Career Confidence from Organization


How many times have you admired the power lawyer in the room who radiates confidence? Confidence (not over-confidence, mind you) is an incredibly attractive quality that affects your professional as well as personal life. It helps people believe in you: believe that you are competent, reliable, smart, fascinating, trustworthy, and together. It’s one of those traits with gravitational pull. It simply makes people want to be around you. And self-confidence may be one of the greatest skills for career success for attorneys.

But here’s a secret. Confidence is not just an innate character trait. It can also be a learned skill.

Here’s another secret…

Even if you were one of the lucky few to be born with an abundance of confidence, you can’t take your confidence for granted. Confidence has to be protected and nourished in order to grow. One of the many habits that increases confidence is organization. Likewise, disorganization erodes and undermines confidence.

Elizabeth Hagen’s “Organize with Confidence: Simplify Your Life and Make Every Moment Count!” is an easy-to-read interactive book focusing on practical methods to attack disorganization, to regain control, and as result to build your confidence. Of course, having a strategy is of no use if you don’t implement it, and Elizabeth also has tips to put strategies into action. I talked with Elizabeth about how her book applies to job seekers and those looking to take charge of their career development because organization, control, and confidence can impact every aspect of your career.

Take Responsibility and Get Moving

Your physical environment can affect your overall well-being. Organizing your physical environment can do wonders for your mental, emotional, and even physical health. It reduces stress, clears your mind, opens an opportunity to let you focus on bigger things, and even helps you get a good night sleep for a change.

But taking charge of a disorganized physical environment can seem daunting. Instead of allowing yourself to be overwhelmed, take it one step at a time. First, you need to take responsibility for your mess and accept that it’s not going to change unless and until you change it. Pick one thing, focus on it, and get it done. And don’t forget to give yourself a pat on the back for the job well done.

Elizabeth’s principles apply to job hunters and anyone concerned about career development, whether they’re lawyers, law students, paralegals, or in not in the legal sector at all. It’s difficult to be successful in a job search if you’re stressed out, frustrated, and unable to sleep. Likewise, if you’re exhausted and disorganized, then it’s difficult to perform well on the job or to inspire the confidence of your clients, peers, and supervisors.

Elizabeth also tells me: “Organizing doesn’t have to be difficult – you just need the right tools, a few new skills, and a place for everything. Watch your confidence soar in every area of your life as you become organized! You can create peace, increase productivity, and build self-confidence… leaving you time for the really important things in life.”

The Mental, Emotional, and Physical Toll of Clutter

Clutter saps your mental, emotional, and physical strength — even when you don’t consciously notice the clutter. Part of your brain will always be distracted by the chaos around it. Try to get past looking at the enormity of the clutter. Instead, focus on developing solutions to controlling it, which will help you keep your positive mindset. Don’t worry; Elizabeth’s book helps you develop solutions that will work.

In developing these solutions, it helps to distinguish between rational and irrational fears, and how both undermine your ability to move forward. Organization is a powerful tool that can help you move through fear by giving you a path to follow.

Elizabeth’s principles easily apply to job hunters. Fear of failure and disorganization in the job search are two major roadblocks the undermine job seekers success. As Elizabeth says, “I read somewhere that FEAR stands for False Evidence Appearing Real and that is exactly what most fears are – they are not real. It’s important to acknowledge the fear but then ask yourself ‘What is one thing I can do?’ Do it and watch the fear disappear.”

Her principles are equally applicable to anyone concerned about career development. I have heard some attorneys defend their office clutter by claiming it makes them look busy. But clutter doesn’t make you look busy; it makes you look disorganized. And just as the clutter distracts you, it distracts those around you — your clients, peers, supervisors, and subordinates. Elizabeth tells me, “Chaos brings chaos. Do you want peace-of-mind in your life, home, and job search? Get organized.”

Attitude Is a Choice

Attitude — like confidence — in not simply innate. It’s a choice. And one that you have the power to make and re-make every hour of every day.

Why is this so important to remember? Attitude—again like confidence—is amazingly self-perpetuating and self-fulfilling. A positive, winning attitude makes it easier for good things to happen to you (like doing well in that job interview and be offered the job). And when good things happen to you, your positive attitude is reinforced. Likewise, a negative attitude makes it more likely that bad things will happen (like performing poorly in a job interview and being turned down for the job). And when bad things happen, your negative attitude is reinforced.

But because your attitude can be changed for the better at any time, this cycle can be changed for the better at any time. This isn’t always easy, of course, but don’t give up just because it’s not easy!

Don’t give up on goals because they aren’t easy either. Having a good attitude means you won’t be afraid to dream—working toward dreams that are truly your own rather than dreams that your family, society, or others expect from you. In “Organize with Confidence,” Elizabeth discusses why big goals are important to success and why your imagination can be your best friend or your worst enemy.

“The only thing that is stopping you from the life you want is yourself,” Elizabeth tell me. “Setting goals work. What do you want? What would you love to do for a living? What do you want your life to look like? Write these down and read your comments every day. Amazing things will happen!”

Learn to Think Through Challenges

Systems and processes keep you organized. Form new, better, more productive habits that will improve your approach to and control over every aspect of your life, personal or professional. Remember that no system is maintenance free. They all require your dedication, persistence, and personalization.

Elizabeth discusses and demonstrates particular organizational techniques, including mind mapping. Mind mapping is a tool that helps you think through organizational problems. Mind mapping applies not just to organizing your physical environment, but also to any tasks requiring good planning — job search strategies, oral presentations, goal setting, and other career-related challenges. Elizabeth adds, “The real key to time management? It’s very simple: Plan ahead.”

Stop Talking. Start Doing.

Because Elizabeth is a professional organizer, she attacks one of the biggest organizational challenges we face: the closet! And while it’s easy to dismiss closet cleaning as inapplicable to the job hunt and to career development, I urge you not to be so quick. Cleaning the closet is a wonderful metaphor for cleaning up the office, reducing the to-do list, reassessing your time commitments, setting priorities, or just cleaning out the clutter in your brain! By applying the principles of organization, you can learn how to decide what to get rid of and what to keep.

Remember that confidence, attitude, control, and organization can all be choices that you make every day. Just because you chose poorly in the past does not mean that you can’t choose better now, today, and in the future. There’s a big difference between learning from the past and obsessing over it. Don’t allow your past to control your future. Learn what you need to learn. Then apply those lessons to the present in order to build yourself a better future.

“What has happened in the past is called history for a reason – it’s behind us,” Elizabeth tell me. “What can you do today to change your life? Just start!

Updated Feb. 6, 2016