1.2 What is self-efficacy?
Self-efficacy, a concept developed by the psychologist Albert Bandura (1995), is closely related but more specific. It refers to an individual’s belief in their ability to complete tasks and to achieve their goals. Another name for it would be self-belief.
Self-efficacy describes our judgement about our ability in specific tasks or activities; self-esteem reflects our feelings about ourselves more generally. Your degree of self-efficacy has an impact on:
- the way you choose tasks, goals and actions – how high you aim and whether you risk taking on tasks that are a bit of a stretch
- how you are motivated – how much time and effort you make to achieve or complete a task
- how you think about challenges, obstacles and lack of achievement. For example, someone with high self-efficacy may view an unsuccessful job interview as due to too little preparation beforehand, whereas a person with lower self-belief is more likely to conclude that they are not good enough for this job, or any other job like that.
Self-efficacy makes a big difference in times of transition. It can affect whether you apply for a job that you feel might be a bit of a stretch.
So, what can you do to boost your beliefs about yourself?
Activity 1 Boosting self-belief
Think about someone you know who has high self-efficacy beliefs in an area where you feel less confident.
- What do they do?
- How do they behave differently from you?
- How might they behave if something doesn’t work first time?
- What do you think they say to themselves or how do they think differently?
If you are struggling to think of someone you know, you could choose someone in the public eye, such as a politician or reality TV star.
Write down your thoughts.
If possible, have a conversation with someone with high self-efficacy beliefs in any field. In Activity 1 of Week 1, you looked at what resilient people say to themselves, e.g. ‘Get back in the saddle’. What self-talk does this person have when they are aiming high, or doing something they are uncertain will come off? Are there possible lessons there for you?
Bear in mind too that self-efficacy is linked to tasks, so you might have high self-efficacy beliefs around chairing a meeting, and lower ones around changing a wheel on a car, or vice versa.
Frank (2011) makes the following suggestions for improving your self-efficacy:
- Develop skill set – identify your areas of deficit and determine what you need to do to improve.
- Modelling – observe others who are successful and aim to model their behaviours.
- Focus on specifics – general feedback is less useful.
- Reinforcement – focus on what you do well and reinforce it by giving yourself specific praise.
Having a strong sense of self-efficacy allows us to stay motivated when setbacks occur. This is another aspect of career resilience that you’ll explore in more detail in the next section.