Lost your ambition? Don’t feel confident at work? Here’s what to do.

“I don’t have any ambition left.”  “I don’t dream anymore.”  Have you heard those words?  Do these thoughts cross your mind sometimes?   If so, it’s a stark contrast to the surge in enthusiasm you must have felt when you first started your current job/career, isn’t it?

Recent studies  show that women tend to lose their ambition and self-confidence after 2 years on the new job. We enter the workplace as confident of our abilities and as ambitious as men. But after a while women’s aspirations drop by more than half (among both married and single women), while men become more motivated and ambitious with time.  

While lack of institutional support at workplace can be listed among major contributing factors, I know for a fact that there are things we, women, do – or rather don’t do – in new jobs that contribute to a decrease in our self-confidence and loss of ambition. 

The simplest advice would be … not to overstay in any given position.  (How many of us have made that mistake, ah?)

On a more serious note, I suggest that from the onset of the new job you create space for and embrace the 6 strategies I have listed below.  These will ensure that you go a long way succeeding at our job with confidence intact and not losing your ambition.

1. Adapt to your boss

Building an effective relationship with your boss should be your priority number 1.  Take 100 percent responsibility for making the relationship work. Reflect on how well you got along with your new bosses in the past. What have you done well? Where do you need to improve? Have an ‘expectations’ conversation with your new boss in the first week into the new job, in which you seek to clarify what she expects you to do in the short-term and in the medium term. What will constitute your success?  How will your performance be measured and when?  If you see that your boss’ expectations don’t align with what you see as realistic and achievable, you need to communicate this clearly, negotiate and make adjustments. Remember, it’s always better to underpromise and over-deliver. Make a point to go back to your boss for regular check-ins: where are you doing well? In what areas do you need to improve or do things differently?  Are there special projects or assignments you could undertake that will help you develop your strengths further?

2. Don’t over-commit.

In your initial rush to please and prove yourself in the new position, you may want to tackle more workload or be inclined to say ‘yes’ to all new tasks, to longer hours and even contribute to reas that are beyond your direct scope. The danger with this is that you set precedents and expectations which are much harder to change later.  If you fail to define what you are willing and not willing to do from early on, people – your boss, peers and direct reports – will be taking whatever you can give and asking for more. The more you give – without boundaries, the less they will respect you and the more they will ask you.  So, make sure you define your boundaries from the beginning. (Or just blame yourself for resentment and bitterness later!)

3. Build important alliances

Unless you’re starting in a junior position,  you will need to build alliances and learn to get a ‘buy-in’ from key people to advance your agenda successfully and achieve your goals.  Figure out whose support you need, so you can understand who key players are.  Once you’ve identified the pivotal connections, think about what kind of agendas they are pursuing, and if there’re any alignment points with your agenda you can use.  Think who is likely to support your goals, who is likely to oppose, and who is persuadable. Learn to use different elements of an effective influence stategy, including framing arguments.

4. Be a great team player.

From early on, establish the reputation of a trustworthy and reliable team player. Instead of “I” and “me”, use “we” and “us” as much as possible. Share credit with your team members by generously recognizing their effort when it’s due.  If you make a mistake, admit your responsibility immediately. You want to create trust, loyalty and support within your team as much as possible, and keep strengthening it.

5. Renew your energy and keep balance

Renew your mental, physical, emotional and spiritual energy regulary so you are more engaged, motivated, resourceful and productive. You can learn more about this by reading the brilliant book on energy management The Power of Full Engagement.  Keep an eye on balance: do not abandon or forget other priorities in your life, like family, health, friends, hobbies, or else … exciting new job or not, believe me, you will end feeling burnt out soon enough.

6. Plan to Plan.

It is super important that you schedule 10-15 minutes for strategic reflection and planning for the end of your day or the first thing in the morning. (Trust me on this one: if you don’t schedule this time in, you won’t do it!) This is the time to assess which goals you’ve made advances on, and what you need to work harder at.  Take stock of your experience. Think about what reputation you have been projecting within your team and company. Are you handling your reactions well? Are there any meetings that you feel you might have done better at?  This is also the moment to take a step or two back, to regain a perspective on your value added, on your career path direction, and plan your next steps.

Do these things and keep being ambitious!

If you want to learn more, sign up to my forthcoming workshop in June, as part of Best Of by Professional Women’s Network in Paris:  Dare to Change, Dare to Reinvent on June 16, at 14.00.

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