I’m often asked how one can project self confidence in a case interview or with senior level clients. I’m also asked how one can develop a sense of confidence after an enormous setback of some sort — “failing” at a case interview, messing up a meeting with a partner or a client, and so forth.

Before I dive into this topic, I want to delineate between two related but very different concepts: Self Confidence vs. Self-Esteem.

Self Confidence is projecting a sense of calm, competence and mastery at a specific set of tasks. Example: That candidate appears confident during a case interview or during client meetings.

There are three aspects of developing self confidence for a specific endeavor:

1) Learning and mastering the technical skills involved;
2) Enormous amounts of practice; and
3) Projecting the verbal and non-verbal attributes of confidence.

True confidence comes from being competent. If you appear confident in demeanor but are actually incompetent, you can’t fool people for very long. This is especially true in consulting, where people who fake it get eviscerated and lose their credibility.

The first two steps in the list above focus on developing competence — a key prerequisite for bona fide confidence.

The last step focuses on projecting it.

Using case interviews as an example, if you study case interview materials like Case Interview Secrets and Look Over My Shoulder, practicing the recommended 50 – 100 hours, you will become competent at case interviews.

Then if you follow the vocal projection techniques that celebrity voice coach Roger Love and I describe in this video on confidence, you will be able to outwardly convey your internally assured competence.

There is a similar process for leading client meetings.

The key thing with developing CONFIDENCE is that it is situation-specific.

It is entirely possible to be confident during a case interview, but then be very UN-confident during a cocktail party.

With each new context you want to project confidence, you need to learn and master new skills.

But there is an alternative approach — one that is both brutally effective, but extremely misunderstood.

Instead of focusing on developing self-confidence across an endless number of situations, the alternative is to develop an unshakeable sense of SELF-ESTEEM.

Unlike confidence which is situation specific, self-esteem is global in nature.

When you have high self-esteem, it pervades everything you do — case interviews, meetings, career, romantic relationships, friendships, networking, socializing, parenting, emotional wellness, and more.

Conversely if you have low self-esteem, without exaggeration, it drags down everything you do, touch and see.

When you have low self-esteem and get a career setback, it’s incredible easily to get derailed, rattled and to struggle mightily to recover. When you have low self-esteem, you’re incredibly hyper-sensitive to feedback — making it hard for others to coach you and for you to improve your skills.

When you have low self-esteem, I actually think it may be impossible to experience sustained happiness and satisfaction in your life. It may be impossible to have an emotionally healthy marriage or to raise kids that aren’t emotionally handicapped in life as well.

If ever there was an 80/20 leverage point on having a great life, developing unshakeable self-esteem would be it.

For most of my life, I had very low self-esteem. It has only been over the last few years that I’ve been working on improving it. I’ve made enormous progress and I can see how it has and will continue to change my life for the better.

My only deep regret is that I wish I had developed it 25 years earlier in my life — what a remarkably different life I would have lived, experienced and enjoyed.

With the benefit of hindsight, if someone had offered me the choice of my career at McKinsey (and/or other top consulting firms) and all the benefits that sprung from that or high self-esteem, I would have traded in the former for the latter in a heartbeat.

I would have gladly given up all of my career accomplishments to date to have had high self-esteem much earlier in my life.

It is that important.

Insight: If you achieve a lot in your career, you will certainly develop confidence in your area of expertise but you will never develop self-esteem solely from achievement. That’s because self-esteem doesn’t come from achievement at all (this is the part most people misunderstand).

I recently conducted a multi-day webinar series on How to Develop Unshakeable Self-Esteem. Much like I’ve deconstructed the case interview process, I did the same for developing unshakeable self-esteem.

This class sold out, but if developing unshakeable self-esteem is something of interest to you and you’d like to be notified if or when I offer something like this again, just fill out a quick form after clicking the link below:

How to Develop Unshakeable Self-Esteem

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