May 2 2011
A recent LinkedIn update detailed a title change of a contact from Consultant Financial Advisor to Senior Vice President Finance, reminding me of an often forgotten benefit to being a successful consultant – the chance of landing highly coveted executive positions.
Engaging in consulting assignments often features in the careers of senior executives, and as demonstrated above, can result in working relationships that develop into fulltime positions. But is consulting right for you?
Well, as John Lucht highlights in his book ‘Rites of Passage at $100,000 to $1 million+’, you cannot begin consulting with the primary goal of landing a job, but instead should begin with the aim of creating a lucrative practice. You must excel in your engagements by accepting both the advantages and disadvantages of the consulting lifestyle. In return you will build strong working relationships with top executives in target organizations, who will have the opportunity to directly benefit from your expertise first hand. Can you imagine a better way to put yourself on the radar?
Becoming a consultant
Before you begin soliciting business, you must define your personal brand into a strong sellable package at a consultant level, not as a fulltime executive. Consider how your expertise can benefit organizations, including specific situations where you have used or could have used a consultant in the past.
Organizations always need consultants to handle specialized projects and you may have the inside industry connections and knowledge to excel in certain tasks. Your specialized knowledge could help organizations enter international or domestic markets, or your experience of M&A could assist a growing multinational. Either way, create scenarios whereby your specific experiences and skills can develop organizations and consider how you will sell them to prospective clients.
Remember, the switch from executive to consultant will be one of manager/leader to a service provider, and accountability for month-to-month results will be intensified. However, providing you gain some clients on a monthly retainer (more security than a per project fee structure), soon you will be enjoying a new found freedom with relatively low overheads.
You are a consultant, not a job seeker
John Lucht also makes the critical point that not only must you be dedicated to building a successful business but that immediately after deciding on the consultant path, you must brand yourself as a consultant, not as a job seeker. This relates to your approach to transitioning back into fulltime employment. Lucht insists that job offers should come after you have completed successful projects, not before. If you approach with phony consulting proposals disguising fulltime aspirations, you are destined to fail in both endeavours.
Focus on building a strong client base instead, drawing upon previous clients, competitors, ex-colleagues and network contacts for leads. If you are not ready to sell, consulting is probably not for you. In addition, make sure you have a professional website and all your personal online and offline marketing materials reflect your new venture.
Finally, providing that you are successful, you may discover that consulting suits your expertise and lifestyle. Approach the task with this outcome in mind. However, as the title of this post suggests, you may soon find a world of fulltime executive job opportunities open to you as you develop these high power working relationships.
As further reading take a look at BlueSteps member guest writer piece, 'Tough Times for Executive Jobs’ - Time to Consult?' - Kalyan Vaidya takes a closer look at building collaborative consulting teams and the advantages / disadvantages involved.
This article was written by Christian Pielow from the Association of Executive Search Consultants (AESC).
BlueSteps is the exclusive service of the AESC that puts senior executives on the radar screen of over 6,000 executive search professionals in over 70 countries. Be visible, and be considered for up to 50,000 opportunities handled by AESC search firms every year. Find out more at www.BlueSteps.com.
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