The “Imposter Syndrome,” which affects professionals across industries and at every stage of their careers, is relatively common and refers to the tendency many have to doubt their own abilities and accomplishments, and results in the fear of being “found out” as a fraud (even if the reality is that they really are a bona fide expert!).
A lesser-known challenge that many professionals – particularly those in fields where their interactions with clients can result in life-altering consequences – run up against after they’ve got some education and experience under their belts is the realization that, despite what they’ve already learned, there’s an ocean of knowledge and expertise between where they are where they feel they need to be to best serve their clients. Which similarly can result in a decrease in confidence even as their actual skill to serve clients is objectively increasing.
In this week’s #OfficeHours with @MichaelKitces, my Tuesday 1 PM EST broadcast via Periscope, we discuss this phenomenon, called the Dunning-Kruger Effect, how it manifests itself (particularly for financial advisors with a few years of experience as they earn their CFP certification), and specific steps advisors can take to ameliorate feelings of inadequacy and (re)gain the confidence needed to serve clients effectively.
The first, and probably most important, step in dealing with the Dunning-Kruger effect is to realize that, simply by gaining some financial planning knowledge – much less earning CFP certification – you really are already far ahead of the knowledge curve relative to virtually every client or prospect you’ll ever meet, with more than enough expertise to add real value to clients.
Second is understanding that there’s nothing wrong with double-checking your work anyway – just to be safe – or even asking for a second opinion from more experienced advisors. Similarly, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with telling a client that you need more time to research a complex topic before providing an answer, just to be certain you really have considered all the issues.
From there, the best way to overcome the Dunning-Kruger effect is simply furthering your education by obtaining additional certifications and become a truly confident expert, establish a niche or mini-specialization that makes it easier to achieve mastery by narrowing the required scope of expertise in the first place, and focus on succeeding with clients who have less-complex financial circumstances before moving up the proverbial food chain of more affluent clients. Of course, it’s also helpful to simply stay flexible with the advice you give to clients in the first place… managing expectations to make it clear that the future can and will change, and that decisions don’t need to be viewed as irrevocable in the first place (because most aren’t!).
The bottom line, though, is simply to understand that you aren’t as ignorant as you may feel with the realization that there is so much to learn and consider in giving advice to clients, and that by taking steps to further your skills and knowledge, you can actively deal with the Dunning-Kruger effect and be the confident professional your clients are looking for.