A few years into my career, a good friend suggested I make a “Praise” folder in my work inbox where I could collect nice things bosses, colleagues, and clients said about me. These weren’t necessarily extravagant compliments, but a thoughtful comment above your basic “thank you” qualified. I collected items with some regularity. While I didn’t refer to the folder often, I reviewed it when I needed a boost of confidence or a reminder that I was doing good work and was respected by my peers. So when I started a new job 18 months ago, I dutifully created my new “Praise” folder. Then I waited. Over a year into my new job, the praise folder’s contents are scant — and I could use its support more than ever.
I’m in the solid middle stretch of my career. After 15 years of employment, I’m now working at a company widely recognized as a market leader, in a position people might consider enviable, yet in some important ways I have never felt more unsure of myself. At a time in my life when I assumed I’d feel settled and certain about my abilities, I have been doubting my skills and intuition like I am just out of college. My work sense of self is a stool built on expertise, praise, and culture, and right now all of its legs are wobbly. (read more…)