Careers Perspectives – from the Bath careers service

Focus on your future with expert advice from your careers advisers

Tagged: confidence

Battling nerves before an interview

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📥  Advice, Careers Resources, Interviews, Tips & Hints


It is natural to feel nervous in front of an interview, but sometimes it can all feel a bit too much. Here are some tips that I follow and that I hope can help you battle those nerves.


This is an obvious one but the more you prepare, the better you will feel on the day. Make sure you read the personal criteria or person specification for the job and practise answering questions about the competencies listed. Read through our leaflet for advice on different type of interviews and how to best answer questions.

Brainstorm examples to use, write them down and then practise answering them out loud. Practise with a friend, with your careers adviser or use our Interview Stream software.

In addition, research the company and employer and come up with good reasons why you want to work there.

Be healthy

Get a good night’s sleep! Stay in the night before, watching a feel good movie so you go to sleep with a smile on your face. Being up all night doing last minute cramming won’t look good on your skin and lack of sleep may make you forget all the important points you remembered during the night. Avoid too much caffeine and make sure you eat a good breakfast.

Arrive early

Don’t get extra stressed because a train gets cancelled or a bus does not turn up. Arrive early and instead go for a walk around the area or sit at a café. Getting unduly stressed because of circumstances outside your control won’t help your nerves!

Breathing exercises

If you are feeling your nerves and anxiety are going out of control, try breathing exercises. These can be done in the morning at home, on the train, in the bathroom before you head in for the interview. They work for me, I hope they can work for you. NHS tells you how. Getting into the practice of meditation may also help.

Warm up your voice and body

I feel doing some exercise of the voice and body prepares the whole you for the interview ahead, this has worked for me several times. I have even written another blog post about it. Try it out and see if it works for you!

Be yourself

Don’t try and be someone you are not. Acting or talking like another person won’t be good for your nerves or your confidence. The employer is interested in who you are, not just the skills or the degree you have, show your personal energy and enthusiasm.

If none of this works and you need extra support....

Go and see a Careers Adviser to talk about strategies in how to deal with confidence or nerves during an interview. Together we can look at your experiences and skills to date and support you in articulating them well, giving  you more confidence in your skills and abilities. We also have a lot additional resources for you to read through.

If there are other reasons for why you are feeling anxious or you are feeling low on self-esteem, please go and see the Well-being team. Talk through what is going on in your life that are making you anxious.

We are here to support you!





How to network with confidence!

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📥  Advice, Diversity, Event, Networking

We are absolutely thrilled to be delivering two workshops during the Women in Leadership Conference which is being organised by the University of Bath Students Union tomorrow. My colleague Ghislaine Dell will be exploring the concept of personal branding and I will be talking to the participants about the importance of networking.

Reflecting on when I started working, I really lacked confidence; especially when it came to networking and striking conversations with people I didn't know. I think lack of confidence is something that plagues many women. And there’s nowhere less comforting than a networking event – those crucial get-togethers in any sector that can to an extent determine the success of our careers. So, I wanted to share some personal tips that have over time helped me feel more comfortable in networking situations:

  1. Arrive early: Often, the most important people will arrive early to make sure the event is set up. If you arrive before the main crowd, you may get chance to speak to the main organiser, who will often then facilitate introductions to guest speakers, the event sponsors, or other attendees. It also means you don't have to break into existing and established conversations.
  2. F.O.R.M small talk: If you haven't seen it, you must watch the origins of small talk! Small talk needn't be awkward and can often lead to deeper and meaningful conversations. F.O.R.M. it is a memory tool for when you are in social situations and you want to get to know the person you are talking with. F.O.R.M stands for Family, Occupation, Recreation and Message -four areas you can use as conversation helpers in just about any social situation.
    1. Family: ask where they live, how they traveled...this gets the person talking about themselves and gives you a chance to learn about them.
    2. Occupation: what do you do for a living? When they tell you what they do, you have a great opportunity to ask them about their job-if it's in an industry you are familiar with you can comment about how competitive it is, or how challenging. If you are unfamiliar with their industry, here's your chance to learn about it.
    3. Recreation: this one's easy! What do you do for fun? If they participate in a sport or interest that you enjoy as well, you can swap stories and really build a memorable relationship with the person.
    4. Message: when you feel the conversation winding down, or you want to move on to meet other people in the group, have your "message" that you want this person to remember about you ready to go. It's something like your elevator speech, but much more personal to the individual you are talking to. For me, my message is simple. "It was great to meet you, Steven. If you ever need help with any professional development training or you run into someone who needs careers related help –then let me know, I would be delighted to help”.
  3. Watch your body language: Your body is giving constant signals the entire time, so make sure these, too, are geared towards projecting confidence and are open and welcoming. Little tricks like, shoulders back, head up, hands unclenched, arms unfolded can make a huge difference. Switch off your mobile phone and put it away so you are not tempted to hide behind it. Do watch this TED X talk to find out more about this interesting piece of research on body language.
  4. Know when to leave: I always set myself a target: have five good conversations and meet the key people I set out to meet. This means I know I have an end in sight and don't out stay my welcome or linger!  If asked, I say I have somewhere else to be and exit graciously.
  5. Follow up: As soon as you leave the networking event, spend a few minutes jotting down key points from the individual conversations you had. Within 24-hours, send a short email and simply say that you enjoyed meeting them and try to reflect back on a point from the conversation. The tips from Forbes on how to master the art of networking follow-up are excellent!

I hope these tips help and if you are attending the Women in Leadership Conference tomorrow, do put them to practice!

Image result for networking quotes


Do you worry you are not good enough?


📥  Advice, Graduate Jobs, Tips & Hints


Don't rubbish yourself.

During the summer I was privileged to hear the author and careers coach John Lees give a talk on surviving change to a conference of Higher Education careers staff. He is someone who I have admired for the simple truth he brings to the challenging issue of job hunting. His book How to Get a Job You’ll Love is a great read for anyone who is unsure which direction they want to take in their career. We have a copy in the Careers Service if you want to try before you buy. I liked some of his observations and suggestions for coping because they are useful to many of you who are starting your job hunting for placements, summer work and graduate jobs.

John Lees began his talk with reference to Imposter Syndrome. This is a label that is used to describe the feeling that very soon someone will discover that you are a fake. It is common in high achievers and I hear this feeling acknowledged by Bath students.  Thinking negatively is pretty normal for us human beings.  In early times we would be constantly looking for danger so it is an instinct we have.  Unfortunately this kind of thinking can be a great barrier to us moving forward and achieving success. Lees reminded us that people, on the whole, have an unreal view of how good/successful other people are so we need to recognise we may not be the best judge of how we compare to others. Lees advice, when faced with this kind of negative thinking, is to postpone worry. If you want to worry about something make a note in your diary to do it at 5 pm on Tuesday. The likelihood is that by then it will seem trivial.

I talk to many students who express lack of confidence or fear failure both at the start and during this process of making and executing career decisions. This can really hold them back. They tell me they are not as good as other students on their course or worry about how they compare to graduates from more prestigious (to them) universities like Oxford.  Many of us worry about is the “what ifs” in life. We worry about how we will deal with a potential dilemma which might crop up at some point in the future even before we have started anything. These kinds of negative thoughts are great at making us procrastinate and getting on with the task in hand. It’s a good idea to think about whether some of these worries are stopping you from beginning your job hunting.


Lees describes making progress in your career planning by “small step thinking”. He claims we very often keep thinking in circles: moving too quickly to making decisions before we have done the proper research and also not recognising the decisions we have already made. He suggests we imagine we are being paid by someone to research the most suitable jobs for ourselves. This approach will make you us do a more thorough job and be more analytical.

Sometimes we are trapped by things that have gone wrong in the past and we keep rerunning it through your mind so it traps us into taking no action. Lees recommends allowing yourself to review things that have gone wrong only once and then move on. To reinforce this I have just read this comment from a Bath graduate who joined Teach First:

“ … at the end of the day, you find out that you will make mistakes all the time, every lesson, you just got to learn from it, get over it, move onto the next lesson and take it as it comes. It’s important to remember that even those teachers who have been teaching for 30 years aren’t perfect and are learning things every day. You’re always learning and you’ll always make mistakes but it’s how you deal with those mistakes that counts.”

Pretty sound advice I think.

Another powerful tool Lees suggests we use is the one used by Sports Psychologists. Running the movie through your head of you crossing the finishing line in front of the rest of the field is as powerful as the lived experience. So if you have an interview coming up imagine yourself confident and well prepared going into the interview room  and dealing successfully with the questions thrown at you. Another source of inspiration is this TEDx talk by Amy Cuddy where she shows her research into how your body language shapes who you are.  This is inspiring advice for job interview preparation and I heartily recommend watching it. She talks about her own experience of Imposter Syndrome.

When I am giving feedback on a CV to a student they are usually most uncomfortable about the whole thing of “selling themselves”. We go back to the Imposter Syndrome! Promoting yourself to an employer is especially difficult because you need to strike a balance between showing your abilities while at the same time not faking your talent. Lees believes that reality TV has forced extrovert behaviour into the norm and so this is the measure that people are using when judging how they should show an employer what they can do. I particularly liked the way Lees presented his idea of self-projection for the modest. When talking about yourself he suggests using these three statements in relation to yourself to demonstrate who you are, what you can do and where you are going:

I really enjoy…….

I would like to find out more about……

This is what I have discovered …………

You just need to fill in the blanks. This is a great way of constructing a response to that classic interview question: "Tell me about yourself".

There was much more I could tell you from John Lees talk but perhaps I need to save it for another day. Meanwhile if any of the above resonates with you and you want to discuss your worries or concerns please book an appointment with a Careers Adviser. Don't keep it to yourself.


Is lack of confidence holding back women's careers?

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📥  Advice, Diversity, Tips & Hints

So, how confident do you feel about your work? Not very...! The Institution of Leadership & Management's research 'Ambition & Gender at Work' suggests that over 50% of women report feelings of self-doubt about their performance and careers. Time and time again research shows that  women are less self-assured than men—and that to succeed, confidence matters as much as competence.  According to the Huffington Post, confidence is what allows you to start acting and risking and failing, to stop mumbling and apologising and hesitating. With it you can take on the world; without it you remain stuck on the starting block of your own potential.

So how do you develop confidence?

  • Use empowering language: Aston Universities Vice Chancellor, Professor Dame Julia King  says  women tend to use more cautious, less aggressive/assertive language, and often apologise for what they are about to say  - ‘This isn't quite my subject area, but perhaps you might consider…’ ‘I am not sure this is exactly relevant, but…’ This can be interpreted as weakness and makes what women say easier to dismiss or ignore. My colleague Ghislaine Dell is delivering a workshop on  Confident Communication at the Women in Leadership Conference, tacking this very issue!
  • Banish Negative Self-Talk: It is amazing how self-talk can lead us in to or out of a situation. If you can, take time to visualise the discussion or event going well rather than thinking of the things that may go wrong.  Ask yourself, 'whats the worst that could happen?' - when you do this,  you get a clarity and a bit of fear vanishes.
  • Take a risk: Become comfortable with things that you don’t know, and turn your fear into an eagerness to learn new skills.
  • Celebrate your successes: The best confidence boost is to celebrate your successes and keep reminding yourself of it by writing them on post-it notes. Then have them displayed in an area that you can view each day e.g. kitchen, wardrobe, medicine cabinet etc.

Our blog this week will focus on providing tips and support to our female students, this is to support the Women in Leadership Conference that is being organised by the Student Union at Bath.