How to put yourself forward for opportunities at work, according to a career expert

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Do you struggle to put yourself forward for new opportunities at work due to a lack of confidence? Here, a career expert explains how to stop low self-esteem getting in the way of your career goals.

When we think of the impact of low self-esteem, we’re likely to imagine people hating how they look in photos, avoiding potential relationships and hiding away from the spotlight. What we’re probably less likely to consider, however, is the impact low self-esteem can have on our careers.

According to exclusive research commissioned by Stylist, that impact is much bigger than many of us would suspect. For the women we surveyed, low self-esteem was a big barrier for them when it came to putting themselves forward for opportunities at work. In fact, 52% said having low levels of self-esteem contributed to the fact that they had not had the confidence to go for an opportunity at work in the past. 

A woman at work
Do you struggle to put yourself forward for opportunities at work? Here's how to get better at it.

This statistic has widespread implications. In 2019, a government-backed review found that there are only 25 women in chair roles in the FTSE 350, which makes up the UK’s biggest 350 companies. And in another study released last year, scientists found that women are already more likely to rate themselves lower when it came to measuring their performance at work. Of course, the onus isn’t solely on women when it comes to addressing this problem, but it’s still an issue that so many of us feel unable to shout about our achievements and put ourselves forward for opportunities at work.

The thing is, just because many of us don’t have the confidence to put ourselves forward for opportunities at work, it doesn’t mean we wouldn’t love to – and it certainly doesn’t mean we wouldn’t absolutely smash it if we were to land those opportunities.

So, what can we do about it? How can we push ourselves to put ourselves forward at work and make the most of our unique talents and skills? We asked Charlotte Davies, a careers expert at LinkedIn, to explain how we can believe in ourselves and go for all the opportunities we want to in 2020. 

1. Don’t suffer in silence

“If you lack confidence at work – you’re not alone. Less than half of women (40%) agree that they feel confident in their workplace, according to new consumer research from LinkedIn,” Davies explains.

“A problem shared is a problem solved, so don’t feel afraid to reach out and ask for support when you need it, particularly from female peers who might be going through something similar. Tapping into these communities – both inside and outside of work – is a great way to offload, share knowledge and get sound advice that benefits both personal and professional growth.”

Women at work
How to put yourself forward for opportunities at work: “A problem shared is a problem solved, so don’t feel afraid to reach out and ask for support when you need it, particularly from female peers who might be going through something similar”.

2. Find a mentor

“It can be hugely beneficial for our professional success to have access to role models in the workplace,” Davies says. 

“Mentors can be a critical part of professional and personal development for everyone, but successful female role models are so crucial because they help women visualise what they wish to become and achieve at work in future.”

She continues: “Don’t be afraid to approach the women that you admire within your workplace, to ask them for mentorship. If you haven’t found a mentor within your workplace, there are tools online, such as LinkedIn’s Career Advice mentoring tool, which can match you to mentors in your chosen industry so you can tap into their expert knowledge and skills.”

To find out more about workplace mentorships, including how to find yourself a mentor, read our guide here.

3. Make the most of your transferable skills – or learn some new ones

“If you’re keen to take on a new challenge, but worry that there are gaps in your skillset, take a step back,” Davies explains. “It’s important to recognise your strengths and focus on what skills can be transferred from one job to another. You’re likely more qualified than you think.

“Brushing up or learning a new skill can also help people feel more confident and motivated at work – so empower yourself by continuing to learn new things relevant to your role. LinkedIn Learning, for example, offers a library of over 15,000 courses so members can develop new skill sets.

“And if you’re looking for a new gig, it’s worthwhile keeping your skills and endorsements up to date on your LinkedIn profile. With more than five skills listed on your profile, you’re x27 more likely to be discovered by in searches – plus it gives recruiters and potential employers a flavour of how you work and how you would fit in with the role they’re hiring for.”

4. Embrace failure

It may be harder said than done, but embracing failure is a great way to learn from your past mistakes – and it may even help your career, too.

“Failure is something that happens to absolutely everyone,” Davies says. “It’s what makes us better, stronger and helps us learn from our mistakes. Trust yourself and your abilities. And, more than that, trust your career path – whatever it might look like.”

5. Know – and show – your worth

“When thinking about putting yourself forward for opportunities at work, consider what your abilities might contribute to the business and where you can add the most value,” Davies advises. 

“For instance if you have a passion for writing, why not put your hand up to revamp the copy on your company website, or if you’re a whizz behind the camera, offer to shoot exciting content for the company’s social channels. Your experience and skills make you unique, and it may surprise you who is interested in finding out more about your work.

A woman doing a presentation at work
How to put yourself forward for opportunities at work: “When thinking about putting yourself forward for opportunities at work, consider what your abilities might contribute to the business and where you can add the most value.”

“Not only can putting yourself forward benefit your own career, it can also help inspire others. This is particularly important for women, who may not have as many visible female role models in the workplace.

“You can’t be what you can’t see – as the saying goes – so raising your hand for new opportunities could have a huge positive impact on both your younger female colleagues and even your peers.”

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