Want to be a consultant? Define goals first

Question: I’ve been in management for many years and I think I’d like to transition to consulting. What can I do now to prepare myself for this career, and how will I find consulting jobs?

Answer: Becoming a consultant is an appealing option for people at many stages of their careers. It is a career that allows you to focus on your strengths, applying your specialized expertise to make an impact with a company or team. For many consultants, their work provides an alternative to the typical office full-time job and offers a wide range of projects with vastly different challenges.

Before transitioning to a consulting role, it’s important to ask yourself four questions: What are my goals? What unique skills do I bring to the table? What kind of companies are my target clients? How can I market myself to secure profitable consulting jobs? When you know the answers, you will be ready to begin.

Your goals. Think about what it is that draws you to consulting. Perhaps you are seeking a new challenge, a more flexible work week, or the opportunity to be your own boss. Figure out what attracts you to this field and define your personal goals. Only then will you be ready to create a game-plan for your career change.

Many consultants choose to work for professional services firms, rather than start their own businesses from the ground level. These consulting companies hire project managers and employees, and delegate tasks based on your qualifications and experience. If your objective is to work for yourself, this option will not apply to you. But if you need a regular paycheck, you may wish to join the roster of an existing company.

Your expertise. As an experienced manager, you probably have strong skills in leadership, team building and decision making. You may even have special expertise in strategic planning, financial analysis or process improvement. Take some time to assess your attributes and abilities. These are the things that will make you stand out from other consultants and will inspire your clients (or consulting firms) to seek out your services.

Your clients. If you choose to work for a consulting company, you don’t have to worry about marketing and business development. However, if you decide to start your own practice, you need to review the market and learn about your target clients.

Let’s say that you are an expert at solving organizational problems. You know how to identify issues and restructure processes quickly and efficiently. What kinds of companies will be your best clients? You might want to try businesses facing rapid growth or significant corporate change (such as mergers or acquisitions).

Your search strategy. To land a job with a consulting firm, hunt for jobs as you would for any other position. If you are building a business, your job search is now called marketing. Define your target audience or client base and prove to them that you will make money, save time and increase their productivity.

Create a portfolio that highlights your ability to turn around negative trends and boost profitability. Know your fee schedule in advance. And before you contact clients, make sure that you can talk about your expertise with confidence. It makes a big difference.

Send your job search questions to Eve.GetAJob@gmail.com.

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