Changing the American Workplace: How Consulting Can Restore Personal and Professional Freedom
July 1, 2015 by FlexPro
Over the past century, the American Dream has been centered around finding your professional calling, perfecting your craft, advancing up the corporate ladder while supporting family endeavors, and finally sailing off into the retirement-lit sunset. And while generations have found success in career-long roles and been able to fund our favorite Independence Day barbecues, it has often come at the cost of freedom to choose a healthy work/life balance. But as we prepare to celebrate the 239th year of America’s liberation, its professional landscape is undergoing a steady shift away from traditional employment.
Enter the modern consultant.
As industry specialists, consultants have been trained to provide expertise in a specific professional area and utilize a wide-range of experiences to help accomplish a client’s goal. The trade-off: boldly breaking away from the same road taken by millions of Americans used to ensure a seemingly stable run through the corporate gauntlet. However, the landscape of U.S. employment continues to fluctuate and members of the workforce are coping with constant change with added flexibility.
Consulting is becoming a more popular option for all classifications of American workers, who are capitalizing on the need for short-term, effective solutions to individual projects and new initiatives. In fact, management consulting is projected to see an impressive 19% growth in employment by 2022, signaling a true change in the way employers are viewing business solutions. Americans are stepping away from the perceived safety of staying with one company as a permanent employer and drifting toward a dynamic career of professional consulting.
So as we countdown to the 4th of July fireworks, let’s take a look at a few ways signing on as a consultant can be the first step toward inking your own personal Declaration of Independence:
Liberation from Imbalance
Whether you’re an accomplished professional or a freshly-graduated millennial, you’ve undoubtedly stumbled upon the concept of a “work/life balance”. Originally coined by the UK in the 1970s, the phrase now universally tops the modern worker’s priority list. Though consultants often face a demanding schedule that can vary with each changing engagement, the flexibility of their workday provides time for all things outside the professional bubble. The freedom to dedicate time to family, friends, personal development, or staying active lies in the hands of the consultant.
A recent study published in the Harvard Business Review reports that many of the consultants observed were able to reduce the number of hours worked by roughly 25%, but still maintained the output of an ‘ideal worker’, often citing an increased dedication to their personal life. The understanding that all employees face the dilemma of balancing work and outside endeavors allowed the consulting firm in question to create an equilibrium that enabled many to thrive. Odd to think that taking time to enjoy the barbecue with the family this 4th of July will ultimately breed a more effective professional.
Freedom from Monotony
Perhaps the most valuable aspect of the consulting world to a professional at any level is the incredibly wide scope of experience that it can offer. While many traditional employment arrangements create familiarity and expertise within a certain area, consultants are often treated to a veritable buffet of cross-functional knowledge. It is this continued education that prepares a professional for any number of challenges and ultimately increases their value to a project.
As the most seasoned veterans of the workforce know, experience is also gained through movement between career opportunities. The average American now changes jobs an average of eleven times in the prime of their careers (18-44), often forced to leave for a new company entirely. Stepping outside of the traditional employment model, consulting gives the modern job-seeker the freedom to embrace the idea of changing roles within a given industry. Instead of working to avoid an involuntary change, consultants can expect and plan for an increasingly fluid employment environment.
Paving Your Own Path
Perhaps the greatest advantage of consulting in any industry is realized when you are able to take a step back and look at the bigger picture. Finding your work/life balance is vital and experience within the workplace is invaluable, but above all else is the freedom to choose your own professional journey. The opportunity to put all of the pieces together to create the ideal career path is possibly the most alluring benefit of a non-traditional employment opportunity. Engaging in a multitude of projects can allow an employee at any level to shape the direction of their career, hone their industry skills, and further zero in on their true passion. For the worker that finds themselves mired in an environment without control over their days, consulting could be a ticket to freedom.