I’ve been speaking to many folks lately about considering “consulting” as a career option, and the conversations have been enlightening.
According to predictions from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top two industries with “Largest Employment Growth through 2016” are:
#1: Management, scientific and technical consulting services
#2: Employment services (which includes contract staffing).
Not many discussions these days about employment growth, so this catches your eye. When you think about today’s trends toward “outsourcing”, though, these predictions make sense. Companies are trimming down (ok, in some cases, slashing!) their core workforces, and will then engage the services of consultants when they have additional projects or peaks in workload.
To the budding consultant, this can certainly spell O-P-P-O-R-T-U-N-I-T-Y.
My biggest piece of advice to these budding consultants is how important it is to know yourself and be self-aware, before you embark on a consulting career. What are your strengths? What fires you up every day? Do you crave variety? Do routines comfort you, or bore you? There are no “right” or “wrong” answers here. Everybody is different (thank goodness!); that’s what makes people so interesting.
With all the reorganizations and layoffs recently, I often hear “Well, I’ll just consult.” While I’m a huge advocate for self-employment and entrepreneurship… 1) It’s not as easy as it may appear, and 2) It’s just not for everyone!
The most underestimated part of being a consultant is the time and effort required for “business development”. Pitching your services, writing proposals, meeting with potential clients, business development planning, marketing, etc. Yes, some individuals will get lucky and land an immediate consulting gig and then get other follow-on projects. Great! For most successful consultants, though, they are constantly “planting seeds” for other potential projects and opportunities, even while they are busy working on the current one. They commit to working ON the business, not just IN the business!
If business development is not your strength or just doesn’t sound fun to you, you can partner with a consulting firm such as FlexPro rather than starting your own independent business. You can focus on your work, while they do the sales/marketing to help get your next projects. Again, there are many options and choices out there.
For those that have enjoyed success in consulting, I’ve found them to have the following traits:
1. They enjoy variety and embrace change.
2. They are ok with a certain level of ambiguity and risk.
3. They value their flexibility (in schedule, when/how they work).
4. They have a large network of contacts.
5. They are business-savvy (financials, marketing, business trends, etc.)
If this sounds like it could be you, give it a go! Consulting is a very viable and lucrative career option. It’s also a way to share your expertise with others, which can be very rewarding. Remember: “Everyone is an expert at something!”
So,… go turn that expertise into dollars via consulting. While you may think of it as the “road less traveled”, it is seeing more traffic these days, and consulting is a career option that you can choose now!