After reading my blog on self care, a friend emailed a cryptic comment to me. “I don’t get the self efficacy thing,” he wrote. “What is it?” So glad you asked, dear! Self efficacy is one of my favorite concepts in the world of work (and play) and it’s one that’s extremely useful for developing your career — or even coaxing yourself through a professional rough spot.
Theoretical articles on the nature and nurture of self efficacy abound, but the simplest way of defining it is a sense of can-do-ism. That is, self efficacy is the perception that you’re able to accomplish certain tasks. As such, self efficacy is different than self esteem, which refers to one’s general sense of self worth.
For instance, in my work, I have strong feelings of self efficacy in regard to writing, editing, managing large projects, meeting deadlines, working on teams, and staying cool while everyone else is falling apart. I don’t have strong self efficacy about performing appendectomies, setting up database servers, or building brick walls. My lack of ability for these latter tasks doesn’t affect my self esteem — I know I can’t do them and it’s just fine with me.
What gets tricky about self efficacy is that it’s all about perception. Some workers overestimate their capabilities; others underestimate their capabilities. Both perceptions can get in the way of work performance and advancement. (I.e., if you overestimate your abilities you may take on projects far beyond your professional capacity and if you underestimate your abilities you may never advance as far in your career as you should.)
Next installment: How to measure your levels of self efficacy — and do a reality check.