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What I’ve learned from having a mentor: 5 ways to improve confidence.


Sarah Dutton, one of our first cohort of mentees, shares what she learned about confidence from her KTG Mentor.

I’ve always thought it would be a real advantage (and very cool) to have a career mentor; a confidante who is on your side and who you can talk honestly with to reflect and develop professionally – a sort of ‘personal trainer’ for your career.

I signed up with pioneering mentoring collective Kerning the Gap whose aim is to see more women in leadership roles in design. They paired me with experienced Marketing Director, Lin Dickens, for a 12-month mentoring relationship. Lin helped to boost my confidence through the process of listening and asking challenging questions. Although Lin was very positive and encouraging, our sessions were often a tough mental workout as she wouldn’t hesitate to push me on a difficult subject in order to make progress.

Here are five ways to increase confidence that came to light during the experience:

     1.Keep successes front of mind

Make a list of your 10 proudest achievements from the past year. Being able to draw on this list will help you to talk confidently about your work and give relevant examples, whether in conversation with colleagues, clients or stakeholders. Using the STAR method to record the situation, task, action and result of everything on the list makes it easier to tell the story and remind you of why these achievements were successful.

      2.Consider how you introduce yourself

To quote my mentor, “People accept you at your own self-evaluation.” If you want to portray yourself in a way that represents your true value when talking to senior colleagues or stakeholders, consider how you introduce yourself.

To give a strong first impression, give your full name and job role before segueing into a snappy synopsis of what you do, using one or two examples from point 1 that are relevant to who you’re talking to. If you demonstrate that you value yourself – others will value you too, and this in turn will bolster your confidence.

Take into account other powerful elements of communication such as tone of voice and body language as well when practicing your new intro.

     3.Invest in professional development. You’re worth it.

It’s all too easy to get wrapped up and buried in your own workload and not focus on anything else. Yet it is so important to make time for your own professional development as well.

Joining a professional or industry body (for me it was the Chartered Institute of Marketing) is a great way to gain access to relevant and informative courses, events and peer-group learning and networking opportunities. Investing in your own industry knowledge, understanding and experience means you’ll be more informed, more rounded, and also more confident in yourself. You’re worth the investment.

     4.Improve your listening skills

Listening is harder work than you might think. It takes real mental discipline and practice to focus on what another person is saying – rather than following your own chain of thoughts, or interrupting with what you want to say, or just impatiently waiting for your turn to speak.

Improving your listening skills will improve your confidence because if you’re really listening, you’ll have a much better understanding of what’s being talked about and the challenges people are facing. You’ll be confident that your response is relevant because you’ve understood the real issues at hand and can provide valuable solutions.

      5.Know that you can solve anything

Thinking about problems in the right way can help you feel more confident that you can handle them. If you re-frame problems as opportunities for creative thinking and new solutions, you’ll stop worrying about what will happen if something goes wrong. Everything is solvable – it’s just a question of how – and you might even be able to make the situation better than it was before.

Having a mentor has been an invaluable experience and confidence is just one of the areas that I’ve benefitted in. I’d recommend mentoring to anyone interested in enhancing their career through self-evaluation and development. As the mentee, you’re in the driving seat and can take the conversation in the direction that you want it to go.

I feel extremely privileged to have been mentored by Lin and will be looking for ways to ‘pay it forward’, ultimately with the hope of becoming a mentor myself in the future.

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