I am fortunate to have what I consider a storied career. As a consultant, I’ve worked across a multitude of industries and positions and have had roles and responsibilities that I would have never dreamed possible when first starting out. Through it all, I’ve learned that consultants become more marketable and competitive in an environment that will now and forever change.
I began as many young people do — in the service industry. I worked in restaurants, call centers and general types of customer service/clerical jobs. My favorite industry was working in hotels. That was truly where I cut my teeth in an assortment of roles over the years, garnering skills and experience. I had a blast! My desire for personal growth expanded from there. I eventually became an analyst for a government banking institution where my true professional career path took off. I can’t remember any role I didn’t like or find value in.
And then consulting work found me. It was in the middle of the financial crisis, jobs were scarce and I just left an accounting role I had held for five years. One day, a staffing firm recruiter called me about a technical writer role. I said, “Sure, go ahead and submit me.” To my surprise, I got an interview with the hiring manager — and was offered the position! My recruiter was there to guide me through it all. She and others at the staffing firm kept in touch — having lunch, talking on the phone and growing my LinkedIn network with them and other contacts. They treated me very well and were always there when I needed them.
I’m now in my 10th year as a consultant. I have worked at many large companies and a couple of small ones. Too many times, I have seen layoffs, re-orgs — or any other word that means elimination of staff. Reductions in staff like this will continue for a long time to come. It’s heartbreaking to see good people who have been with a company for years — often in the same role — suddenly let go. Technology, cost-cutting or a new process comes along and eliminates their position. And because they have limited skills from doing the same thing for so long, they are not marketable. Re-inventing themselves will not be easy.
But it is doable. My career as a consultant has been like the Enterprise at warp speed! Each position built upon another, becoming stepping stones that added new skills and experiences. I learned and worked with new software tools and platforms, as well as different types of teams, methodologies and corporate cultures. On my own, I have made sure to keep up with learning new skills and most of all, keeping flexible to this ever-changing, global environment and culture.
When you’re a consultant, you go from role to role at different companies and organizations, garnering new skills and new experiences. You may even receive several raises in pay as you grow. Think about it — a $2.00 per hour increase is equal to $4,000 per year. A $5.00 per hour increase equals to $10,000 per year! Try getting a raise like that as a full-time employee even in five to 10 years, versus only a couple of months to a few years as a consultant. No matter how many skills you add to your résumé, companies typically are slow to raise compensation of existing employees. But once you get going as a consultant, you’ll never be bound by one role or one company.
But to make it work, you must be open to change. Embrace change by never saying no to a new task with an “it’s not my job” mindset. I can’t think of a more foolish career killer. It not only shows someone your unwillingness to grow, but it will corner you into being someone with a limited skillset for one position which could be eventually eliminated. Stay nimble!