Why do consultants get so many job offers? Because hiring them is low risk for an employer. A cynical way to look at this is there’s a short-term project, well defined, and the employer doesn’t have to pay benefits. And of course, the employer can sever the relationship without triggering costly unemployment benefits.
But there’s a positive way to look at the consulting trend as well: People doing the work get to be on a wide range of exciting projects and build their skills quickly, and the employers are able to much more effectively match skills and passions to teams and projects. And lots of consultants end up turning their job into a full-time job because they performed so well as consultants.
At any rate, it doesn’t really matter whether or not you like the consulting trend. What matters is that you are working in the midst of it, so you may as well leverage it. Here are five ways to make consulting work for you:
1. Consult to get a better handle on your home life.
A recent article in The Harvard Business Review, The Rise of the Supertemp, revealed that as high-level jobs become more and more demanding, people with families are choosing to consult–taking on the demanding projects for a short time, then staying home. It’s a new way to achieve work/life balance, and it’s happening at a very high level. This should give you hope that your consulting path is one that will take you far up the corporate ladder.
2. Consult to nail the job interview.
The best way to get a job is to think of yourself as a consultant. Whether on a phone interview or an in-person interview, talk the way a consultant would and ask about the problems facing the company. If you ask enough good questions you’ll be able to generate ideas for solving those problems. This not only gives the interviewer a good sense of what it will be like to work with you, it convinces the interviewer that you can come in quickly and solve a problem — a skill that’s often more highly valued than a day-in, day-out worker.
3. Consult to develop an expertise.
The highest-paying staff jobs are specialist jobs. People who specialize are harder to find than people who don’t, so it’s intuitive that they would command a higher salary. If you haven’t nailed a specialty in your career yet, consulting is a fast way to get there. As a consultant you can bounce from project to project, collecting experience in your niche that adds up to a specialty, which can then lead to a high-level staff job.
4. Consult to work with your friends.
A great book you can read to improve your work life is Vital Friends, by Tim Rath. He does research for Gallup, and he found that it’s nearly impossible to hate work if you have two friends at work. Consultants usually bring in their own team, aka their friends. Bonus: Teams of friends work harder and faster because they have synergy and don’t want to let each other down. So you guys will make more money while you’re having fun.
5. Consult to meet other A players.
There’s a saying that A players hang with A players. It’s a saying because it’s true. You need to manage yourself so you are routinely surrounded by high performers who bring you up to your own top level. It used to be that “consultant” was what you put on your resume when you were lost and needed to hide an employment gap. Today the superstars are consultants, so when you start consulting, you’ll find yourself in good company.