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COVID killed our confidence: 4 ways to get your mojo back

A woman in a waiting room looking nervous for a job interview.
There are more jobs available now than ever before, but is our anxiety holding us back? (Source: Getty)

There are more jobs available than ever before in Australia. The most recent data shows job ads are at an all-time high.

We’ve all seen the stories written about the ‘Great Resignation’ that took place during COVID-19, but now that we’re coming out of it, why aren’t people getting back to work?

SEEK head of customer insights and strategy Elyssia Clark told Yahoo Finance it all came down to a confidence issue.

“We have more jobs than ever before. We've got lots of people coming to SEEK but people are a lot more hesitant,” Clark said.

“We know that well over half are worried about landing in the wrong role or the wrong company, and that’s a fear that is holding people back.”

Another reason people were concerned about entering the workforce again was the feeling of being overwhelmed as a result of COVID taking over our lives, Clark said.

“Nearly half of the respondents told us that they are concerned about whether their skills are up to scratch or that they can compete with other candidates,” she said.

“So these are certainly the elements that we believe are holding many Australians back from considering the next opportunity.”

But, as Clark pointed out, now was actually a great time to start jumping on those opportunities because there were so many options available.

“It can be hard with hybrid working to really understand exactly what a job or position is going to be like,” she said.

“There is a degree of comfort in staying where you are, especially in uncertain times, but now is a great time to start thinking about what opportunities there are as we move forward.”

Australia's mental health think tank found that the nation is facing a "shadow pandemic" of deteriorating mental health.

"While the pandemic experience across communities in Australia has varied, there has been a population-level deterioration in mental health which echoes experiences overseas in countries with much higher COVID-19 infection and mortality rates," the think tank said in it's June 2021 report.

But, if COVID has killed your confidence, how can you get back on track? Yahoo Finance asked career experts for their top tips.

Getting back in the game

It’s all about getting your head back in the game, said career-development practitioner Sue Ellson.

“Update your resume and LinkedIn Profile with specific achievements and lists of tasks that you have completed that are transferable across professions and industries,” Ellson said.

“Reflecting on your past can remind you of what you have achieved too.”

It doesn't have to be about taking the leap back in, but just taking it one step at a time, like starting to re-engage on social media platforms again.

“Start … liking, commenting and even sharing posts that are relevant to the direction you would like to go in,” Ellson said.

“Follow the companies where you would like to work. See what is happening and realise it isn't much different and you are familiar with what they are saying, or learning about what they are doing.”

Ellson said you also shouldn’t be afraid to reach out to past colleagues, mentors, advisers, etc, and spend some time catching up on things that have been happening in your industry since you’ve had some time away.

“Go looking for information - and not just work-related - so that you can brief yourself on what is happening, have two-way conversations and ask any questions you may have,” she said.

“These could even be virtual catch-ups if you are not ready to even pay for coffee.”

Getting a new perspective

Petra Zink, a personal branding and digital strategist, told Yahoo Finance confidence came from predictability, and the lack of it came from uncertainty around our own skills.

“Most professionals are only trained to conduct certain tasks to work in a certain profession,” Zink said.

“However, in this day and age, we not only have to change jobs more frequently but entire careers, which makes it even more critical to learn how to communicate what makes us different and why our decision makers should care.”

Zink said it was not as simple as just “being the best”, but more about being able to effectively communicate what you’re capable of.

“The best way to regain confidence is to think of situations, events, challenges that we could master previously,” she said.

“What was it that made us successful? Which are the traits we brought in that contributed to the success? The more clarity you have about your competitive advantage, the more confident you are in your communication.”

Zink said that while losing a job may be a blow to someone's confidence, it was best to try to not take it personally.

“COVID is a sign of its time and we all will have to go through disruption more frequently, so the earlier we learn how to brand, market and sell our expertise, the quicker we can take control over our level of success,” she said.

“It’s hard to read the label when you’re inside the jar so getting an external perspective is always a good idea, coupled with self-reflection exercises - like taking an audit from previous roles and analysing why you’ve outperformed in some roles and were burned out in others.”

Something small like grabbing a coffee with someone else is an easy way to start rebuilding your confidence. <em>(Source: Getty)</em>
Something small like grabbing a coffee with someone else is an easy way to start rebuilding your confidence. (Source: Getty)

Knowing your worth

This isn't just about those who have lost jobs, but also having the confidence to ask for a raise or to go for that promotion.

Many Australians have held themselves back from aspiring for more because the future has seemed so uncertain.

Zink said women often found themselves struggling with this the most and taking the time to understand what they previously brought to the table could make a big difference.

“Females struggle with putting themselves out there,” she said.

“I’ve seen it many times that they didn’t apply for a senior role when they didn’t tick 16 out of 10 boxes, whereas many male counterparts would go for the role when they ticked four out of 10 boxes.

“It comes down to drawing on previous examples where they outperformed. It can be in their professional setting but also personal life, like running a marathon.

“What we’re looking for are traits that we can rely on, strengths that we are born with and transferable skills we can apply in future situations.”

A transgender woman smiling while video calling a business partner using her laptop at the office.
Women can have a harder time asking for a raise or promotion than men. (Source: Getty)

It’s OK if a plan derails

Workforce development coach Paul Glover told Yahoo Finance that sometimes you needed to have the willingness to accept failure as an option.

That’s not to say you should submit to the feeling you might fail, but being OK with the fact that you might get knocked back a few times before landing on something right.

“Failure is an inevitable part of their professional journey,” Glover said.

“If they cannot embrace their failures, they cannot grow from them and they begin to doubt their ability to do their work. Loss of confidence quickly follows.”

Glover said aiming to be perfect was not necessarily the right way to go, and knowing you were able to do most of what was required could be enough.

“The confidence to apply for a new role is based on knowing you have the competency to meet at least 70 per cent of the expectations for the new role,” he said.

“This means understanding the expectations you must meet if you get the new role. Also, when the tasks of the new role are understood, take every opportunity to perform those tasks so there exists as much familiarity with the role as possible before applying.”

Glover said taking the time to realise you may already be in the place where things had not panned out the way you thought should actually put your mind at ease about going for something new.

“Adversity always tests confidence,” he said.

“But because confidence is built on positive, constructive behaviour, recovery from adversity and setbacks can make you more confident since you have already overcome adversity.”

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