting details or outcomes might they want to know? And think of how you will respond if you get a “Yes” or a “No”. It’s always good to keep this simple, for example ‘I appreciate you giving me this chance’ or ‘Thank you for considering it’ . Sometimes it will work out, sometimes it won’t – but that’s okay. No one gets a yes every single time.

5. Feel the fear and do it anyway
No matter how carefully you prepare, you might still feel nervous. This is normal! Trust in your preparation, then go ahead and ask. Don’t wait and hope. Take action and give yourself a chance to get more of what you want.

What if …

SunriseI love the start of the year because it’s a time to take stock and look ahead. A new year feels so fresh and shiny and untainted. It’s the perfect time to let our imaginations soar with dreams about the future.

Yet too often what should be a special time of reflection and aspiration turns into a time to feel anxious about what we haven’t yet achieved. As a result, many of us end up setting goals that involve sacrifice and self-control. These goals come from a place of restriction, not a place of possibility.

We might start going to the gym five times a week, or decide to cut out sugar, or start hunting for a new job. While our intentions are good, we often cannot live up to our own rigid expectations. This leads to disappointment, frustration and self-loathing. You see it as a failure. You think, ‘if only I’d tried harder, or put better plans in place… then I could have succeeded.’

What if I told you that’s not true? That your success is not measured by how many times you go to the gym each week or whether or not you eat your greens every day?

By imagining a brighter future, you are already on your journey towards success. Imagining new possibilities means that you are looking forward. By entertaining these thoughts, you are projecting yourself into a picture of a future that is better, brighter and more fulfilled. A future that holds possibility. This in itself shows your positive intent. It’s a sure sign that you are on the right track – so why derail your efforts by setting unrealistic goals?

Instead of approaching the new year as a time to set firm, non-negotiable goals that you feel you have to stick to, I encourage you to try something different.

Ask yourself: what if?

Daydream about possibilities. Ask yourself: what if I set aside time to do regular exercise? How would this make me feel? Would it make my life better? What would I need to change to make this happen? Is this something I really want?

Asking yourself ‘what if’ takes away feelings of obligation and what I call ‘pre-guilt’ – that feeling when you make a plan that you know you won’t stick to. It invites you to explore the possibility of making a change. It’s a chance to have an open, non-judgmental conversation with yourself about what you really want to add to your life.

Think of your own example. Replace ‘this year I will…’ with ‘what if in 2016 I…?’ Doesn’t that feel more relaxed and authentic?

Focus on how your goals will add value to your life, rather than what they threaten to take away, and making a change will feel less like a burden and more like an opportunity.

If the thought of writing a list of goals doesn’t appeal, you could try setting a theme for the new year instead. I first heard about this idea from Gretchen Rubin. She encourages everyone to identify one idea, “summarised in just one word, as an overarching theme for the entire year”.

I’ve been doing this for a few years and it has really helped me take more meaningful actions. One year my theme was ‘strength’. I had become frustrated that I kept limiting myself by thinking of reasons why I couldn’t do things. I was tired of thinking of my weaknesses. For that year, when things came up that were challenging or new, I tried to draw on my strengths. I didn’t always succeed but remembering to focus on what I could do gave me courage and helped me to do things I might not have otherwise.

The last thing I want to say about New Year’s Resolutions is to remember that there isn’t something magic about a new year which means this is the only time we can make plans. We have a brand new, fresh and shiny chance to make or change plans every day!

The start of the year is a great time to set a theme for the months ahead and come up with some worthy goals. But if life gets in the way and you need to adjust your plans, then March or July or some other month will be a perfect time to do that too.

Just remember to ask yourself… what if?

Switching on to real life

SwitchingOnThe holiday season is a great opportunity to take a ‘digital detox’ and enjoy some time away from screens, smartphones and social media.

I love being ‘digital’. I love that my phone gives me email, social media, communications and a camera all in one small device. But technology often consumes many of the valuable hours I have left after I’m done with work, chores and other must-dos.

I find I am more content when I make a conscious effort to unplug every now and then. Over the holidays I try to make it a daily practice to minimise digital distractions. This helps me feel rested, recharged and ready to get back to work when the time comes.

And the best part? Embarking on a digital detox isn’t as difficult as you might think. Here are some tips to help you switch off this summer.

  • Do more of what fills you up. Try not to think of a digital detox as a sacrifice, but instead as a way of creating more space for the things you love. Read a book. Go for a walk in the sunshine. Listen to music or podcasts. Spend a few hours on your hobbies. Be lazy. Daydream.
  • Teach people you aren’t on call. It’s okay not to reply to emails, texts or calls immediately. You’ll be able to give people the full attention they deserve if you’ve taken some time to rest and focus on what makes you happy.
  • Turn off notifications for all your apps. The sound of a new Facebook message or tweet can be incredibly distracting. A good way to focus on the present moment is to switch off all notifications. Everything will still be there the next time you choose to log in – what’s the worst that could happen? Turn off your notifications for just 1 week and see how it goes. If it’s made things harder for you just turn them on again!
  • Avoid screen time before bed. Do your best not to look at your phone, laptop, television or any other screen within an hour of your bed time. The light on phones and tablets tells your brain it’s time to wake up and can  affect your sleeping patterns.
  • Take back control of your time. Checking your phone every five minutes is often an unconscious – not to mention distracting – habit. The good news is, like all habits, it can be undone. Take some time to switch off the things that chew up your time and switch on to everything else.
  • Be present. Look up and look out from screens. Notice the world around. Interact with people you love. Be present with your family and friends – listen to them, laugh and build great memories. These are the moments that will give you the energy you need to be successful and happy.

When I’m old and grey, I won’t remember all the Twitter likes, but I will remember that time my brother and I were laughing so hard that we both ended up collapsed on the floor, trying to breathe. I’ll remember time with family, hanging out with friends, having fun, being absorbed in hobbies, or just time off relaxing or enjoying nature.

Invite more of these moments into your life by taking the time to switch off. Even an hour a day can make a huge difference. All of the notifications, emails and funny memes will still be there when you’re ready to reconnect.  But you’ll be reconnecting on your terms.

Have a wonderful, restful holiday season.

What does your LinkedIn profile say about you?

Image - LinkedIn superheroYour LinkedIn profile is more than just a copy of your CV. Your LinkedIn profile is a networking and marketing tool. It can help you get a new job or emphasise an aspect of your skills or improve your work image.

  • It allows you to keep contact with past and current colleagues.
  • It lets you connect and keep in touch with other people in your industry.
  • It’s a way for employers to find you, or to research more about you.
  • It can help to improve your profile within your industry and within your company.

There are many articles online with suggestions on creating a good LinkedIn profile. Here’s one by entrepreneur Aaron Clayton-Dunn, and here’s another with excellent tips from the marvellous Liz Ryan.

The mistakes I see:

  1. Not supplying contact details.
    • If you’re looking for work or thinking of changing jobs then make it easy for people to contact you.
  2. Too many words.
    • Keep things short and punchy. You want the key details to stand out.
  3. A bad summary.
    • Write the summary in ‘CV style’ (brief, with bullet points) and be clear about your value and what you are looking for.
  4. An unprofessional photo (or no photo).
    • You don’t need a professional photographer, but you do need to choose a photo that looks professional.
    • If you’re not sure if your photo sets the right tone, ask yourself what impression it would give the CEO at your dream company.
  5. No recommendations, or too many.
    • There doesn’t seem to be consensus on a suitable number of recommendations but I’d say around 3 recommendations in total is a good number.
    • I don’t think colleague recommendations are especially useful. Try to get ones from people you reported to or from seniors at your company or on your project.
    • If you don’t have any recommendations, ask people, but help them by specifying the kinds of things you’d like to emphasise when describing their experience of working with you.
  6. If you are going to send someone a LinkedIn request, don’t use the generic message. Tailor it. The only generic requests that I accept are from people I already know.

Suggestions

Aside from the content on your own profile, there are other useful ways to use LinkedIn.

  1. Read Pulse articles (Pulse is LinkedIn’s ‘blog’ platform) and give people feedback by commenting on their Pulse articles, but always be thoughtful and respectful, especially if you disagree.
  2. Post links to work-related articles and/or add your comments to the post.
  3. Write posts on Pulse. This is an excellent way to put your thoughts out there so people can get an idea of what you care about.
  4. Did you know you can follow someone on LinkedIn? You don’t need to connect if all you really want to do is read their posts or see their LinkedIn activity.

Next Steps

  1. Set aside some time to assess your LinkedIn profile. [30-minute activity]
    • Look at the profiles of people with your role, or the one you’re hoping to get. Compare your profile to theirs. What do you like/dislike about their profile? And yours?
  2. Make changes to your profile. [30-minute activity]
    • If you don’t want people (such as your current employer) to know you’re making changes then set “Notify your network” to No. You’ll find that setting on the bottom right of the profile editing page.
  3. Find a Pulse article you like. Comment on it. [10-minute activity]
  4. Write a Pulse article. Search online for tips on how to write a blog or LinkedIn post. [2-hour activity]

I hope these tips have helped you create a LinkedIn profile that you are proud of and that accurately reflects your awesomeness!

(Check out this blog for CV tips).

Soft Skills for people in Tech

Think of the work skills you most want to learn or improve.

Are there any soft skills on your list?

Most people are able to think of a long list of technical skills they want but what about soft skills? What about any of the things I include under the banner of soft skills such as social skills, attitudes, habits, and techniques. Soft skills isn’t just ‘communication’!

All of your soft skills, attitudes etc go hand-in-hand with your technical skills to help you do well at work. And while they’re called “soft” they can often feel like the hardest skills to learn. The good news is that they can be learnt.

Here are some soft skills that I think could be useful for people who work in Tech. They’re split into:
– personal skills,
– skills that relate to working with others, and
– skills that impact the wider community.

(Click here for a downloadable PDF)
Soft Skills for Tech Jobs - image

By using those three categories I aim to make the distinction between skills you can work on by yourself, and ones where you can only improve by interacting with others (sometimes with people in direct contact, and sometimes people you don’t know). Much of being valuable and employable is driven by skills in the second two columns where you’re working in teams and helping others to succeed.

Of course you don’t need to master all of these skills. You do just fine at work without having all possible technical skills, and the same applies to soft skills.

I use this list as a prompt. I find it useful to reflect on the items and see where I could improve. This list may not work for you. Here are some ways you can get ideas for your own list of soft skills:

  • Look at people you admire and see what skills they use.
  • Search Google for ideas.
  • Note what skills are listed in job ads or articles about your industry.
  • Ask colleagues or friends what works for them.

Pick out a few from your list and create your own ‘soft skills backlog’. Think of small steps you could take to become more competent in these areas. Commit to taking action. See what works or doesn’t. You may find that improving your soft skills is easier than you think, and that these skills make more of a difference than you expect.

The next time you’re thinking of ways you could be more skilled, remember the importance of soft skills.

Small steps to build your self-confidence

Do you sometimes feel anxiety, fear or low self-confidence in the workplace? I’ll let you in on a little secret: most people do.

We all have an inner voice of self-doubt that tells us we can’t do something, or that we might fail. It’s part of being human.

But that doesn’t mean we have to listen to it. Most of the time this voice is ruled by fear and should therefore be gently acknowledged, and then firmly ignored.

Self-confidence is about living beyond fear.

Think of some of the things that make you feel vulnerable or anxious at work. Some common examples include asking for a promotion or a pay rise, delivering a presentation or dealing with conflict.

Now think about the one thing all these challenges have in common: fear.

The best way to improve your self-confidence at work is to employ techniques to overcome your fears, so you can act with purpose and clarity as opposed to anxiety.

I’m not suggesting that this is easy, or that it will happen overnight, but remember: small steps can reap big rewards. I believe we can all overcome our fears if we are kind to ourselves along the way.

Try small things until you feel more confident.

Some people overcome their fear of heights by parachuting out of a plane. While this ‘quick fix’ has been known to work for some, I’d suggest a gentler, more long-term strategy for improving self-confidence in the workplace.

You don’t have to walk straight up to your boss and tell him you want a pay rise! Or deliver an impromptu presentation to a large group of people, just to test your fears.

Instead you can try small things each day or each week, and see what helps you personally to feel more confident and centred.

Here are some tried and tested strategies for success:

  • Be kind to others: Support and appreciate their work. This is great for your own soul and happiness, and your colleagues will notice you for all the right reasons.
  • Be kind to yourself: Listen out for compliments and record them in a notebook so you can refer back to them on tough days. Make note of your achievements and the things that make you feel proud of your work. Celebrating what you are good at is so important.
  • Be open: Talk to trusted colleagues about your own fears and ask them what areas they struggle with. You might be surprised – most people aren’t as confident as you think.
  • Be curious: Ask for feedback about your work and look for opportunities to learn. Show that you are willing to improve and grow. This will help you make a good impression as well as discover what people already appreciate about you.

These are just some of the ways you can make small adjustments to your confidence. Remember, self-confidence isn’t about being the loudest or the brightest; it’s about awakening your calm inner strength. It’s amazing how much we can flourish when we be kind to ourselves and others.