Guest post by Careers Consultant, Kim Bailey
I vividly remember the first time I had to deliver a presentation to the class during my degree. It was a 10 minute presentation about Shakespeare to a small group of students, and it was by far the most terrifying thing I had to do since I arrived at university; uncontrollable shaking hands, red faced and heart palpitating I stumbled through. Fast-forward five years, and I’m off this afternoon to present to over 100 students as part of my day job. If you told me at university that presenting would be a core part of my future job I would have laughed in your face. So how did I get to the place where I’m comfortable and confident in my ability?
Practise! It’s like anything; if you try and try again you will improve. I got a part time job as a Student Ambassador at university, where I had to give prospective students campus tours, and deliver presentations in schools. Yes the first time was petrifying, but by the hundredth time I was well versed in what to say, and knew how to engage my audience.
Take small steps: Becoming more confident won’t happen overnight, but proactively try to take small steps over the coming months and years. Rather than seeing the things that scare you as big unsurmountable obstacles, try and break them down into smaller goals. This small step could be anything from, ‘I’m going to put my hand up this lesson and contribute an idea in my class’ to ‘I’m going to join a society this year to meet new people and try something new.’
Do the things which scare you: It’s so easy to avoid things you don’t want to do. For example, say there’s a networking evening on for your course where you can meet alumni and chat to them about their careers. The thought of walking up to a stranger and asking them questions drives fear into your bones, and you would much rather go home and watch TV, rather than face that scary prospect. Next time, have a go at tackling the obstacle head on even if it does scare you. It all comes back to practise, and you’ll never have chance to practise in such a safe environment, at university again.
Don’t listen to the ‘self-talk’: ‘Are you mad, I can’t do that!’, ‘people are going to think my ideas are stupid’, ‘nobody will want to hear what I want to say’; sound familiar? We all have that little voice at the back of our minds who tells us we’re not good enough from time to time. It’s impossible to switch it off permanently, but we can ignore it for a while and hit the override button. Give it a go, and you might surprise yourself!
Failure: So you step out your comfort zone and put yourself out there, but then it all goes wrong and you feel like you are back to square one. Even though it feels awful in the moment, believe me, you are making progress. In that failure, you can learn about how to approach the situation differently next time. The hardest part can be picking yourself back up again, but push through the fear and if at first you do not succeed, try and try again!
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Student Engagement Consultant at The University of Manchester. Manage marketing and communications for The Careers Service.