Developing Your Professional Confidence

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How Can I Be More Confident?

Unfortunately, this is a question I get all too often. Lack of confidence is one of the biggest inhibitors of professional development and overall success for civil engineering professionals (and many other professionals, for that matter). So, as a civil engineer, how can you build your confidence?

I have found that to build your confidence, you need to engage in activities that are uncomfortable for you, but also watch and spend time with people who are doing things that you are uncomfortable doing.

Here are some examples of confidence-building activities you might consider implementing.


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Developing Professional Confidence

  • 1.  Developing Professional Confidence

    Posted 11-16-2018 06:12 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 12-27-2018 05:17 PM
    This is a space to post your thoughts and questions about developing your professional confidence.

    Tirza Austin Aff.M.ASCE
    Collaborate Coordinator
    Reston VA
    (703)791-2794 EXT 1

  • 2.  RE: Developing Professional Confidence

    Posted 11-26-2018 08:54 AM
    Get involved with ASCE.  Attend dinner meetings and serve on the board.  I gave my first presentation on steel for SEA RI last week.  Force yourself into social situations and low risk public/group speaking activities.  That way when you really have to step up for a meeting with a client or manage you have developed the confidence to speak up.  Outside of college campus, you need to seek these opportunities on your own.

    Chad Morrison P.E., M.ASCE
    Professional Engineer
    Greenville RI

  • 3.  RE: Developing Professional Confidence

    Posted 01-16-2019 08:14 AM
    Professional confidence for me came after consulting with other experienced professionals. As the only civil engineer in an oil refinery that has been in operation for over 60 years, I am regularly tasked with providing guidance on repairing damaged foundations or retrofitting existing infrastructure for use with upgraded equipment or to meet current codes. These are topics that I never learned as an undergrad. I have had to reach outside of my own organization and develop a network of experienced professionals who have helped me gain the knowledge needed to now be confident in the decisions I am asked to make. Getting involved with ASCE has helped me establish relationships with other professionals who have acted as my mentors and been key to my career success.

    Michelle Haacke A.M.ASCE
    Project Manager
    West Bountiful UT

  • 4.  RE: Developing Professional Confidence

    Posted 01-17-2019 08:05 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 01-17-2019 08:06 AM
    ​I am also interested in establishing professional relationships in mentors in order to build my professional confidence. I am the only civil engineer working on this particular project (Point Fortin Hospital- Trinidad and Tobago)  for my Employer (VAMED Engineering GmbH) and many questions have been posed to me regarding codes and design specifications applicable to hospitals. The contract comprises of both European and American standards which has given me the opportunity to learn more about both. In particular, doing online courses has helped me a lot in becoming more knowledgeable on topics I would have otherwise been unfamiliar with. I encourage all engineers to continue studying as this field is continuously advancing via new and improved technologies.

    Leariza Jaisrie A.M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    Point Fortin

  • 5.  RE: Developing Professional Confidence

    Posted 01-23-2019 11:50 AM
    Leariza, do you have any recommendations for online course providers? I know ASCE offers some but if you know of any other sources I'd be interested to hear.

    Michelle Haacke A.M.ASCE
    Project Manager

  • 6.  RE: Developing Professional Confidence

    Posted 01-24-2019 02:20 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 01-24-2019 02:21 PM
    ​Hello Michelle, there are lots of online courses offered for us Civil people. It really depends on what you'd like to learn more about on a personal level or what will benefit you in your current/future career path. The following is a list of some providers I would recommend for good content:


    Leariza Jaisrie A.M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    Point Fortin

  • 7.  RE: Developing Professional Confidence

    Posted 02-22-2019 11:14 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 02-22-2019 11:14 AM
    How do I gain experience with an American construction firm? This is something I would be interested in doing over the summer.

    Babamu Alidu S.M.ASCE

  • 8.  RE: Developing Professional Confidence

    Posted 02-22-2019 12:46 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 02-22-2019 12:45 PM
    If you don't know something.  Ask.  Ask the construction workers what they need.  They will provide you with ideas and knowledge on how to ensure your design is feasible and safe.  Ask the project managers for the information you need to complete your design... do not guess or assume anything.   Ask senior engineers questions while completing your design.  If you submit your design completed and ready for checking without asking any questions, you are not projecting or building confidence, just the opposite.  Fake it until you make it does not apply when you are ensuring someone's safety.

    No one expects you to have all the answers as a new engineer.  They expect you to be eager to find the answers and have the documentation to support it.  If someone is pressing you, simply reply, "I need to check with the senior engineer."  Or "good question, I will get back to you."  You had better follow up if you use these responses.  "I don't know" is not an acceptable answer. You are the design authority, you are expected to know.  However, no engineer knows everything.  Be resourceful and creative, respect from peers and confidence will follow.

    Chad Morrison
    Greenville RI
    (401)231-4870 EXT 2207

  • 9.  RE: Developing Professional Confidence

    Posted 03-25-2019 05:05 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 03-25-2019 05:05 PM
    Is developing professional confidence the same as gaining professional experience? I think this depends on the root cause of why we feel we are lacking in professional confidence.  Even among my college classmates, there were some engineers that seemed to have <g class="gr_ gr_1654 gr-alert gr_gramm gr_inline_cards gr_run_anim Grammar only-ins replaceWithoutSep" id="1654" data-gr-id="1654">innate</g> confidence in themselves and others did not. It didn't matter that the subject matter was brand new to everyone in the class.

    Getting experience doesn't necessarily address the root cause of the lack of confidence. It's fairly well-documented that those who do not match the "stereotypical engineer profile" (women, minorities) feel less confident than their peers at work, even when there is all logical evidence to the contrary.  This is especially prevalent in situations where there are very few people with a similar background/gender to you in leadership where you are working.

    My take on confidence is that it is really a mindset. It's an innate belief in yourself that, even if you don't know an answer, you have the resources (support, mentors, managers, peers, etc.) to figure it out. And, if you agree with that definition, the only way to gain more confidence is to: 1) Connect with those resources and 2) Try more things that stretch us just a little beyond what we are comfortable with.

    The critical foundation for confidence <g class="gr_ gr_6692 gr-alert gr_spell gr_inline_cards gr_run_anim ContextualSpelling ins-del" id="6692" data-gr-id="6692">is</g> the support component. Extra experience isn't going to help you substantially if, deep down, you don't believe in yourself (and who is realistically going to admit that at work?). Extra experience isn't going to help you if you only have access to unsupportive or neutral people resources. If this is you - as it has been for me at various points in my career so far - creating your own support network that provides positive encouragement while pushing you to grow is the first step gaining confidence.  It's been my experience that two of the fastest ways to do that are to either find a new job or volunteer with engineering <g class="gr_ gr_9254 gr-alert gr_spell gr_inline_cards gr_run_anim ContextualSpelling" id="9254" data-gr-id="9254">orgs</g> like ASCE.

    If you found this response helpful, I also invite you to visit my blog on this topic here:  How to Build Confidence at Work

    Stephanie Slocum P.E.
    Engineers Rising LLC

  • 10.  RE: Developing Professional Confidence

    Posted 04-03-2019 10:33 AM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 04-03-2019 10:33 AM
    I think my professional confidence comes from having a basis (literature, research or textbook based) of my design, work, report or conversation. I usually refrain from getting involved in the topics which are unfamiliar. This allows me to hear and remember the aspects of a conversation/meeting and go back to my desk and read about it or ask my mentors and peers about the topics. I think confidence could be developed by reading more which includes technical as well as non technical writing and developing a sense of judgement about things.

    Aditya Deshmukh EIT,A.M.ASCE
    Staff Geotechnical Professional

  • 11.  RE: Developing Professional Confidence

    Posted 04-14-2020 08:10 PM
    Good day Engineers!

    Hope we all doing well in this platform, I would like to have a clear explanation on how to develop your professional confidence?

    Kind Regards,

    Danniel Mpoyi

    Danniel Mpoyi S.M.ASCE

  • 12.  RE: Developing Professional Confidence

    Posted 04-15-2020 07:50 AM
    Aloha Danniel,
    Not sure if you will ever get a clear answer. For me, like many, it's a journey as you gain experience. I was very apprehensive when I first got my PE and started stamping plans/reports. What helped me the most is support and confidence in me by my supervisor and upper management more that my own belief in myself. When I saw others value my input, that gave me the biggest boost because I respected their work and experience.
    Hope this helps!

    Kristen Yoshida P.E.,M.ASCE
    Belt Collins Hawaii LLC
    Honolulu, HI

  • 13.  RE: Developing Professional Confidence

    Posted 04-15-2020 02:46 PM
    Edited by Tirza Austin 04-15-2020 02:46 PM
    Thank you very much, I really appreciate with your feedback. May God bless you