Confidence and the route to success

Originally published February 5, 2019

February is finally here and it is time for my fellow final-year students and I to start bridging the gap between the end of our academic journey and the rest of our employed lives. I am speaking, of course, about the job hunt. At this very moment thousands of CVs, LinkedIn profiles, cover letters and professional head-shots are being reviewed, updated and primed to fit potential employers. Mine included. In the past several weeks I have been aligning my communication strategy, practicing my elevator pitch and even managed to earn a certification in Google Analytics for good measure. I am packed, eager and ready to enter the corporate world like a girl scout on the trail.

However, this is not my first trek into the wild.

In August 2015, I was a dreamy undergraduate student with ambitions spanning to the moon and back. I had somehow managed to ship myself from one place to the next (in a way that only a young 20-something can) leading me to the opposite side of the globe. Even then, I was fully equipped with all the personal branding documents and job seeker checklists I could lay hands on to support my impending career extravaganza. I was fully confident in the knowledge that the greatest opportunities were just within my reach and would offer themselves to me on the basis of hard work.

To rephrase, I had high confidence in the plan, but not so much in the person.

Confidence is funny in that way. If it’s not cemented in the stable foundations of your inner self, it often gets pulled from under you like a rug. And that wasn’t the magic carpet ride I had envisioned for myself. As I applied for job after job I would reword and rework myself to fit company moulds. I graduated. I would twist and turn my adequate responses to interview questions to better reflect what I knew. I moved back in with my parents. I applied and applied and applied. I finally had enough.

In the precarious environment of unattainable job requirements and ghosting employers, my confidence took a hit to the core and broke down completely. It took years of tending and repair to fix it again. What I ultimately learned, once I regained my faith in climbing the ladder (or jungle gym as Sheryl Sandberg suggests), is that anchoring my self-worth in what I know to be true about myself trumps being seduced by normative ideals. In other words, I would rather be led astray by a flawed self-understanding of who I am and find my way back than to be lured into the dark woods of ‘culture fit perfection’ and never quite returning as myself.

Your intuition knows her s***, as they say.

So as the sun returns amid a prolific spring semester in Sweden, I hope to share my new-found confidence with students and professionals alike. This time around, I know the mappings of my inner and outer worlds like the back of my hand. I have a range of networking and learning events scheduled where I plan to let my confidence guide me. It is my sincere wish to thrive alongside my fellow final-year students as we seek various routes leading to brand new adventures. May we all find the courage to not only show our best selves, but be our best selves — on paper, in interviews and everywhere else.

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Samantha Booth

BIG ideas about the future. Medium-sized ideas about the present. Samantha Booth is a world traveller, introspective doer and lover of stories about humanity.