I’m frequently asked how an intern or young careerist can make the most of every possible opportunity. The answer is amazingly simple: “Impress the crap out of your boss!”

HOW that is done is the real issue, of course – because the answer varies so much from person to person. However, there is one common factor among those who excel: demonstration of confidence vs. distribution of ego.

With genuine confidence, interns can impress with their personality and through sincere hustle. Others achieve this through work ethic and being coachable. Still more rise above the rest through initiative, by solving problems and contributing without being asked. They are willing to contribute unabashedly with everything they have, and in doing so, will readily learn from successes and mistakes.

In the best, confidence allows them to combine all of the above. Usually identified with an ‘S’ on their chest, I will go out of my way to make sure I acknowledge their potential, support their super powers – and become a champion of their career.

What holds back those who never rise to this level, however, seems to come down to one issue: ego.

With tons of passion and/or enthusiasm on display, ego and confidence can initially be confused. The difference is that ego keeps us from asking what we think may be a stupid question, or bouncing back from a mistake. Ego holds us back by creating insecurity… generating a fear of ridicule, perhaps, or of appearing weak; arrogance is often the over-compensation. The ego doesn’t want to be told it did something wrong. Without a doubt, it is inflated ego that keeps us from being curious and coachable.

And for all of us, here’s the lesson best learned quickly: discovering the difference between ego and confidence will have a significant impact on your career.

You, at some point, are going to be insecure. Undoubtedly, you are going to be wrong. Mistakes and you may become good friends. You WILL be judged. The person confident in their ability can leverage those less-than-comfortable moments – and be all the better for the experience.

Think about this for a moment: Who do you respect most? Who do you want serving as your mentor? Who do you trust most in a team effort? Who makes the better leader? Who seems to enjoy the most success?

The confident? Or the ego?

Confidence comes from your core. Ego comes from your fear.

Choose to be confident.

image courtesy of ESPNHS

Mark BabbittAbout the Author: A passionate supporter of Gen Y talent, CEO and Founder of YouTern Mark Babbitt is a serial entrepreneur and mentor. Mark has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Mashable, Forbes and Under30CEO regarding internships, higher education’s role in preparing emerging talent for the workforce and career development. Recently, Mark was honored to be named to GenJuice’s list of “Top 100 Most Desirable Mentors”. You can contact Mark via email or on Twitter.