Personal Journey

Navigating the Professional Playground: Three Tips for Developing your Confidence as a New Grad in the Workplace

By Kaleigh Duff on February 19, 2024

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A young woman smiles as she shakes hands with another person in an office.

Joining the workforce was one of the most intimidating experiences of my life. While positive feelings like excitement and anticipation accompanied the intimidation, I can most definitely say that I was pretty afraid to make my debut in the field of PR and communications.

As per a requirement of my college program, my final semester was spent completing a 14-week internship in my field. In April of 2023, I secured my internship with a wonderful local organization that taught me more than I ever could have hoped for and where I would thrive well for the next 14 weeks. I’m proud of the skills that I was able to hone and the guidance I received. Had you asked me how I was feeling the night before my first day, however, you would have been met with a slew of panicked replies. 

The classic points of dwelling: 

“What if I fail miserably?” 

“I don’t know if I’m ready for this.”

And by far my favourite:

“I feel like I don’t know anything!”

I could not believe that my time in post-secondary was coming to an end; ironically, after nearly completing the intensive, high-stress program that I was enrolled in, I somehow still felt unprepared and unsure of my abilities. Thankfully, my concerns were proven wrong. Throughout my internship, my confidence as an entry-level worker started to develop, and I began garnering great results and feedback with my work. This confidence didn’t develop overnight, though. It took a great deal of support, time, and self-reflection to reach a point where I started to feel more comfortable as a professional. After my internship ended, I was contracted as an employee at my organization (Hey! Maybe I’m not as bad as I thought…). As I quickly approach the anniversary of my full-time workplace debut, I want to share my top three tips for navigating the professional playground as a new grad, and setting yourself up for a future filled with confidence, eternal growth, and learning. 

Be mindful of constructive feedback, but accept the positive, too.

Although this is a normal and very common trait, we tend to focus on the negatives, such as what we did wrong, what we aren’t good at, where our weaknesses lay, etcetera. While it’s important to be aware of that, it’s also important to be cognizant and proud of what we’re really good at. As an up-and-coming PR professional, I found it more challenging to take my mentors’ words for it when they were giving me positive feedback, as opposed to how receptive I was when discussing where improvement could be made. The key here is understanding that you have achievements and talents that deserve acknowledgement. You are a forward-thinking, fresh addition to the working world, and you have so much to offer… so the next time you’re preoccupied with the negative, take some time to remember your strengths and how far your skills have come. Odds are, you are doing a fantastic job.

Be self-compassionate, you are human.

As I mentioned above, you are human and destined to make mistakes. Within the last year, I’ve made a few mistakes, some miniscule and others rather embarrassing. A very common problem amongst new grads is the standard we hold ourselves to after we graduate. That standard is far higher than it should be. After remembering that I’m not a robot, and practicing self-compassion, I can comfortably control how I react when I discover a mistake of mine. Be kind to yourself, and remember that with excellent work comes mistakes, rough drafts, scrapped ideas, and defeats. 

Embrace challenges.

I can confidently say that taking on new challenges is one of the best ways to discover new interests and strengths. Keeping an open mind is essential when you’re starting your career, and one way to do this is by embracing new challenges that come your way! A very important element in remaining engaged and satisfied in your role is challenging yourself. Stepping out of your comfort zone and taking a chance will help you become a seasoned professional who values growth. Chances are, if your boss approaches you with new challenges often, they trust you to get the job done by utilizing your resources. With that being said, please take advantage of these opportunities and ask for help when you need it. Your adaptability and eagerness will make you a desirable addition to any team. Now, that’s a confidence booster.

An honourable mention: You aren’t starting your career with the knowledge of a senior level industry leader, your journey is only beginning now. Set realistic goals, work hard, and never stop investing in yourself. 

These are a few things that I wish I had considered as I embarked on my journey in the workplace. Each and everyone will follow a different path on their journeys, so make big decisions and take leaps of faith during your career. Trust your instincts, and let your ideas lead the way.

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