How many people have you met who are in a career transition and have a business card that says, “Consultant?” Now, how many do you know who are actually doing consulting? Probably not many. It’s something you should seriously consider doing…really. One reason is a simple one: cash flow. But there are other very practical reasons to do so.
If you are (or have been) in transition you know how deflating this can be. You have all this great experience and all of a sudden, no one cares. Well, that’s not true. What is true, however, is that many of the recommendations job seekers get is dated. At the top of the list is the quest for the “information interview.” You know; it’s the one where you’re simply networking and not actually wanting the person you are meeting to offer you a job… Right. Well, that was the way it was done in the 90′s. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t meet people and network. Actually, you should be doing that all the time. One of the most common things I hear from executives in transition is a lament that they did not build an effective network of contacts when they were gainfully employed. You should never be too busy to network. It’s career management 101.
There is a better alternative to the information interview. You’re going to have to reach out to a lot of people to get a just few of these meetings. Usually, they’re a courtesy meeting…something that is arranged for you by a friend who knows the person you want to meet. So while you’re reaching out to these people, why not offer them something they might actually want such as short-term assistance that leverages all of the great experience you have? You know the drill. There is little money in the budget to hire a FTE, but there can almost always be funds for someone to help out for a while. Now you become a problem-solver when you call and not a personal solution seeker.
Examine your background carefully and identify five things that you know you personally do exceedingly well. Call them towering strengths. Keep in mind, these are things YOU do, not the people who used to work for you do. Now, narrow that list to the top three. Those are the skills you will leverage as a consultant. That’s a lot different from simply wanting some part-time work that may or may not be right down your alley. With these three high-powered executive skills you have the making of a good consulting practice. The next step is to identify the places where you would like to do work in those areas, locate the hiring managers at each of them, and then reach out to them as a short-term problem solver. That way you’re not another displaced executive in the job hunt.
I’ve given this advice many times in the past, and I have taken my own advice on more than one occasion. In just about every case, working as a highly skilled executive consultant has led to a job offer. Your goal should be to get and keep three to five clients rather than being delighted with serving one client 24/7. This is what any good consultant would do and your clients expect you to have more than one client, and they will be impressed that you do. When that inevitable job offer appears, you then have a choice to make. By that time you will either really like the freedom associated with being your own boss, or it will be a chore and you will be delighted to get a regular job again. Either way you win. The time you will have spent as an extra pair of highly skilled executive hands will only make you better at what you do. While doing it you will have decent if not excellent cash flow. One other thing you will have that’s very important is a bounce in your step resulting from high self-esteem. It’s just human nature for people to want to make a substantive contribution. This is a good way to have all of these things.