Would they really work as consultants (Part I)?

I had a meeting with an old client at a boutique investment bank to whom we had provided graphics candidates in the past. We were speaking about an idea I had for a new model for contract recruiting and I told her about our current focus on placing consultants.  “Would senior people want to work as a consultant?” she wanted to know.  I knew the answer is a resounding yes – I have a database full of business analysts project managers, compliance professionals etc., who are highly interested in consulting.

Yet her assumption raises the question: why do some professionals opt to work as consultants?  The reasons are plentiful and I thought I should take some time to go over them.

Reason 1 – A little flexibility please?

Perhaps the number one reason people choose to work as consultants is the option of not being tied down to a specific job all year with only 2 weeks of vacation.  For those people who are confident in their ability to find work when they want it the prospects of working on a 5 month project and taking a month or two off can be very liberating.  Working 80 hours a week doesn’t look so bad when a month off is only 8 weeks away.    Also there are people who have a vocation to which they are deeply committed and want to devote more time than a full time job would normally allow. Well clearly they can work extra hours and from home, but they might not be compensated for it.

Reason 2 – Restless and curious?

I always tell students fresh out of school to try different temporary jobs to find out what you really like to do.  The same can be true for professionals who have had a distinguished career at one or two companies.  Sometimes people want to see what other organizations are like and how they go about running their business.  One organization might have a different methodology that, while divergent from a consultant’s experience, offer a distinct advantage.  A different organizational prospective can be very informative.  There are those who don’t like the idea of being in the same cubicle for the foreseeable future.  The change of scenery, coworkers and workplace challenges can be downright refreshing.

Reason 3 – Keep it specific please.

Early in 2002 we worked with a compliance professional who had developed an expertise and a methodology for setting up the systems and procedures to ensure compliance with the USA Patriot Act.  He would go into an organization, analyze the way they were monitoring transactions and then put in new anti-money laundering procedures and train the compliance team accordingly.  This was such a narrow skill that it was unlikely that an organization would need someone with this much knowledge for longer than the implementation period.  There are those people that have such a specific specialization or expertise that it renders a full time position impractical. And yet consulting opportunities abound for such specialists.

Reason 4 – Show me the money!

Consulting lacks some of benefits which, understandably, many people value.  On the other hand, the daily or hourly rates are frequently paying more on an hourly and annualized basis. We have all been in the position where a few extra bucks in the paycheck can make a world of difference, and consulting can offer the extra dough.

Reason 5 – Best way to get a permanent job.

Did you know that 40 to 70% (depending on who you cite) of consulting positions result in permanent offers?  Many find this surprising, but I sure as heck don’t.  Hiring is a huge pain in the butt for most managers and when positions open up they often panic and look for the easiest solution.  When you are working as a consultant or contractor and a position opens up, the simple fact that you are already working there means that you provide the manager the easiest solution to their hiring problem.  You are also improving your resume as well as adding valuable experience.  Perhaps most importantly, you are also building your network and making valuable connections that can aid you throughout your career.

So there you have it – some quick reasons why people choose the life of consulting and project contracting. I know I left a bunch out,  so if you have any you’d like to add please do so in the comments below.

Until next time…

Peter Laughter