The ins and outs of a consultant position

consultant position -
consultant position -

The ins and outs of a consultant position

Having risen up the ranks of your chosen profession, and developed a sterling network along the way, you are primed to become a much sought-after consultant. Here’s a look at the way consulting to other companies should work, and the boundaries you ideally need to put in place to thrive in this role.

By Charles Edelstein, director at Executive Placements.

Do you have twenty or more years of experience in your field? Would you like to offer that expertise to a company, or several, that is floundering in that area? It may be time to move away from a corporate 9-to-5 job, and instead put yourself forward as a consultant, in a role that is likely to involve:

• receiving an objective to achieve, or a problem to solve;
• assessing all aspects of that objective, or problem, for viable solutions;
• meeting with internal directors for their input, as well as to share your own know-how on the matter;

• potentially filling a staffing gap, until that objective or problem is no longer causing a hitch;
• returning thereafter, say once a year, or once every three months for example, to make sure that particular area of a company’s business continues to run smoothly.


Typical examples of consultancy case challenges

The website offers a wide range of business cases for which a consultant’s knowledge may be sought. Examples include:

• helping a global consumer goods company to reduce its environmental impact;
• helping a data management client to comply with new regulations;

• helping a beverage manufacturer to prepare for an upcoming product launch.

Click on the company name, under the header “Free Online Case Interview Examples from 7 Top Consulting Firms”, and you’ll be able to run through a multiple-choice questionnaire to prepare yourself for that sort of consultant job (just as you would for a similar job interview).

Remember: there are different types of consultants, so it is important to identify your preferred area – say, strategy, management, operations, financial advisory, HR, IT, legal, or any other aspect of business where you are able to shine – before you launch this brand new career trajectory.


How to set yourself up

Once you’ve identified your area of expertise, it’s time to create a website, market yourself at networking events and in the online space (say, via social media), and to decide on a fee structure and your ideal working parameters.

Consulting a marketing expert is a good idea, as such an individual will be sure to suggest ways of putting yourself forward to your target market that you may not yet have considered – such as speaking at business events, where a small gift and business card for each delegate will serve as a reminder of your consultant job skills, once they are back at their headquarters.

Why boundaries are paramount

Would you prefer to go into your client’s office, work predominantly from home, or a combination thereof? How will you limit your hours on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, to ensure you have sufficient downtime and are able to prevent burnout? What quality controls will you put in place, and which associates will you call on, to ensure your work remains excellent and your reputation for problem solving keeps clients returning to your side?

These are vital questions to answer in the early days of running your consultancy business, together with the all important point of knowing when to turn down work – however well paying– when it does not fall within your area of expertise, or you are already too busy to do it justice.

Rather say no, refer that work on, and live to fight another day. Being a consultant is a highly rewarding way of working, but the boundaries you implement, both now and in the future, are what will essentially keep you thriving in this role in the long term.