4 reasons why self-esteem is vital to your career

Friday 28th October, 2016

A few weeks ago, we interviewed Challenger’s GM of HR, Angela Murphy. I found Angela’s leadership insights thought-provoking. One thing particularly got me thinking: “…a great leader is someone who has self-knowledge and retains their self-esteem in the context of that knowledge.”

I have thought a lot about self-esteem since. It is rarely mentioned as an important factor in someone’s career and never in the same breath as capability, experience, influence and communication skills, but having given it some thought, I think the following are the reasons why having self-esteem is so vital to your career:

1. Confidence in your own skin makes you more attractive to employers
I should begin by underlining the caveat that true self-esteem (as opposed to arrogance and bravado) is only possible with good self-knowledge, awareness and consciousness.

You have heard of the phrase, ‘fake it till you make it’. Like the superhero stance, it is designed to help create the perception, to yourself and those around you, that you are confidently walking the walk. Both are great strategies for fighting performance anxieties, but if you have self-esteem, you don’t need to fake confidence - you are confident and confidence is a very attractive thing. One of the most successful people I know who is no smarter, or more accomplished than any other smart and accomplished people I know, keeps doing bigger and better things. Why? She truly believes in herself.

It’s easy to sell something if you believe in it, so employers will tell you that all else being equal, they will hire the more confident candidate.

Like the song says, everybody loves a winner.

2. Development, evolution, growth...
Nobody is perfect, but we don’t all want to hear that. Growth is only possible if you recognise you have developmental areas, but it takes courage to truly hear feedback and seek development. This is where self-esteem comes in. Having it helps you to hear the challenging stuff without being demoralised and defensive in the process.

The problem with not having any self-esteem is that you never ask the critical question: What’s missing from this picture? Conversely, a healthy self-esteem makes you believe that you can build an even better you and meaningful, responsive personal evolution often means success in the corporate world.

3. Self-esteem helps to prevent the B word
Bullying. It’s an ugly word and an ugly thing. Psychologists will tell you it’s common for bullies to have self-esteem challenges and that’s a worthwhile topic for another day. For now, I think having good self-esteem helps in preventing you from falling victim to bullying.

I am not saying a bully won’t ever try it on – they do that – but a healthy self-esteem helps you recognise that someone else’s bad behaviour is not about you. Self-esteem also gives you the confidence to defuse the situation.

4. Good decisions about recruitment and succession
Logically, you should always hire the smartest, most agile person you can find. You would be surprised how many people don’t. They don’t because their own lack of self-esteem makes everyone who might ‘show them up’, a potential threat. This is one way of creating and perpetuating a B team.

Good self-esteem frees you from seeing potential threat in everyone and allows you the space to make good decision about recruitment and succession, which in turn helps you keep rising in your career.

It seems that self-esteem is vital to thriving careers. How do you get it and keep it? There are lots of books on the subject and they all begin with something like: treat yourself as your own best friend; be supportive, kind, generous and understanding. Believe that you are worthy. You can do it.

If you are yet to read the interview with Angela Murphy, I can highly recommend it: Angela Murphy Interview


Gareth Jones is Evolve's Chief Customer Officer.