Twenty-five or so years ago, there were few consultants. Those who were consultants most often worked for the large, well-established consulting firms. Today, however, consulting has become a quickly growing profession, advantageous for both the consultants and the companies who engage them.
A Consultant's Advantage
Once you've established yourself as a consultant and built a solid reputation, you are free to pick and choose your assignments, concentrating on areas you find interesting and challenging. Furthermore, consultants are often paid well for their expertise, and the opportunities are unlimited. There are consultants who specialize in strategic planning, sales, marketing, IT, HR, productivity and efficiency improvement, corporate and investment finance, mergers and acquisitions, operations and virtually every other profession you can think of.
The Employer's Perspective
You can capture the best talent for a specific project or assignment, whether for two weeks or two years, and be done with the consultant when the project is complete. There is no long-term commitment or marriage as it exists between employer and employee.
Is Consulting the Right Move?
Deciding whether to pursue a consulting career? Consider the following questions:
- Do You Thrive in a Constantly Changing Work Environment? Consultants are on the move, from client to client, working in a variety of organizations. To succeed, you must be able to quickly adapt to your changing environment and get up to speed.
- Can You Handle the Pressure of Constant Deadlines and Commitments? More often than not, consultants work on time-sensitive projects and are constantly pressured to deliver, deliver, deliver. Can you handle the stress?
- Do You Have Strong Team-Building and Leadership Skills? Teaming is the preferred method of operation in most companies today. Virtually no one works independently. Rather, you are engaged as a consultant to either participate on a team or lead it. Do you have the required management, leadership and communication skills to work with a team?
- Are You a Talented, Confident, Articulate and Self-Motivated Marketer? Most consultants, other than those employed with the largest consulting firms, must sell their consulting services to build new client relationships. Regardless of your specialization, you must be an astute marketer who can quickly communicate your knowledge, expertise and value to prospective clients.
- Do You Wish to Work as an Independent Consultant or for an Established Consulting Firm? This is perhaps the most critical of all questions. If you choose a career as an independent consultant, you are choosing what many consider an entrepreneurial path. There will be no single employer writing your paycheck, no paid sick days, no paid holidays and no paid benefits package. You will have to create your own opportunities through a combination of marketing savvy, client relationship management skills and your area of expertise. What's more, you have to ask yourself if you can live with the financial risk of self-employment and the roller coaster of emotions that often follows; you're up when you're working and down when you're not.
If, on the other hand, you choose to join a consulting firm, you are often getting the best of both worlds -- the dynamic and constantly changing working environment that appeals to so many consultants, along with the stability of that regular paycheck from your employer (the consulting firm).
Today, consulting is a well-established and respected career path appealing to the professional, the manager and the executive. Opportunities abound as companies realize the tremendous financial and operational benefits consultants can bring to their organizations. It truly is a winning situation for everyone involved. If you have the fortitude, drive and expertise to position yourself as a consultant, you will find the personal, professional and financial rewards can be quite significant.
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