The next generation of school leavers needs to hit the ground running in the world of work. But so many of them find it difficult to talk positively about themselves. It is not because they don’t possess the skills – they do. It’s often a symptom of society. The feeling that they are not succeeding until they have made it. However, they must understand that it is a journey and they deserve to celebrate each step they take. So, how do we improve self-confidence in the next generation of young women?
The short answer is that we need to highlight that each skill they develop, each stage they reach, and each element of the career path is an achievement. Yes, it is good to strive to be the best, but in order to reach the heights, you must be able to communicate to potential employers how hard you have worked to get where you are and what you can offer them that is unique and valuable.
The responsibility for this lies in multiple hands. With organisations like Ms Independent Careers, with educators and with corporate stakeholders too. In this article we’ll explain what schools and colleges can do, where business people come into it and how we facilitate this, working together with you to help these girls understand how good they are.
One of the starkest outcomes of our sessions with young women has been that some of them find it hard to positively talk about themselves. When it comes to selling themselves as a business prospect, they are reserved and seem to hold back.
They don’t feel confident promoting their skills when writing CVs, for example. During interview preparation, they struggle to fully get behind what it means to highlight their skills and achievements, to discuss their raw talent and, yes, to show confidence in their abilities.
The problem is that they will be up against candidates who are experts at talking themselves up. And given the relatively short time interviewers have with candidates, promoting oneself confidently is compelling to decision-makers.
Our task as a society is to improve the self-confidence of these girls so that they can grab the attention of interviewers and give themselves the best possible chance of shining in that situation.
How Educators Can Improve the Self-Confidence of Girls
These girls need to know that the journey is not always smooth. They are likely to be shifting their perspective all the time as they develop, but when they hear about this ‘laser focus’ that business leaders are supposed to have, it can make them feel like they are on the wrong track.
Use your experiences or those of former pupils who have tried a variety of paths before finding the right one to highlight that the journey to find the thing you want to focus on is entirely legitimate.
Make a virtue out of their changes of direction. How can anyone find their passion unless they try out other options first and discover for themselves that they are not right?
Don’t shame them for changing their minds; praise their ability to adapt and adjust. These are key business skills. Since when did any business run smoothly and without challenges? Flexibility is a real-life skill.
This applies to their Year 9 options. If they don't get what they want, then help them work with what they have to find the best route forward. Improve self-confidence by showing them that perceived failure is just an opportunity in disguise.
Give them room to think
Let them develop their thoughts and opinions. Give them opportunities to get involved in discussions and debates, in person and in writing. Only by trying out and workshopping ideas do they get the chance to hone them and become confident in them.
Show that you value their opinions and help them develop their voice. This will help them express their attributes in CVs and interview situations in the future.
Show them that their journey is as important as their destination. These are the times when they can try what they like and test out their ideas.
How Business Professionals Can Improve the Self-Confidence of Girls
Just like with educators, sharing the experiences that shaped the business's success is essential. It is very unlikely that you started off on a path and never deviated until you reached where you wanted to be. So, tell these young girls about it.
Collect the experiences of people within your organisation to illustrate the many different ways there are to forge a successful career in business. These girls need to hear the struggles, challenges and changed career paths that successful people face in order to see that the journey isn’t smooth. That it is okay to try, fail and try again. That this makes you a better business person as a result.
Think about how you talk to prospective candidates
When you market to prospective candidates, what kind of language do you use? Think about the message that it sends out. Not just the actual words, but the tone itself. Are you prizing bluster and arrogance over considered skillsets?
One issue some candidates with low confidence have is seeing adverts for jobs and thinking they are not worthy because of the almost aggressive language used. You need to show that you are a supportive and nurturing employer if you want to gain the advantage of skilled onboarding employees who might not have the confidence of some of their peers, but who could thrive in the role.
Read between the lines
Understand that there are candidates who could do a fantastic job for your organisation but are not confident in selling themselves. This involves an analytical approach to reading CVs and conducting interviews. Consider the underlying message from the candidate, rather than the black-and-white of what is on the page or said in that situation.
For these girls lacking in confidence, they could be fearful of this process. So consider how to coax the detail out of them in an empathetic and nurturing manner. An interview doesn’t have to be adversarial. It should always try to uncover the suitability of the candidate, no matter how confident they are.
Ms Independent Careers
Partner with Ms Independent Careers to help the next generation of businesswomen. We work in schools with girls who want to build major careers and we do so by working with educational establishments and corporate partners.
This involves working with girls from often disadvantaged backgrounds and equipping them with the skills they will need for their future in business. We cover topics relating to leadership, money management, problem-solving and more. These are the skills that they will need to thrive in their future business careers and improve their self-confidence in them for life.