I once spoke to a person who was excited about a position I was offering until she learned it was a three-month consulting assignment. She has been unemployed for a few months and is still holding out for a “permanent” position. While this strategy may work, it is a gamble that reminded me of a famous quote by OSU Coach Woody Hayes, who said, “There are three things that can happen when you throw a pass, and two of them are bad.”
- With all due respect to the Legend, conservative play calling does not have a place in today’s changing job market. Accepting consulting assignments can help you “move the chains” as you continue your drive for a full-time position. If I’m QB’ing the job search, I submit that there are four things that can happen when you accept a consulting position, and not one of them is bad. Here are the good:
- You can gain new experiences while continuing to seek a longer term position. Perhaps you worked in your last job for 10 years. A consulting position may give you the chance to experience a different industry or utilize your existing skills while gaining new ones. Yes, a consulting assignment may be less of a role than you had before, but there is value in gaining new experiences, which you can leverage as you continue your job search.
- Income is a good thing – We all know this is important. Consulting income can make your mortgage payment, buy groceries and pay your gas bill. At this time of year, a consulting assignment through year-end gets you through the holidays. And, if you were so fortunate, it can allow you to pocket more of that severance.
- You are more marketable to employers while you look and you will have more options. If you are working on a consulting assignment, let’s face it: You can be more selective about the positions you will consider. If you’re not working, and your unemployment runs out, you may feel compelled to take a position for less pay or responsibility. If you are earning a good rate on your consulting assignment, you can use this to your advantage in salary negotiations. You are negotiating from a position of strength vs. weakness.
- You may get hired full-time. Many companies give first preference to their consulting resources. And, why not? Consultants are proven, known commodities. If you have approached the opportunity correctly, you have displayed good work habits, you know the systems and you’ve learned the business.
Some assert that they feel their career will be tainted by having consulting assignments on their resumes. But for career-minded professionals, consulting assignments between full-time positions do not hold the stigma they once did. On a resume, which looks worse? Taking a consulting position and holding out for the ideal direct hire job? Or accepting a less than desirable “permanent” position and then jumping to a more desirable direct hire position six months later when a better opportunity comes along? Clearly, the former is more justifiable than the latter.
I’ll close with a real story. Almost four years ago, I placed a candidate who had been downsized from a big corporation in what was supposed to be just an eight-week consulting assignment. Two other people, also unemployed, turned down the opportunity because they felt it was too short-term. Our candidate had been a manager in his previous position and he was way overqualified for the project coordinator role. But he wanted to work and keep more of his severance, so he accepted the position. In the course of completing the project, he demonstrated his value in such a way that the company actually created an IT Director position for him where there was no position before. And they offered him a salary comparable to his former role at the large company. He is still there today.
I hope I’ve given you some good reasons to consider consulting opportunities. After all, it was also Woody who also said, “Success – It’s what you do with what you’ve got!”
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