One of the most common problems I notice among entry-level job seekers is a lack of confidence. Since most entry-level candidates have little experience in the industry, and minimal experience with the nuances of the job search process as a whole, it is no surprise that recent college graduates get nervous in professional situations. On the contrary, confident and articulate candidates stand out among the crowd and are a highly valuable resource to any company.
Here are five ways to prepare yourself for professional situations and become a more confident job seeker:
- Read the (industry) news. Many recent graduates struggle in professional situations because they feel so different from the people they are meeting with. Well, one of the easiest ways to find common knowledge is to talk about current events taking place in the news. Not only will you portray yourself as an informed individual who is in tune with the goings-on of the world, but you will also notice yourself forming opinions on current events and topics and gain personal confidence through your knowledge.Even better? Read news directly related to the industry you’re entering so that you can speak on even more relevant topics. Even if your knowledge isn’t impressive, you can show an initiative and desire to learn that other candidates may not display.
- Do background research. You should always enter a professional situation with some research under your belt because if you know what you’re dealing with, you will be much more comfortable and confident. Spend some time on the company Web site learning as much as you can about the company. Formulate some questions that show you did some preparation. Look at it like studying for a test: If you put a lot of effort into preparing and you are comfortable with the information, are you going to be nervous? No.
- Practice with strangers. This is a fairly easy way to become more comfortable meeting and talking with people whom you just met. Make small talk with the bank teller, start a conversation with the woman next to you at the bus stop, or introduce yourself to your neighbors in the apartment down the hall. Get used to introducing yourself and talking to people you don’t know because you will get a good feel for the easiest ways to enter, continue and exit conversations. Pretty soon it will come naturally.
- Get a tailored suit (or the female equivalent). I’m not saying that you have to go out and spend a lot of money on professional attire (you can get suits for under $100), but you should wear something that at least fits you properly. Although true self-confidence must come from within, you don’t want to be worrying about your appearance when you go in for the interview. If you are happy with the way you look, you will radiate self-confidence.
- Take every interview. This is just about getting practice in an interview setting. You will notice that many of the questions you are asked in interviews are the same—or at least similar—and getting practice. Nothing works as well as the real thing, so treat every interview as a learning experience and get as much exposure to the job search process as you can.
It is natural to be nervous in unfamiliar situations, but the more exposure and practice you have with the job search process, the better you will become and, more importantly, the more confident you will feel. So get out there, get some practice and soon you will be wondering why you were so nervous in the first place.
Mario Schulzke is the creator of CareerSparx, an online course that helps recent college graduates begin their careers. For more information, download a free 61-page guide on how to start your career.