Conversations with my freshly graduated self

Kayleigh Debenham, BA Human Geography Graduate

As a new graduate, I started my career with the University of Worcester in various administrative positions, and I’m currently working in Careers & Employability. I remember how nervous I was about starting work so wanted to share some of my thoughts about my journey from full time education to full time work and how I built my confidence within the workplace.

I found that my move from full time education to my first full time job was a bit of a jump. I was used to mornings or afternoons off, working at my own pace, having a social with friends during the day and a lot of holiday. But the workplace is so much different. The biggest change I found was going from being a student who knew a lot to becoming an employee and learning everything from scratch.

Image result for police canine puppy first day on the job

All your beliefs about yourself can be challenged when you start work. You may remember how you felt when you started University, suddenly you have to start at the beginning again and everything is new to you. I could see confidence in my colleagues but not in myself, I felt shy, nervous and out of my depth on my first day and during my learning on the job. Speaking about this now to colleagues and friends, I realise that it wasn’t just me who felt this way. It wasn’t the role that made me lose my confidence, it was my lack of experience and belief in myself. Over the past two years, I have learnt to build my confidence and assertiveness.

Confidence & assertiveness

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Understanding confidence: it is the trust or faith that you have in yourself and your abilities.
  • Understanding assertiveness: this is being able to stand up for your own or other people’s views in a calm but firm, positive way.
  • Know the difference between assertive and aggressive! Assertive people state their opinions, while respecting others views. Aggressive people tend to attack or ignore others’ opinions in favour of their own. On your journey to finding assertiveness, you don’t want to venture into aggressiveness.
  • Recognise your contribution – and your worth! You are there for a reason, you were chosen for the role and the recruiters believe in you – you can believe in yourself too!

How confident are you? Take this Mindtools short quiz.

Image result for believe in yourself kitten meme

I realise this is all easy to say and not as easy to practice or achieve. Don’t worry if you aren’t feeling confident or assertive in your roles yet, it takes time and often comes with experience. Once you have done something a couple of times – you’ll be able to make suggestions and advise on processes. I didn’t think I would be able to feedback, or suggest any new or alternative ways of working, but after a couple of months I felt comfortable to start.

A few actions for achieving confidence and assertiveness:
  1. Know your strengths and build on them, are you a good communicator? Ask to be more front of house. Do you have excellent attention to detail? Ask to proof read publications/literature. Find out what you like doing and what you are good at and practice these skills.
  2. Try and speak to one new person once a day during your first couple of months and even beyond this. Say hello, introduce yourself and ask how their day is, or what project they are working on. You’ll soon grow a large network of colleagues.
  3. Try and work on a project of your own, this will help you make decisions and take ownership of something.
  4. Work to the best of your ability, always try and put in 100% and when you have finished, be proud of your work and your achievements.
  5. Don’t procrastinate, even if the tasks are monotonous, you can learn something from everything. Filing is a great way to learn efficiency, responding to emails can strengthen your network and communication skills and recording data may lead to increased data entry and analytic skills.
  6. Most importantly of all, talk to yourself positively – negative thoughts have never led anybody to confidence or assertiveness.

Don’t let a lack of confidence hold you back. I have now been in two full time positions since graduating and constantly build on all of my skills, especially confidence. Experience helps with this, but we can help ourselves to. You may not think you are confident, but in just applying for a job and attending an interview, you have demonstrated the confidence to go for something and believe in yourself. Keep it up!

I have found myself doing many things now that I didn’t think I would have the confidence to do so early on in my career. I have fed back information and made suggestions at team meetings, I have planned and delivered large scale events and taken on board suggestions and praise following these and I lead the design and production of promotional materials for my team.

Find out more about building your self confidence at Mindtools.

Careers & Employability supports University of Worcester current students and graduates.
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