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Why Confidence is Important in the Workplace

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of confidence is a feeling of self-assurance arising from an appreciation of one’s own abilities or qualities. For most of us, this confidence can ebb and flow depending on what is happening in our lives, what people are telling us about our behaviour or worth and what we are telling ourselves.

If we show others that we are confident it gives them faith that we know what we are doing and are capable of achieving the job in hand. However, in my own experience the people who are most confident are not always the people who get things done and make things happen. Personally, I look for more than confidence when meet people to see if I think they can get the job done. I look for skills, I look for people who will do what they say they will. I look for people who have achieved before. I also look for people who have been through challenges and overcome them, because when the going gets tough it is the resilient people who will be able to tackle the most stressful situations, even if they don’t really want to.

However, other people do look at confidence to make a snap judgement on whether or not someone is capable. I was following a discussion on Linkedin recently about confidence and people were saying that if someone has confidence it is because they have tackled difficult situations and have faith in their own ability to achieve again in future situations.

I disagree because people’s confidence can be dented by so many outside influences, by gaslighting, bullying and distortion of what is true by people who feel insecure. If a person has this experience in their childhood they are more likely to repeat these patterns in their adult lives. Even when all the evidence is stacked up that they are capable and can achieve great things, if every single mistake is pointed out as a failure and they are told regularly that they are no good, they will believe it and they will tell themselves the same messages, reinforcing those negative thoughts. This then affects their behaviour and they will not try to achieve as much as someone who hasn’t been given these messages.

So thought patterns affect behaviour which affects the outcome.

What Can we Do About It?

So I wrote a previous blog about the power pose and how effective it can be for giving us confidence during interviews. I find it really works and used it myself a couple of years ago to help me perform well during a series of very stressful situations.

Another practical way of making ourselves happier and subsequently more confident is to focus on what makes us happy and feel good. For the past three years I have taken part in #100HappyDays which you may have seen if you follow me on Facebook. It genuinely made me feel happier and more confident because I made the effort to focus on what makes me happy and I was actively thinking about what my happy would be for that day. The first time I took part I found it really difficult and I enlisted other people to do it alongside me to make it easier. This did work, but other people said they couldn’t do it and made excuses. If I could do this whilst I was experiencing one of the most traumatic experiences of my life, then I have faith that anyone can do it if they really want to do it enough. The good thing about putting it on social media was that people noticed if I didn’t post. And of course there were the odd days where I didn’t post for one reason or another, but because I was doing it to make myself happier I let it go and didn’t beat myself up.

#100HappyDays was one thing I did. It helped but it didn’t flick a switch and make me super happy and confident. Happiness is something we have to work on. It’s a bit like personal hygiene – taking a shower won’t make us clean for the rest of our lives, it’s something we need to repeat over and over again to maintain the cleanliness.

So once #100HappyDays started to get easier I decided to try something else which is a gratitude challenge. So every day at the moment I am thinking about what I am grateful to have in my life. This was in some ways even more challenging than the happiness challenge because I struggled to use the word grateful. Grateful was a word that was thrown around at me a great deal when I was a child, with the SHOULD, MUST and with a bit of shame attached. You should be grateful because I have sacrificed this for you. However in letting this go and reframing the word and what it means for me I was able to embrace it. So these days I am grateful for my body because it has allowed me to start running (and today it hurts because I have used it!) and I am grateful for the love and support of my husband, sometimes I am grateful because I have met up with supportive people in business and other times I am grateful for the clients I am working with because I end up giving them what I need and working with them gives me so much personal development it is a privilege to be able to inspire people and help them to achieve their life goals.

I get feedback a great deal from people who think I have bags of confidence and sometimes the feedback I get surprises me. The most important tip is that if you don’t feel confident, pretend you do. It will fool most people! Eventually you will find that you’re no longer pretending and you can walk into any room in any situation. It is something I am still working on but I have come a long way. I didn’t used to be able to walk into a room and start talking to people I don’t know, but I can now. I never thought I would get on a plane on my own, but last year I stepped on a plane to Barcelona all by myself and navigated the airports and the transfers and it had been at least 10 years since I had been abroad anywhere.

Confidence is something we need to practice both at work and outside of work and one way I have found that helps me feel more confident at work is when I ask to take on projects that stretch and grow me as an individual but that also benefits the organisation I work for. Some of the extras I was involved in at work were setting up and managing a counselling service, expanding and managing a work club, and of course now I have set up and run a whole company which 10 years ago I would never have imagined being able to do let alone actually doing it.

If you want to do something enough, don’t make excuses – make it happen. If you don’t feel like you can do it alone, we are here to help so reach out and ask for help. It’s what I do best! You can contact us here.

Have you got any tips for feeling more confident? We’d love to hear them so tell us in the comments.

Picture Perfect!

Guest Blog, told to us by Gillian Cross

I have worked as a photographer for 20 years, which is the whole of my career. That has started to seem quite unusual, when so many photographers fall into the job as a second career path.

I chose my A-level subjects because I enjoyed doing them. I didn’t really have a clue what I wanted to do as a career at that point. Then in the summer between my Sixth Form years, I had to think hard about what Further Education I wanted to apply for. I liked watching sports and I liked taking photographs. So I decided that I’d be a sports photographer and enrolled on a B-Tec National Diploma in Photography.

I did that course for two years and learnt everything about the technical and compositional side of photography. It was film in those days and I hadn’t had any previous experience of developing and printing photos.

After the course I could’ve gone on to do an extra year completing a Higher National Diploma but I decided that wouldn’t add to my knowledge and tried to get a job. During my course I had done some work experience in a local commercial studio and also did some after college in another studio who were looking to take on another photographer’s assistant. That was a great experience – taking photos of Christmas decorations in the middle of summer! There were a few of us from college who trialed for that job and unfortunately I didn’t get it.

The main challenge back then was finding a job with a photographer. There were no ads in the job section saying “photographer wanted”. Job Seekers Allowance had just come in so you had to write down every week what you’d done to find work that week. My options were limited. So I went through the Yellow Pages and listed all of the local photographers. I sent letters out each week explaining that I’d just finished a photography course and asking if they had need of another photographer. A couple of them wrote back to say they’d put me on their records, some didn’t write back at all.

Then one day I got a call from a photographer in Ashington who was looking for someone and had just been about to place an advert in the paper. I had saved him the trouble. So I went for a trial and got the job!

College didn’t prepare me for actually photographing people in portraits or weddings so I learnt everything from him as his assistant before I had clients of my own. He also had a mini-lab where we printed people’s holiday snaps so I mostly ended up running that as well. I didn’t mind at the time as it was working with customers and in a small business you get involved in the day to day running of the business.

After two years I was unhappy and was lucky again getting the next job. We occasionally printed other photographer’s work and there was a local schools photographer who used our services. She happened to photograph the school where my mum taught. They got chatting one day and she was looking for another photographer. I went for an interview with some portrait and wedding photos that I’d taken, and got the job.

I was there for ten years and in that time I got married and had a baby. After maternity leave I went back part time for a couple of years but things had changed. I always said I would never become self employed, but someone convinced me it was the right thing to do. Working for a small business not only gave me the photographic experience but also the insight into how to run a business.

I think for creative people, they love doing what they’re good at but don’t always have the skill for running a business. I know that the area I have to work on is marketing. Actually getting the customers through the door. But self employment gives me the flexibility to be there for our son, and to pursue the art side of my career as well as continuing to take photographs which is what I love to do.

You can get in touch with Gillian and see more of her work here. Gillian Cross Photography

Career Change When Pregnant

There are many reasons why you might consider a career change when pregnant. If you’re on the outside looking in on an expectant mother thinking about changing jobs you might think it an odd idea – why complicate your life during one of the most transforming experiences through choice?

Well, there are a number of reasons for considering a career change when pregnant. Here are a few of them:

– You’re looking for a family friendly employer
– Looking for less hours
– You want a job closer to home so you spend less time commuting
– You are looking for more change
– Your job isn’t floating your boat anymore
– Your priorities or values have shifted
– You are worried about your health and safety at work
– You may have insecure work or be facing redundancy
– You may be thinking about giving up work for a few years to bring up your children

Whatever the reason for considering a career change when pregnant, it is certainly not a decision to be taken lightly if the choice is with you.

Beware that other workplaces seem to have more perks than where you work now but in reality they don’t stack up when weighed against the disadvantages. In some workplaces it may be that an employee is not entitled to certain maternity benefits until they have completed a specified period in that employment, so considering changing jobs on that basis would not be worth it due to not being entitled to those benefit on day one of employment.

The employer you are thinking of taking a job with may offer flexible working or the option to work at home. Do they also expect more hours than you are paid for though? Many teachers would relate to this, as they are seen to work term time only but are expected to be up to date with marking work and preparing lessons outside of the contact time with the students, which isn’t always factored in.

Looking for work takes up time and energy and when you are having a baby, you may not have much of either – especially if this isn’t your first baby. If you’ve been pregnant before you will know how tiring it is and if you’re working full time at the same time this can be difficult.

You need to consider your rights when applying for work. Have you asked yourself if it is fair to the new employer to take so much time off just after starting a new job? This is a moral conundrum as in law an employer has no right to ask this question, although in reality this may not always happen. I have certainly experienced situations where I have been asked my plans for having children in an interview and I know I am not alone due to my client work. From a moral perspective it is good practice to discuss this with an employer once they have offered the job. It will help you work out if practically it will work for you, and it will help the employer plan for your absence. If you are being brought in to troubleshoot a problem then it may have an impact on the business when you are off work, so it is fair to explore this with an employer.

It’s important to know your rights if things do go wrong so you can be armed with the facts.

Pregnant employees have four main rights:

– Paid time off for antenatal care
– Maternity leave
– Maternity pay or maternity allowance
– Protection against unfair treatment, discrimination and dismissal

You can find out more about your rights here.

If you want help to look for a new job, whether or not you are expecting a bundle of joy, you can contact us here.


Cygnet in the News

Cygnet in the News



Look! Cygnet is in the news!

We were really excited to feature in the News Guardian showing off our new business and what we have to offer which will help people who need help to change their job or who are facing redundancy, retirement or want to return to the jobs market following ill health or caring responsibilities.

The article focusses on a contract we won with Whitley Bay Big Local to co-ordinate their volunteers. Of course volunteering is a great way to learn new skills and can help you change your job, particularly if you need to expand on skills and knowledge to move into a different role. Volunteering can help you gain that valuable experience and can also help you if you need references to get back to work.

We also work with companies who are making redundancies to help their staff move into alternative roles and individuals who want to take control and find a different job.

We are looking for case studies, so if you’d like to work with us and get some publicity, get in touch as we would love to feature you in our news!

If we can help you with this please get in touch through out contact form.

I Quit!

I Quit!

Having problems at work?  Feel like quitting?  This blog post will examine why it’s rarely a good idea to walk away from a job in the heat of the moment, or indeed because of problems in the workplace that are building up.

Rewind 10 years, and I did exactly that.  I had a minimum wage job following a redundancy and the negative impact of that job was quite substantially affecting my quality of life alongside some personal issues that I had at the time.  The combination of stress due to home and work was awful.  I endured the job for six months, but it felt like a lifetime.  I was contracted for 16 hours, but working 30 hours, so when it came to taking time off I couldn’t afford to take holidays as I would only get paid for 16 hours.  When I started I gave my new employer my P45, but the manager failed to pass this on and I didn’t realise it at the time but the whole time I was there I was paying emergency tax (which I did get back but I needed it at the time, not 8 months later).  The manager changed my hours on a weekly basis without consulting with me and this impacted on my childcare.  The final straw for me came when the manager changed my hours so that I was only working at times where I had to pay for childcare and not when the children were in school.  In tears I walked out of the workplace.  Thankfully, it didn’t impact on my life negatively but only because I had managed to secure a new job and was waiting for a start date which happened just a few weeks later. So walking away from this job might have been a disaster, but actually wasn’t!

I’ve been in other situations too, where people have told me that I couldn’t possibly return to work due to the impact the stress of the situation would have on my health.  But I did go back and I handled it so that I managed to make the situation as positive as it possibly could be under the circumstances.  The impact on my health was detrimental but if I hadn’t done it the long term consequences would have been enormous.

So, if you’re having problems at work, it’s important not to walk away but to use the policies and procedures of the organisation (also a requirement of the law) to ensure your position is strong when you do leave.  You must follow the policies (even if the company fails to) and ensure that you continue to do your job to the best of your ability.  Take notes of situations that arise as this might become necessary in the future as evidence.

If you work for a reputable company, then chances are that they will be as keen to put the situation right as you are.  However not all companies follow the guidelines they should and in these circumstances it is vital that you protect yourself as much as you are able to.  Your work impacts every aspect of your life so it’s important to be in a role that suits your circumstances as well as your values.

You can get free, independent advice from ACAS and it’s also a good idea to gain support from others around you, for example friends and family.  However, remember that the situation is confidential so it’s also important to ensure that you stay within the parameters of confidentiality.

Whilst you are in the midst of problems in the workplace, it can be a very stressful and intense environment.  After all, it is one of the few situations you are unable to remove yourself from without severe consequences.  If there is an argument at home it is easy to go into another room to calm down, but it’s not always possible at work – depending on the circumstances of your job.

There is usually a way of leaving your job without walking away from it.  If you walk away, you walk away from the security of the income stream you have had, you risk a negative reference when you apply for other jobs and you almost certainly will struggle with claiming benefits.  I advise my clients on this basis – as the old saying goes,

it’s easier to find a new job if you are working already.

Set Your Goals For 2015

Set Your Goals For 2015

As we hurtle ever closer to 2015, many of us will be thinking of new years resolutions, setting intentions or asking the universe for the things we would like to see more of.  If you have had a difficult time in 2014 I am guessing you will be pleased to welcome in a new year and a new start.  For me, I don’t place as much importance on the new year as I know other people do, however I will be setting some intentions and goals for myself and for my business in 2015.  The benefits of doing this is that it can give you focus and help to keep you on track and motivated to achieve what you hope to in the future.  Without a goal you can end up being distracted by other things that happen in life and then not achieve what you had hoped to.  For example, how many times have you logged onto the internet for a specific piece of information only to get distracted by something else and before you know it an hour has gone by and you haven’t found out the information you went on to get?  This is a simplistic example but this can happen in our lives if we don’t have a goal or an overall objective.

Goal setting can be difficult – how will you know what opportunities will present themselves during the year?  A year is a long time! There are ways to deal with all of the issues you might face, and I will look at those things below.

  • An overall wish for the year is a good place to start.  This can be as creative and out there as you like.  Many people will say something like “I’d like to win the lottery so I can retire.” If anyone says this to me, I challenge it.  Do you really want to win the lottery?  Look at some of the problems past lottery winners have faced…….
  • Once you have a large goal it is beneficial to break it down into achievable smaller goals.  These should be SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time limited). I think this can be tricky but with a little bit of guesswork and information gathering it can be done.
  • Now think about your goal.  Does it match with your values?  Is it really realistic?
  • The proof of the pudding is in the tasting.  This is where you try it out.  If it doesn’t work, that’s OK.  Goals should not be set to be later used as a stick to beat yourself up with – be kind to yourself.  If something isn’t working review the goal and ask why it didn’t work.
  • Once you have done this, it’s important to revisit your goals and tweak them.  Change whatever needs to be changed and carry on as before.
  • Repeat this process throughout the year.
  • If a new opportunity presents itself, ask if it fits in with your goals.  If it does great! If it doesn’t, do you need to think about changing your goals again?  Remember to ask if the new opportunity fits in with the values you had when setting your goals.  Have your priorities changed?
  • So in summary, a goal plan is very much a live document, to be changed and reviewed regularly.
  • Staying motivated can be difficult, so this is why the goal must fit with your values and what you want to achieve. This is the reason that SMART is so important.

Goal setting can be tricky.  But by thinking out what you want to achieve it can help you stay focussed.  I run sessions on goal setting, so if you would like to know more, please get in touch.

If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favourable.

Job Rejection and Reflection.

Job Rejection and Reflection.



Today, I would like to focus on how to overcome rejection when you apply for a job and either you don’t hear back or you get an interview and are unsuccessful.  When applying for work it is beneficial to have an idea of what sort of work you would like and what sort of company you would like to work for, but then be flexible enough in your search so that if something comes up that you hadn’t thought of you can match it against those criteria and decide if you will apply.  Its not a good idea to focus on particular job titles as these can be misleading and may not be what you are expecting.  Its good to try not to get too focussed on one particular job that is advertised (sometimes easier said than done) and its not a good idea to be too narrow in your search, or too broad.

Once you have applied for some jobs it is sensible to keep on searching and applying for jobs that interest you.  I have worked with clients who have applied for one or two jobs, and then they sit back and watch the phone or letter box on and just after the closing date, becoming more and more depressed if they don’t hear back and sometimes very angry that the employer hasn’t even responded to them.  Unfortunately this approach is not only demoralising and demotivating – it is counter productive and you are much more likely to succeed in your job search if you carry on searching and applying, keeping good records of those you have applied for and moving on to the next application form or CV adaptation.

If you have an interview and are told you were unsuccessful, it is good practice and often advice to ask for feedback.  This can help you in the future if you are given constructive reasons why you were not chosen for the job.  However, I would advise that it is good to think about the reasons given and if they are constructive, accurate and based in fact.  I have had an experience where I was told I missed something out of a presentation but no examples were given of what I had missed so was left without anything solid to build any improvements on.  Of course this may not be the real reason for rejection.  It could be something else that they would rather not tell you about for whatever reason that might be, it might be that they had someone in mind for the role already or that there was nothing you could improve on but they had to make a decision and this time it wasn’t you.

It is good to reflect on the interview and if you can constructively criticise it yourself.  Often we can tell when we could have answered a question more thoroughly or thought of a better scenario of where  we have demonstrated a skill or quality.  Think of these examples and write them down as they might come up again in another interview.  Don’t beat yourself up though – in the moment when we are being interviewed we are often nervous and don’t always perform at our best.  Each interview we encounter is good practice for the next time we need to go through this and hopefully each time we can improve on the last one.  The more interviews experienced, the less nervous you will feel (and if this is not the case then I recommend that you access some support around this.)

Eventually, if you have your technique well honed and you have the skills needed you will be successful in changing your job.  It is a matter of time, and a numbers game.  The more applications you make the more chance you have of securing that role.  If you take the rejection personally and give up, this is obviously not going to help you get a new job.  It will of course take patience and resilience to achieve this goal, but keep going! Remember there are many people who apply for a job usually, with only one vacancy available.  If you are getting interviews you are doing well and will be successful .  If not you need to look at why you aren’t – do you need more training?  Experience?  Do you need to look at the information you are putting into the application forms?

There is help available for each stage of this process, so make sure you get it.  If you need help to stay on track ask someone you know to hold you to account for the number of jobs you apply for etc.  There is no need to do this alone – it is a difficult and time consuming time, so don’t give yourself a hard time if you don’t succeed – remember each application you fill in is taking you a step closer to your goal!

How to Switch Careers

How to Switch Careers

This week’s blog will focus on how to make a career change, following a request by one of my followers on Facebook.  I don’t know if you’ve had this happen to you, but I personally have applied for quite a number of jobs over the past 10 – 15 years or so mainly due to short term funding in the voluntary sector where I have worked.  I have found that the jobs I have been successful in being offered are usually closely aligned with the sort of work I have been doing in the recent past, in a previous role.  The more people who apply for the job, the more they seem to focus on experience – whether their priority is with the client group or maybe a database they want you to use without having to give training.  The reason often given for not being offered a job is that someone else had more experience than me.  The problem is, how am I to gain that experience unless I am given the opportunity?  It is definitely not an easy issue to get round, especially if you have commitments to a mortgage, to paying off a loan, or to raising your family it can make changing career harder.   So if you are in a career that is not well suited to your values – you took it because it was well paid /  it offered you good job security /  it was what your father did / you fell into it by accident –  then what do you do?  Well the answer is that it depends.
I would start by asking yourself the following questions:

  • How many years am I prepared to work towards my chosen career?
  • Can I afford to be without an income for the duration of retraining or is there an option for part time learning?
  • How motivated am I to do this?
  • Is it the right time?
  • If I am miserable at work, are there any ways I can minimise the factors that make me miserable?
  • Am I prepared to volunteer to gain experience?
  • Are there many opportunities in the career path that I would like to enter into, or is it very competitive?
  • Am I prepared to start in an entry level role again and work my way up?
  • If I have children, how will this impact on my decisions?

There may be a few more questions depending on your own personal circumstances, and this is before you have even explored the possibilities of career options.  Add in the fact that if you ask other people for help they will no doubt all have opinions – and let’s not be too hard on them they want to help! These suggestions can be really useful, or they can drown out our values and our inner voice so that we get so confused we really don’t know what to do or where to turn.  If you are facing this dilemma, please do get in touch.  I can help you work through your confusion and make some decisions based on what your own values are, to help you be true to yourself.  Whilst the suggestions of others can be helpful at times, you only have one life – why waste it on making other people happy?
If you want to go for it and would like some help to get where you want to go, please contact us.

Seize the day!

Skills – What are Yours?

Skills – What are Yours?


Skills – What Are Yours? When you’re looking for a different job or want to progress in your current employment, you need to know what your skills are.  Sounds simple, but is it really?  If anyone asks me what my skill set is I sometimes have difficulty answering, possibly because I’m not a teacher, or a solicitor, or a bus driver.  So in the past when asked I haven’t got a straightforward answer handy!  When looking for a career change, it can be difficult to demonstrate you have the skills an employer is looking for.  So I like to ask about transferable skills, which are more general skills which can be used in many different professions.  An example of a transferable skill is driving – many of us have this skill but it does take quite a bit of practice to acquire it.  When thinking of work, it can be useful in a range of jobs – courier, project worker, community nursing, and so on.  I once asked a client what skills he had and he told me he didn’t have any, despite being a driver! When I pointed this out, he told me that driving wasn’t a skill because everyone can do it.  Of course not everyone can drive, and I paid rather a lot of money to an instructor to learn this skill!  It shows how often we can take for granted our skills because we can do them easily without thinking about them too much.

There are many other transferable skills that you might have that you don’t think about but may be able to use when looking for different work.  For example if you are a parent, the skills involved in this are wide ranging and very varied.  They might include being organised, having a high level of assertiveness (to stop bullying perhaps), being motivated (when you could really do without picking the toys up AGAIN today!), negotiating skills (ever tried to get a small person to eat a carrot? Or stop siblings fighting?),  cooking, cleaning, comforting, taxi driver, being a economical with the truth (Santa does exist), teaching and coaching.  The list could go on.

You can take any area of your life and think in this way about what your skills are.  Of course if you haven’t had a career break you can think of the skills you have from your current role as well as your hobbies and interests.  If you are very creative you might be able to think of how a particular skill is useful in helping you learn a particular task you have never done before in a potential new role.

If you are struggling to identify your own skills, or to fit your skills to a position you are applying for please do get in touch as I can help you with this.

Returning to Work After a Gap

Returning to Work After a Gap

It can be difficult to return to employment following a gap for any reason – whether that is because you have been looking after someone (bringing up a family or supporting a family member due to ill health), because you have suffered a health problem yourself, or if you have been working in a career and decide you would like to pursue a different direction.

Without recent experience in the field that you would like to move into, or without an idea of what it is you want to do it can be difficult to know where to start.  There are many options open to you, and your path will be determined by a number of factors.  These include your current financial situation, how long you want to work towards your chosen field (are you prepared to retrain or volunteer for a few years?), what your current skills are and what your values are.  Its also wise to think about the opportunities that are available to you.  Is it realistic to want to be the next Prime Minister?  Well someone has to be but it’s important to know what might be involved in this and whether you think it is worth the effort.

Having a fixed idea of what you want to do can be helpful as it means you will be able to plan the steps you need to take quite easily, however there are disadvantages to this approach if you don’t have any flexibility and you are not prepared to change course if opportunities arise on the way to your chosen goal.  However on the other hand not having any idea of where you want to go and being swayed by every potential opportunity that comes your way can be a massive barrier too.  This is due to having too many opportunities and not focusing on any one thing, you are less likely to achieve any of them.

So the point of this article really is to point out that it is good to have a plan, but a plan that is flexible and one that is dynamic based on developments of the situation that invariably come up in your life.  If you don’t know where to start, or you just need a little bit of help, I can help you to get onto the right path and help you to stay focused.  Sometimes, just knowing that there is someone there asking how you are getting on with your plan can help you to stay focused and make sure you do all the things you say you are going to do!

If you need help to decide what next, or how to be successful in finding a job after taking a career break for whatever reason get in touch – Kelly@cygnetnortheast.com or phone 07881294894. Or you can use our contact form.  We can help you to explain why you haven’t been in work in a positive way.