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Consultants! Here’s How to Get Over “The Imposter Syndrome”

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Published:
December 16, 2021
Reading Time:
11 minutes
Leo
Experienced copywriter who spends a lot of money at restaurants and regrets it later.

Do you ever feel like you don’t deserve the job position you’re in?

Or maybe you feel like your salary is too high for your skills and you’re ripping off your employer?

And sometimes, you may even feel like you’re not qualified enough to give recommendations to CEOs who are twice your age!

Enter imposter syndrome!

According to Psychology Today, imposter syndrome is a psychological term referring to a pattern of behavior where people doubt their accomplishments. They have a persistent, often internalized fear of being exposed as a fraudster.

But what is imposter syndrome in a consulting context?

Basically, when a consultant faces the imposter syndrome, they feel like their problem solving and creative thinking is worthless. They feel that someday, a client or a senior may call them out.

This behavior may be very prevalent at the start of the consulting career when a consultant has not achieved much. If you’re in such a situation, you may feel like you’re getting overpaid and not solving any problems at all.

In this article, you’ll learn some valuable tips on overcoming the imposter syndrome and knowing your true worth.

But here’s a little disclaimer: This article is for educational purposes only. It should not be taken as medical advice. If you’re facing mental challenges, you should always visit a licensed professional and let them diagnose the issue.

How the Imposter Syndrome Begins in a Consultant’s Mind

Before we discuss the ways of overcoming the imposter syndrome, it’s essential to understand the root of the problem. The imposter syndrome is a complex subject and may be related to deeper psychological problems. But here are some possible reasons why new consultants face this phenomenon.

1. A high salary, all of a sudden

Imagine this: You’ve been living in a shared apartment throughout your student life to save money. You have worked part-time and casual jobs to make ends meet. Then you graduated, worked hard to pass through the interview process, and now you’re in a big consulting firm with a salary of $80,000. New money may be the biggest cause of the imposter syndrome. Sure, the management consulting career path does offer a lucrative salary, but initially, all this money may be too much for you to process and you may start feeling like you don’t deserve it.

2. Working with insanely smart people

The thing about consulting is, it attracts only the smartest of the smartest. Firstly, you will meet people who know more consulting frameworks than you, who have worked on more projects than you, and who are closer to clients and senior partners than you. Even though you may reach that level if you stay on the management consulting career path for long enough, the imposter syndrome can hold you back initially.

3. Past experiences

Your childhood incidents do shape you as an adult. According to American psychologist Dr. Nicole LePera, “not being heard” as a child is linked to psychological problems as an adult. Your job as a consultant is to offer recommendations. But if the people who were close to you never cared about your opinions, then how would you feel giving advice to a Fortune 500 CEO? You guessed it right —you’d feel like an imposter.

4. Perfectionism

Perfectionists don’t feel satisfied until everything appears exactly the way they want it to be. They set lofty goals, and when they miss them, they feel like they don’t deserve their rank. This leads to more self-doubt and the feeling of being a ‘fraud’.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • The imposter syndrome refers to the psychological phenomenon in which individuals doubt their worth and falsely think they’re a fraudster
  • New consultants may face the imposter syndrome when they start earning a high salary straight after school and have the feeling they don’t deserve that much money
  • Past experiences and the need to be perfect may also be the reason behind this phenomenon, and feeling insecure because of being around highly successful consultants in the company may also make a consultant doubt their own worth
  • You can get rid of the imposter syndrome using some easy remedies, like changing your thought patterns, positive self-affirmations, and letting go of limiting beliefs
  • If the imposter syndrome is holding you back and the home remedies are not working, it’s okay to seek professional help and let them find out the deeper inner-lying reason behind the problem

How to Overcome the Imposter Syndrome as a Consultant

Now that you know some of the potential reasons why you may be facing imposter syndrome, let’s discuss some tips for overcoming it and having a successful consulting career where you feel confident about your abilities.

Tip #1: Be okay with a high salary

The first piece of advice for overcoming the imposter syndrome as a consultant is to truly accept the fact that your hefty paycheck is justified. As a consultant, you’re responsible for solving problems, and those solutions can help clients save hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars down the line. So, rest assured, you’re earning what you deserve.

Tip #2: Be patient

It’s understandable that as a young graduate in a big consulting firm, you’re hungry and ambitious and can’t wait to show your talent. But when things don’t go your way immediately, you may start feeling like you’re in the wrong place. No, you’re not! It takes time to build relations and understand the consulting job duties initially. So, be patient. It will all work out in the end.

Tip #3: Chant this self-affirmation statement - “I am a highly competent consultant who’s destined for great success in the consulting industry”

It’s necessary to keep reminding yourself how intelligent and charismatic you are. These affirmations help you during the rainy days when you start feeling like consulting is not for you and that you’re an imposter among real consultants.

The Imposter Syndrome, Consultants! Here’s How to Get Over “The Imposter Syndrome”

Tip #4: Focus on putting your best foot forward, not perfection

Delivering is more important than working on the same task until it’s perfect. And by the way, the term ‘perfect’ is subjective. What’s imperfect to you may seem perfect to the client. So, give your best and the rest should take care of itself.

Tip #5: Remember, it’s not an easy job to be a consultant

Einstein and Newton must have thought that Physics is the easiest thing in the world. Well, it was…to them. For normal people, their lengthy calculations and complex theories may start causing headaches. The same applies to consulting. It’s not a walk in the park to collect a large amount of data, analyze it, and test it against the initial hypothesis. If you can perform consulting-related tasks, then you are a consultant, not an imposter. An imposter won’t be able to do what you do!

Tip #6: Seek professional help if this issue is becoming a major hurdle

If you’re facing a major imposter syndrome while walking on the management consulting career path, just remember that you can always talk to a qualified therapist about this. It’s because there may be some underlying issues behind your imposter syndrome that can only be resolved through proper discussion with a professional.

Tip #7: Know whose opinion truly matters

“No one is a prophet in their own land.” This quote is very relevant if you’re a consultant who’s doubting your own worth. It basically means that people take familiar people for granted. You may be a top-tier consultant who offers advice to some of the most profitable companies, but the people who have seen you as a child, or a student, or a neighbor may not see your real value. To them, you’re just “Tim, the shy kid who used to live next door” or “Sarah, my ex-student who was always late for class in school”. They probably won’t believe how far you have come and they could make you doubt yourself with their opinions. So, it’s better to focus only on the opinions of your peers, seniors, and clients—these are the people who really matter in your consulting career.

Tip #8: Cut out negativity from your life

The imposter syndrome gives rise to negative thoughts. And if you consume negativity all the time, for example, through news or toxic people, your imposter syndrome might get worse. So, it’s necessary that you guard your thoughts and identify the negative ones as soon as they come to your mind. Once you have identified them, repeat: “No, not today. Today, I’m only thinking positively.”

Final Remarks

So, these were some handy tips that you can use to overcome the dreaded imposter syndrome. As a consultant, you will learn how to solve problems and will provide a lot of long-lasting solutions to clients. This also means that you will be way better at solving your personal problems than someone who is not used to problem solving. The imposter syndrome is a problem, but you are a consultant. So be positive, solve this problem, and have a great career ahead.

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