Confidence help

Hey WSO, I feel like my confidence will hold me back in the financial world. When I talk to important people, I stumble with my words and have awkward good byes where I don't know what to say and end up just repeating what they say. I am not an introverted people and I like being with others. A lot of my friends are alpha males, but I am just very beta and can be a little shy and horrible at starting conversations and stuff. Interviews terrify me and I get extremely nervous and stumble EVERYTHING. I am going to do a lot of mock interviews this school year to help at interviews.

Even with my peers my age I put everyone on a pedestal in my mind thinking that they are better then me and it is hard for me to picture myself as equals... unless it is academics. I am not even close to being depressed and I am a very happy person but I just have zero confidence in myself.

Anyone else here use to be like me but was able to gain confidence or have any tips?

Self Confidence At Work

A lack of self confidence can hold you back professionally. Speaking with confidence and interacting with ease in social situations makes you a more well rounded candidate and person. So let's look at some practical steps you can take.

Consider joining university club that involves socialization and puts you out of your comfort zone. If you have time, join a toastmasters club to perfect your your public speaking.

Take more initiative in conversations. Try leading a conversation more often and learn to socialize effectively. Alternatively you can fake it until you make. This is a good way of learning how to project confidence. You'll learn from trial and error.

from certified user @ArcherVice"

There is a reason companies want well rounded people, it isn't just to check the box "oh wow look at him as treasurer of X club." Just an indicator of drive, humanizes your resume and shows you aren't just a pile of stats.

Recommended Reading

WSO Elite Modeling Package

  • 6 courses to mastery: Excel, Financial Statement, LBO, M&A, Valuation and DCF
  • Elite instructors from top BB investment banks and private equity megafunds
  • Includes Company DB + Video Library Access (1 year)

Comments (48)

Best Response
Jul 25, 2014 - 8:07pm
ArcherVice, what's your opinion? Comment below:

NEVER use the terms alpha or beta again... Unless you are talking about generating alpha, which is completely different.

Start socializing a lot more, that should be your number 2 priority after keeping your grades up. Practicing for interviews helps, but you need social skills. You can't read a bunch of tests or regurgitate conversation lines, you learn by doing. If your friends are "alphas", emulate them, though for some reason I highly doubt they are.

There is a reason companies want well rounded people, it isn't just to check the box "oh wow look at him as treasurer of X club." Just an indicator of drive, humanizes your resume and shows you aren't just a pile of stats. Try this, find some extracurricular activities that push your comfort zone socially that also sound appealing. As in if you like dungeons and dragons, ignore the dungeons and dragons cape club and go with something else... something normal. Though despite what I've said, I'd still try and get club leadership on there.

An exercise would be to ask yourself what would your remodel do, or in certain circumstances try to emulate how they would react. When I first went off into the Navy, I found a really good resume template that I wanted to use, I knew my goals, where I wanted to live and the type of work I wanted to do. So I filled out my future resume, nothing grandiose like many undergrads on this site, but a good path to my lofty goal. I'm not sure how much it helped, but it set me at ease about the course I was on.

  • 5
Jul 25, 2014 - 8:22pm
Blackhawks4, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I am in our schools SGA, student life center worker (had 100s of applications and I landed it), and other various things. And no I am not a D&D "nerd", most of my friends are athletes, and I do get a lot of social interaction. I have a great peer group who excels in class yet knows how to have fun. I am not an introvert at all, I just don't know how to be confident and end up third wheeling all the time.

Jul 25, 2014 - 8:37pm
ArcherVice, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I'm gonna take a wild shot in the dark that by social interaction, you mean you are present while others socialize.

Speak more if you are having trouble carrying or starting conversations. If you feel physically weak or overlooked because you're standing next to your athlete friends, go to the gym and start working out. Confidence is so much more about embracing failure or shortcomings and overcoming it, than it is about starting off exceptional.

One man's opinion. If you don't want to be confident, you won't be. BTW if they are your friends, you should be asking them for help. At least your closer friends.

  • 1
Jul 25, 2014 - 9:54pm
Mr. Hansen, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I don't know much about SGA (student gov?), but from my limited outside perspective they don't do much and won't give you the social interaction that other interactive student organizations provide (ie sports and professional business orgs). And student life center worker? Is that like work study? I think being involved in a competitive sport gives you a strong bond with the guys on your team, but also an awesome experience. Most students just do it for fun and aren't too insanely serious about it, so it can be relaxing.

Best thing is to know your shit and know yourself. Do some self-reflection and maybe even write it down. Senior year, we had to do a reflective analysis of our time in school, which included why we made certain decisions (choice of school, major, internships), accomplishments and our future goals. I thought it was stupid at first, but realized it made me more self-aware and definitely helped me articulate my background during interviews.

  • 2
Jul 25, 2014 - 10:36pm
Distressed Industrial Buyer, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Toastmasters and stick with it until CTM which can be pretty quick. It will absolutely double your public speaking skills and confidence. Probably triple.

Global buyer of highly distressed industrial companies. Pays Finder Fees Criteria = $50 - $500M revenues. Highly distressed industrial. Limited Reps and Warranties. Can close in 1-2 weeks.
Learn More

300+ video lessons across 6 modeling courses taught by elite practitioners at the top investment banks and private equity funds -- Excel Modeling -- Financial Statement Modeling -- M&A Modeling -- LBO Modeling -- DCF and Valuation Modeling -- ALL INCLUDED + 2 Huge Bonuses.

Learn more
Jul 28, 2014 - 9:32am
Licked, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Toastmasters and stick with it until CTM which can be pretty quick. It will absolutely double your public speaking skills and confidence. Probably triple.

This is good advice. I"m not apart of Toastmasters but I have an obligation that I end up speaking in front of ~120 each week for the last year or so and my public speaking skills have gone though the roof. I don't get nervous speaking in front of 120 people at all anymore and Its really helped develop my network along with with my public speaking skills. Will it help me get a banking job? I don't know but I'm more confident talking to strangers then almost anyone you've ever met.

  • 1
Jul 28, 2014 - 4:47am
GMG, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Echoing what ArcherVice has said, I'd add that sometimes you need to put yourself out of your comfort zone in these situations - even something as simple as offering an alternative opinion about something (sport as a common example) when some alpha (definitely stop using that word) individual inevitably tries to impart their all-knowing sports knowledge on a group. As long as you can back up your opinion people will respect that.

  • 1
Jul 28, 2014 - 9:12am
brokencircle13, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I get extremely nervous before, during, and even after interviews. What I did was I literally grabbed every interview I had, to the point where I could say my first round interviews in my sleep (and because I was the west coast interviewing for an east coast job, I would wake up 5 minutes before my phone interview). At a certain point, it becomes rote memorization, and you can concentrate on the new questions being asked.

And to echo what everyone had said already, make it a conversation. Make it seem like you're interviewing your interviewer. He/She might be asking the questions, but you get to ask questions too towards the end. If you can end up talking about someone not related to the job but a similar interest for 5 minutes, all the better.

I still get nervous before interviews, and if I don't interview for a while, I become really bad at it. I ramble, etc. But treat it like a muscle, work at it, and you'll be able to pull it off.

--Death, lighter than a feather; duty, heavier than a mountain
  • 3
Jul 28, 2014 - 9:19am
LeverageMill, what's your opinion? Comment below:

you need to be content with who you are as a person, know that you are already great and getting even better everyday. Stop thinking of each social interaction as something important. Do it and improve upon it. Your still in college so its alright.

Jul 28, 2014 - 10:10am
Addinator, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Dear god, please never again use terms that are found in a pickup artists handbook.

That said, I'm guessing when you talk to a 'superior' you think they already know the answers and are just challenging you. Or you think that everyone else knows what is going on and you are just playing catch up? I'll let you in on a secret: Everyone else is just trying to figure it out like you are. It's important to realize that people, in general, are always overcompensating for something. Everyone is insecure about something, it's more a question of how they mask it over. Your 'alpha' males project confidence but probably struggle with the same issues you have. Yeah, sure, some people may truly be 100% confident with who they are... those are the exceptions that prove the rule.

A few ideas: Talk to everyone you can. Literally, just talk to people. If you have issues starting conversations, force yourself to introduce yourself to people and ask one very general question like how's your day going. It's normally that simple. If they ignore you or are obnoxious, go about your day. Who cares? If you are happy with yourself, you are ahead of the curve IMO. Since you are confident in academics, parlay that into your social life. Try stuff out, talk to random people, make awful observational jokes that are so corny people laugh.. etc. Most importantly, even if you don't feel it, project being self assured. I don't mean be cocky, just bear in mind you are happy with yourself and off you go.

I'll leave you with one more thought. Always remember that generally, when you are with people, they are putting their absolute best foot forward. Every vacation was perfect, meal was the best they ever had and their stories are always the funniest. I don't mean that they are outright liars, it's just that no one gets as excited about the generally decent pasta dish at a local Italian eatery as they do about the once in a generation butterflied prawn with white truffle sauce at the four seasons in Vegas... or whatever. Most people get up, go to work, deal with the same random crap that everyone else does and then goes home to eat and go to sleep. They might even throw in a workout. But generally, that is much of their week. Those 'alpha' males aren't any different than you are.

Jul 28, 2014 - 12:20pm
6xLeverage, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Exactly what he said.

You have to realize that you are not inferior to anyone due to the sole reason you are both human. No matter who you are talking to, I guarantee they deal with the same amount of shit, if not more, than you. Confidence is all about being happy with yourself and being content with who you are as a person. The biggest thing I've learned is that a big aspect of confidence is never comparing yourself to anyone else. There will always be someone more successful than you and you need to accept that.

This forum can especially be detrimental to confidence because, for myself personally, I see people who may be more intelligent than myself or have a stronger education, and its intimidating as fuck sometimes. But you need to realize that everyone struggles, but at the end of the day if you are able to accept yourself for who you are and be happy with that, then confidence is a possibility.

And always remember success is relative.

"My name's Ralph Cox, and I'm from where ever's not gonna get me hit"

  • 4
Jul 28, 2014 - 3:10pm
Small Fry, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Op, you keep saying you are not introverted. Are you sure about that? Being shy and a lack of confidence is a sign. And denials are usually _______ (fill in the blank).

Maybe you need to accept that instead of trying to fight it? Look up the Ted video on introverts.

It seems that the world hates introverts but that seems to be changing (or my perspectives have changed). Introverts are hard to understand as we tend to keep to ourselves, but that does not mean there is anything wrong with that.

Final advice--Think of you and the other person you talk to as equals. Do not SUPPLICATE--a word I learned from Oren Klaff.

  • 1
Jul 28, 2014 - 3:55pm
Dr. Shakalu, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I've heard some good things about Toastmasters. I used to have the same problem with public speaking, but it has become much more manageable over the past few years. Unfortunately, the best advice I can offer you is to put yourself in uncomfortable situations more frequently so that you can get used to it and realize it really isn't a big deal. In addition to that, the "fake it 'til you make it" style tends to work. Even if you have a ton of anxiety, just take a breath and spit it out. Act like you have the biggest D in the room and things tend to work themselves out.

Jul 28, 2014 - 3:59pm
Prof. Hathaway, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Force yourself to strike up conversations with strangers. In line at the bank, the grocery, the post office etc. Men & women. Toastmasters.

Always think: "This person is just another person, like me. They're nothing special. In fact, they're lucky to be talking to me. I'm smart, confident, interesting, and this person is so lucky to be around me. This is my world & I will not hesitate or let this person think for even one second they've ever got the upper hand, they never will. I'm in total control." Do it with women too-- never put anyone up on a pedestal-- they're not special.

"Where is Knight?"
  • 1
Jul 28, 2014 - 4:59pm
PaulGeorge_24, what's your opinion? Comment below:

For me, I realized that for an interview, it just came down to knowing yourself really well (I mean other than technicals, it is about you... spend time remembering everything you have done (not memorizing) until this point and think back as to why you did this or that)

Jul 28, 2014 - 10:43pm
Blackhawks4, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thank-you for the responses guys. Going to look into the toastmasters program thing. It is very easy to tell people on the internet to just "fake it" or put yourself out there but it is much harder said then done. First, I think I need to find out something special about me, I am really confident in academics and have plenty of people at my school come to me and I do my best to help others. I am going to work out once I go back to school as my roommates are gym pros and can help me out as I am a little weak.

The only thing I can feel comfortable talking about is classes and career outlooks, but I obviously keep that to myself unless brought up. I just feel like a pretty boring person.

Aug 1, 2014 - 3:16pm
IlliniProgrammer, what's your opinion? Comment below:

There's nothing wrong with having some humility. Humility is not insecurity.

I'll just say that you become more confident and better in interviews through practice and success. In undergrad, I was horrible at interviews. (introverted CS major who played D&D) Today, I can usually convert a first round interview into a job through the full interview cycle. I find that it's helpful to genuinely know your strengths and weaknesses and then focus on how your strengths can help the person sitting across the table from you.

Some level of confidence is necessary in an interview, and some level of technical competence is required in most interviews I've been in (HFT dev, QR, S&T type stuff), but in the banter around all of that, you focus on how you might have something that other candidates don't have that can make the interviewer's life easier.

Unfortunately some of this requires some experience. If you've never worked in finance, it's harder to tell a trader or a banker how you bring something to the table that makes his life easier or helps the team make more money. But the more interviews you go through, the more opportunities you have to see what makes peoples' eyes light up. And once you've interviewed with an SVP from GS, the Associate from ______ is a little less scary. You go in with a newer, higher level of confidence, you interview better, and you get the job this time.

There's certainly a comfort level that you are beginning to find. Just do your best to keep at it, push your boundaries, and remember that this is a learning experience.

Aug 1, 2014 - 4:00pm
Blackhawks4, what's your opinion? Comment below:

What sucks is I go to a complete non-target school and until last trimester was pre-medicine. I have a 3.8GPA and a 4.0 in my accounting/econ classes (haven't taken a finance one yet). I feel like I won't even get an interview as my only finance experience is shadowing at the CBOT as I had to take summer school so I can graduate on time. I am really involved in school activities luckily.

I feel like even if I can just get a decent MM or BB interview my confidence would go through the roof as I feel like I wont get looked at. I am leaning on Market Risk at a BB bank now as it is slightly easier to break in and I think the work seems very stimulating with opportunities. I feel if I can succeed in getting a nice internship I will finally gain the confidence I need as I will see first hand how a firm values my skills. Even if I get interviews and don't land a high profile internship, I will still feel somewhat happy.

Aug 1, 2014 - 4:01pm
spartahill, what's your opinion? Comment below:

How to regain confidence in interviews? (Originally Posted: 01/05/2011)

From a objective standpoint, I do not have a bad resume even though I go to a non-target. I went through full time recruiting but didn't get far enough in the process. I can still manage to get interviews occasionally through networking in related industries

But I have been rejected so many times that I am losing my confidence. I am struggling telling people my story and past experiences. I am usually pretty good under pressure but apparently not anymore.

Any tips/advice on how I can be more confident...

Aug 1, 2014 - 4:04pm
maximus307, what's your opinion? Comment below:

i agree with downtown, and i think midas mentioned this a month ago in one of his posts. if you walk into the interview feeling like this is the most important thing in the world and that you absolutely NEED this job, you have already lost. realize that its not the end of the world if you dont get this position. you know you are driven, intelligent, and valuable. put the "fear of loss" on your interviewers, not on yourself. you should feel comfortable walking away from this opportunity, because it is something you WANT, not something you NEED.

Aug 1, 2014 - 4:05pm
ivoteforthatguy, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Find some people you know in these jobs -- and give them an honest and complete rundown of everything that happened in these interviews to figure out where you are getting dinged. And look hard at yourself to see if you have any neuroses or personality tics. The industry is full of sociopaths but you at least have to fake normalcy and likeability for a few hours.

Aug 1, 2014 - 4:06pm
Brady4MVP, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Money, pedigree, and social confidence (Originally Posted: 05/26/2010)

Lately I've been struggling with social confidence, especially around chicks. I'm in really good shape and have a decent job, but i feel pretty mediocre compared to finance rockstars who are making like $500K+. I feel like not making a lot of money and not having gone to a truly elite school like HBS is seriously undermining my confidence.

Advice and thoughts on how to break this negative cycle would be greatly appreciated.

Aug 1, 2014 - 4:07pm
flyer456654, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Bang some chick that just wants to bang...usually a gerat confidence builder to me. Ugly chicks need loving too! haha

But seriously, The easiest way to get over this confidence issue would definately be to just realize that the girls there finance rockstars are going after are probably gold diggers. If they worry only about the size of your wallet their good for a ride and thats about it. My best advice is to steer clear away from questions of social status or wealth and concentrate on learning about the chick your hitting on. Most chicks want to be noticed for more than their looks and will more than willingly pay you back for actually taking an interest in them rather than toating your HBS degree or your high bankroll. Now if you really just want a good ride, make some shit up! I just remember becoming a dental surgeon one night just to bang this hot chick. I was just talking outta my ass.

Aug 1, 2014 - 4:09pm
junkbondswap, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I am getting worse at determining whether OPs are full of shit and just being idiots or if new members are becoming increasingly more pathetic. If you correlate your income to your own personal value or perception of self-worth you have a lot of serious issues that an anonymous message board cant help you with. Im sorry mommy didnt hug you enough and your dad never showed up to baseball games.

Grow a sack.

Aug 1, 2014 - 4:10pm
ShreddiesBrah, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Apologies for the generalisation, but having been here a while, I've noticed a disproportionate amount of you American users lack the ability to detect sarcasm/satire

Aug 1, 2014 - 4:13pm
thatruth34pp, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Lacking confidence in in-person interviews? (Originally Posted: 08/01/2014)

I have been having trouble with one thing. When I'm on the phone, everything I want to say comes out just fine and I speak dynamically and everything. As a whole, I think I'm a great phone interviewer.

The problem however lies in my in-person/in-office interviews. I tend to come off a bid timid and my voice seems all stifled. I can barely speak loudly. I also tend to race to answering a question and get really in my head. So far this has occurred in 3 in-office interviews.

I have two more in office interviews next week and I was looking for some advice on how to keep my cool and just be myself. Overall I'm a pretty confident guy and can talk to new people all the time. I just feel in the interview I tend to be a bit withdrawn.

Any help and advice would be appreciated

Aug 1, 2014 - 4:14pm
BigE, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Try and take a pause before you answer a question -- don't just jump right into it. You'll have more time to think of the answer and you'll remember to speak more slowly.

Aug 1, 2014 - 4:15pm
chicandtoughness, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I used to have a similar problem - though instead of being too soft-spoken (volume-wise), I end up being too reckless, not having enough confidence in my answers, and sounding like I have no idea what I'm doing. (Got 7 superdays and no offers because of it). Get some of your professors, industry friends, career counselors, and older friends to practice with you. Usually I'm fine when my peers/classmates interview me but I clam up when someone in a position of power interviews me (get easily intimidated). Practice practice practice!

Currently: future neurologist, current psychotherapist Previously: investor relations (top consulting firm), M&A consulting (Big 4), M&A banking (MM)
  • 1
Aug 1, 2014 - 4:16pm
Animal Spirits, what's your opinion? Comment below:

It probably stems from a fear of public speaking. I used to be the same, joined my school's public speaking organization to conquer that. The more experience you have speaking publicly about finance, the better you wil become. Eventually you will be surprised by how good you are.

"Money doesn't talk, it swears." -Bob Dylan
Aug 1, 2014 - 4:20pm
Dingdong08, what's your opinion? Comment below:

The above are all good recs-public speaking (try Toastmasters) and mock interviews with people who are not necessarily your peers (prof's and other older folks) but it may be difficult (impossible for Toastmasters) to do that for next week but see if you can at least try mock interviews before then. When I was in college I used to apply for jobs that I knew I'd get interviews for but had no real interest in doing just to practice. Probably somewhat shitty to waste people's time but it made for real life practice: walking into office buildings, waiting in real lobbies/reception areas, talking to people who were actually interviewing real people for positions, etc.

Like someone else stated, take a second before you answer, take a breath to think about what you're going to say and then reply instead of letting mouth diarrhea take over and have shit start spilling out. And remember, the guy/woman on the other side of the table is just another person who shits and has to wipe their own ass just like everyone else. Don't be cocky but don't get intimidated.

It's definitely too late for this one, but I waited tables and tended bar in high school and college. I think it helps because it forces you to talk to complete strangers. Especially bartending at more of a restaurant where people come in, sit down, it's not an overly loud environment so you'll probably start talking to them, maybe they eat a whole meal and are regulars. It gets you as an 18-22 year old to talk to people who are twice your age with ease.

Aug 1, 2014 - 4:21pm
bsquared, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I feel underdeveloped (Originally Posted: 08/02/2013)

Someone got the same feeling? I really feel underdeveloped, both in terms of knowledge as well as interpersonal skills. However, I managed to get quiet easily an internship within the big 4, starting after the summer. My GPA is really pathetic (2.5ish), and my basic finance knowledge is so little, but still I managed to convince both the recruiters as well as the managing partner within the big 4 firm. What can I do to become more confident, also what's the best way to get rid of that feeling? How to become better interpersonally skilled?

I think it sounds silly to ask this here on the forum, but I truly believe some of you high potentials can come up with inspiring answers. I never was motivated to make a career, because I didn't realize what the possibilities are. But things have changed like 2 years ago, but I feel like I'm lacking so far behind.

Hope to receive some serious tips and useful advice :-) Cheers

Aug 1, 2014 - 4:22pm
TheBig, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Investing in a push up bra can help with your confidence if you're feeling underdeveloped.

Aug 1, 2014 - 4:24pm
UFOinsider, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Just get out more. Study, network, do you thing....and then go do something you like. That's all you have to do, and then get a good night sleep.

You're only a couple years in, so you have plenty of time to make adjustments.

Get busy living
  • 1
Aug 1, 2014 - 4:25pm
CRE, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Ut et possimus assumenda consequatur autem. Sunt eius voluptatem vitae qui velit laborum provident. Id accusamus inventore eius. Doloremque repellendus vel voluptatum quia perspiciatis repudiandae. Est architecto et enim.

Commercial Real Estate Developer

Aug 1, 2014 - 4:27pm
bsquared, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Minus molestias qui voluptas molestias rem et accusamus. Ut rerum aut nobis repellendus facere. Sed aut rerum asperiores id tempora.

Tempore doloribus excepturi in a est dolor. Enim molestiae neque nobis ea consequatur tenetur quo.

Ea est odio quia. Dolore sint non commodi aut nihil voluptas. Accusamus perspiciatis cupiditate eos iusto sit.

Start Discussion

Career Advancement Opportunities

July 2022 Investment Banking

  • Jefferies & Company (▲03) 99.6%
  • Lincoln International (= =) 99.2%
  • RBC Capital Markets (▲07) 98.8%
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch (▲01) 98.4%
  • Houlihan Lokey (▲06) 98.0%

Overall Employee Satisfaction

July 2022 Investment Banking

  • Lincoln International (▲06) 99.6%
  • Jefferies & Company (▲11) 99.2%
  • Greenhill (▲07) 98.8%
  • Rothschild (▲01) 98.4%
  • Evercore (▽01) 98.0%

Professional Growth Opportunities

July 2022 Investment Banking

  • Jefferies & Company (▲04) 99.6%
  • Lincoln International (▲04) 99.2%
  • RBC Capital Markets (▲09) 98.8%
  • Houlihan Lokey (▲07) 98.4%
  • Bank of America Merrill Lynch (▲04) 98.0%

Total Avg Compensation

July 2022 Investment Banking

  • Director/MD (9) $661
  • Vice President (37) $394
  • Associates (191) $246
  • 2nd Year Analyst (117) $162
  • 3rd+ Year Analyst (17) $156
  • 1st Year Analyst (369) $150
  • Intern/Summer Associate (78) $147
  • Intern/Summer Analyst (292) $92