Story | Women in Business

Career Advice for Women in Business: Developing Confidence in the Workplace

Apr. 13 2023

How we talk about confidence sometimes seems like it’s something you either have or don’t. Confidence is a skill that can be developed. Successful author and women’s business coach, Sally Helgesen, shares some tips with the Utah Women & Leadership Project on how to boost your confidence as a woman.

Developing Confidence in Your Career and Abilities

Helgesen offers three helpful tips for businesswomen.

  • Don’t Wait for Confidence

If you wait around for confidence to appear, you may wait forever. Move forward with whatever confidence you have. Helgesen says it is fine to pretend you are confident, even when you don’t feel it. She says it’s similar to smiling when you’re not happy. The simple act sends a signal to your body, and it can change your mood. Similarly, acting confident helps with developing confidence for women.

  • Physically Act Confident

A lot of confidence is conveyed physically. Helgesen shares a story of a time she wasn’t feeling confident. She walked up to a group and exhibited a sense of belonging to overcome this. Helgesen was unapologetic with her presence. She didn’t say much, but the group acknowledged her presence, and she walked away with a sense of accomplishment that bolstered her confidence.

  • Enlist Support

It’s ok to admit when you’re not feeling overly confident – some of Helgesen’s career advice for women in business centers around asking for support. By letting people know how you’re feeling, they can offer advice or support to contribute to your success.

Sometimes women view confidence and arrogance interchangeably. Arrogance carries a boastful air, while confidence is self-assured and resolute. Perhaps fear of seeming arrogant keeps women from discussing their workplace accomplishments. However, some of the best business advice for women is about confidently bringing attention to workplace contributions.

Having confidence in yourself and having humility can be a balancing act. Yet, Helgesen says bringing attention to your accomplishments can play a big role in feeling valued and satisfied.

“If you expect others to notice and you don’t find a way that you are comfortable with to bring visibility to your contributions, you will, over time, come to feel under-recognized,” Helgesen said. “You’ll come to feel undervalued. Over time you will disengage. Even if it’s a wonderful job for you, you will begin to disengage because we can’t remain engaged if we feel chronically undervalued.”

Implementing these confidence habits for businesswomen can help them feel and act confident. In turn, confidence can help you progress in your career. Advancing in your career can instill more confidence. And so on and so on.

Rumination: The What and the How

Rumination is one way to break down confidence. Have you ever said or done something and then proceeded to dwell on it and beat yourself up about it long after the moment? Logically the thought is that going over something will prevent it from happening again. The reality is that rumination simply becomes a way of feeling bad.

Not only does research show rumination is more common in women than men, but it also shows it’s not helpful. Ruminating isn’t a way of avoiding mistakes in business but rather a way of dwelling on them. Instead of spinning out on a mistake, Helgesen tries to say, “Oh well.” She moves on to rectify the situation as best she can. Doing this provides a space for accepting the mistake, followed by a forward motion that avoids getting stuck. This attitude can allow for continuous growth and career advancement for women.

More Confidence When Starting a Business

Confidence is important if you are a woman business owner or perhaps just thinking about starting a business. However, when running a business, it’s common to encounter challenges beyond your expertise. The Women’s Business Center of Utah exists to help women business owners build and grow by providing resources and information — they offer advising, training, networking, webinars, and more.


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