Is Consulting A Career for You?
I once read an interesting article in the New York Times called Consulting As A Bridge Between Full-Time Work and Retirement.
For many, consulting is merely a mid-career bridge for those “on the beach” who really seek employment. I respect that those who are in transition but seek to land full employment and who want to do some “project work” to earn a few shekels while they are trying to land a job. While some are effective, truth is most short term consultants aren’t successful and are not cut out for consulting since they:
–Are unclear how to gain clients (Hint: #1 source: referrals)
–Don’t understand how to price their services
–Aren’t really sure what a consultant does and what value they can bring
–Emotionally they have one foot out the consulting door since they are also looking for employment
–Miss the socialization aspect of employment.
However….. for those in the latter years of their career, the concept of consulting as a pre-retirement bridge is actually a smart one for skilled, seasoned executives with wisdom aplenty, people who respect them, continued energy and the desire for some flexibility.
At any stage of their business life, a smart consultant needs a few key traits to be successful:
–Wisdom and ability to provide real value
–Clients or potential ones (duh)
–A very independent nature and comfortable with being alone
–Candor—who needs a “yes” man/woman?
–Comfort with uncertainty of # of engagements and fees.
The reason why many “mid-career” consultants who really seek employment don’t succeed is that in their hearts they seek the “certainty“ (such as it is) of employment. A successful consultant is comfortable with uncertainty and is confident in his/her ability to gain and retain clients.
On a personal basis I was very happy that I created a consulting business 17+ years ago. Obviously it was not a retirement scenario as I was 46 when I created the Strum Consulting Group. I perceived that my highly independent nature, my comfort with being with myself, and my marketing and overall business saavy would make me a successful consultant, or brazenly at least I thought it would. I had the confidence that I could provide value to others, and as we all know confidence is half the battle. I’ve also been blessed with wonderful clients over the years, several of whom I’ve had an ongoing business and personal relationship. But I never take engagements for granted, and personally I still have plenty of business tread left in my career. In fact, like most successful consultants, I am still energized by business challenges—my own and my clients.
For those with the wisdom of experience, a deep network of business connections, and an independent nature, a career in consulting can be a fruitful one at any point in one’s career.
Works for me.