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5 tips for rebuilding your confidence when you’ve been out of work

How does one build it back up? Try these tips.

Projecting confidence is key to getting a job. You can have all the skills needed in your field, but if you’re second guessing yourself, the hiring manager will, too. When you’ve been out of the workforce for a while, voluntarily or not, it can be tough to rally that sense of confidence. How does one build it back up? Try these tips.

Embrace the small victories

Vow to improve your skill in anything and then do it. Executive coach Brian Braudis says even small improvements can lead to big confidence gains. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about exercising, cooking, knitting or re-enacting battlefield scenarios — the key is that gradual improvements will give you a boost over time. “You become part of the solution. Just starting something puts you in the driver’s seat and that's confidence.”

Volunteer

Volunteering is especially great for those who’ve left the workforce against their will. It can give you the same sense of purpose you get from a paying job: deadlines, schedules, people depending on you, etc. and allows you to pursue a cause that you’re passionate about. It also shows you did something productive with your time during an employment gap, which looks great on a resume. Bonus: it will give you more contacts, which can help you network your way to a job.

Update your industry knowledge

If you worked in the health insurance industry five years ago and then left to be a full-time parent, there have been some changes since you were last on the clock. Many other industries have also experienced rapid growth and change. Even if you’ve been keeping up on things casually, you probably still need a refresher. Don’t just hope for some on the job training -- take steps to learn the ins and out of the industry before you try to jump back in it.

Take care of yourself — inside and out

Stress, anxiety and depression all take a toll on your confidence and the way you present yourself to the world. “Stressing out about finding a job constantly will only diminish your confidence. Take breaks to take care of you and to do the things you enjoy to restore your spirit. When you feel refreshed you will go on the interview with a sense of calm instead of desperation,” says Dr. Thema Bryant-Davis, associate professor of psychology at Pepperdine University. “Practice looking good,” says Susan P. Ascher, founder and CEO of The Ascher Group. She says this will help your self-image and give you a boost. If you’ve been away from the job market to care for children or other loved ones, you may be exhausted. If you were laid off or fired, you may be under a great deal of stress. All of this can come together and make you appear less polished than you’d like for a job search.

Learn a language

There are plenty of free or inexpensive tools online to teach you a foreign language. Pick one, any one. Learning a language alleviates boredom, gives your brain a workout, will be another source of small victories, and is a universally marketable skill. Even if you never get beyond the first level, that’s a lot more than most can say. If you get far enough into it that you are relatively proficient, put it on your resume. “Conversational Swahili” probably isn’t required for most jobs in the U.S., but learning it tells the hiring manager that you’re intelligent, interested in unique skills and cultures, and that you can take the time to work out large projects. Those qualities are desirable for any position.


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