Most of us have career paths that are full of both carefully planned moves and unexpected twists and turns. What often seems like a concrete plan today can change completely tomorrow—based on new opportunities, changing industry conditions, shifting economic forces, and a host of other variables that are both in our control and beyond our reach. Often, the key to long-term success in today’s ultra-competitive and rapidly shifting work world is to pay careful attention to these variables, stay flexible, and pivot as needed. This is often easier said than done, but if handled properly, it can really set you up with a deep understanding and appreciation of your field. One fork along the professional journey that many of us face is the decision regarding consulting. But are you ready to become a consultant?
This question often arises after acquiring decades of experience, and we start thinking about whether or not the time and conditions are right to “pay it forward” and help others benefit from our hard-earned wisdom and expertise. Or maybe the consulting field may just be a great next career move at your current juncture.
Whatever your situation, careful consideration and planning is always a wise approach before deciding what your next career move should be. So, if you’re at a crossroads and are wondering if consulting is right for you, then consider asking yourself the following questions to help you make the right decision.
What are the needs and demands in your field?
The truth is, not all industries and professions are created equal. What works well in some fields may fall flat in others—and consulting is no exception. Before deciding on consulting as your next big career leap, do some careful research and take your industry’s temperature. Has there historically been a need or demand for industry consultants, or are you breaking new ground? Is there a clear path and entry point to consulting that makes sense for you, or do you envision a challenge with barriers to overcome? Once you have a clear picture of the needs and demands of your specific industry—both in the short term and over the long haul—you can figure out if a move to consulting makes sense.
What do you have to offer?
Not all consultants are created equal, and in a potentially crowded field that likely contains a wealth of qualified, credentialed, and well-connected consultants, how do you stack up? Take a careful look at your prospective brand and value proposition should you leap into the consulting arena. What do you offer that would help you stand out from the competition? Have you gathered the requisite industry knowledge and expertise to warrant the move? Are you going to be able to convince other potential clients to choose you over the competition to meet their needs? If your answers to these questions are clear and compelling, then it’s a good sign that you’re ready to be a consultant.
What are your goals?
Take a close look at your reasons for wanting to be a consultant. Are you genuinely excited about sharing your wisdom and experience with others, or are you just in it for the money? Is this a full-time professional shift for you, or are you just looking for additional work on top of your regular schedule? Are you pursuing consultancy out of necessity in a volatile job market, or is this something you’re genuinely passionate about? These are important questions to ask yourself when deciding about whether or not to become a consultant—your answers will speak volumes about the motives underlying your decisions, which will go a long way to determining how genuine and effective of a consultant you’ll likely be.
Are you ready to be a consultant? Only you can truly know the answer, but if you honestly ask yourself the questions covered here and proceed carefully, you’re setting yourself up to make the best possible decision for your professional success within your field of expertise.