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A career is easier if you appear competent and self-confident

Job expert and psychologist Diana von Kopp.

Diana von Kopp

“Confident appearance with complete ignorance”, that was what we used to say when someone confidently told the greatest nonsense – and thereby also made an impression. But the opposite works much better, says job expert and psychologist Diana von Kopp.

With “Top im Job”, von Kopp wrote a book about how to make your own career dream come true. In the interview, she explains how you prepare yourself internally to present yourself in such a way that your strengths are seen – and why it is not always about the big performance. Ms. von Kopp, you say that he who works successfully is successful. Do we all need blue jackets with gold buttons now?

Diana von Kopp: We are successful when we exude competence. One of the ways we do this is by knowing what we are talking about. When a pilot explains a technical process, he appears competent.

Actually self-explanatory, right?

But many people try to depict something that they are not. Or they want to appear broader than they actually are. But people appear competent when there is also competence behind them. This is made up not only of read-in knowledge, but also of wealth of experience.

How can a person without a word show that they can do something?

It is interesting that the body reacts faster than we can express ourselves verbally. This is called embodiment: If we are sure about an area, then we usually radiate it. Competence can also be supported by wearing a uniform or an outfit typical of the industry. That also raises the status, from the outside you come into this drawer. That’s the halo effect.

What’s up with the halo effect?

It actually matters what clothes we wear, what details. Glasses may stand for intelligence, we associate the white coat with medical staff. In the case of nerds and hipsters, we immediately have an image in our minds and suspect technical competence. A craftsman who arrives with a good tool case and carefully maintained equipment appears structured and well prepared. The halo effect arises from what others notice first and what they conclude from it. And I can control that.

How can young people appear competent at the start of their careers?

Everyone has something that they are particularly good at. We see that with good talk guests: They keep directing the conversation back to where they are familiar. Young professionals should be ready at any time to present their current work in an interesting and clever way in two sentences. One can always be prepared for meetings with executives.

How can you be prepared for such an encounter at any time?

You shouldn’t let it take you off guard – you should look for it. That’s the next level: people can create situations that make them more likely to meet important colleagues. It also helps to know something about the other person. It’s not just about showing what you’re doing great yourself. It helps to know what the other is interested in and what is particularly important in the company. These are opportunities to be positive. This mental preparation can already take place at home in the bathtub or at breakfast. Anyone who plays through such a situation in their minds can even look forward to it.

But a certain uncertainty has to be overcome.

People often wonder if they are ready. Can I do that already? My answer is yes. These questions are important: How can I meet the new challenge? How do I create a good network for this? How do I create a system in which I can learn and grow personally?

So we move within our area of ​​competence and we look for situations to attract attention. How do we combine our appearance with the inner feeling when there are still uncertainties?

We can also approach it playfully: I really want to get ahead in my life. And I have the skills. And I can bring it in. If I don’t, then I might be doing a boring job, not getting ahead, and possibly dissatisfied. But I can change that by looking for situations in which I can show what I’ve got.

Having no experience is not a problem at all: I can also show that I have the will to learn. This is completely independent of age, gender or social background; everyone can contribute their skills – and must do so. This also creates self-confidence: to a certain extent, everyone has the obligation to contribute their own skills.

How do I deal with such signals being viewed with suspicion in my team?

There are many ways to show competence, for example by listening carefully to your counterpart. If you are a good listener, you appear more competent. It helps to put yourself in the other person’s perspective: What does he or she need right now? Do I ask good questions? Can i listen well? Do I find the other person’s painpoint and how can I really help him or her? This is a skill that is not observed that often these days.

What can everyone start with today?

Take a piece of paper and write on it what you are good at and what you enjoy doing. In two sentences:
I’m really good at …
I would love to…
It’s about letting go of what you want to achieve in your head. When you have that with you, the moment comes when you can say it. And that is usually well received because it looks authentic.


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