Consulting gets a bad rap. Sometimes you can feel the hidden eye rolls when you tell new acquaintances what you do for a living. Professional associations largely ignore us. There are heaps of consulting jokes (some of which are admittedly funny).
Yet most in this field are generous entrepreneurs who go above and beyond for their clients—and for each other. Yes, the competition for jobs can be stiff, and it’s understandable that we might want to keep some ideas close to the vest. But there are many reasons for us to collectively cultivate more flattering images of consultants.
Squash the Stigma
When you worked in-house, were you ever in the room when the topic of hiring a consultant first arose? Did those in the room collectively sigh? If the last consultant faltered, the next one was under an even greater microscope—and under exceedingly high pressure to succeed.
It’s understandable. When people hire consultants, they are taking a professional risk: they are spending a sizable sum on a person they might not know and who will interact with their own bosses, peers and board members. They want to be made to look good.
What if a roomful of colleagues was discussing the next consultant hire and got excited at the idea of hiring another proactive, organized, witty person to take on the arduous task of strategic planning, executive search or database migration? What if this group’s last experience left everyone not only satisfied but cheering at the idea of re-engaging this hero-consultant…or another one?
When we and our consulting peers do good work, it lifts all boats. Each of us can expand our place in the workforce simply by doing a good job.
It’s Not So Simple
Of course, it’s a complex undertaking to “do a good job” in this field. There is so much to learn: business building, consulting methods, interpersonal skills, industry trends and on and on.
We need to rely on each other, especially those of us who work alone. My consulting peers have been among my best resources for referrals, information and insights. Just recently, a colleague swooped in when a client project took an unexpected turn and provided me with calm reassurance since he had been down a nearly identical path a few years earlier. His guidance helped ensure that my engagement ended well, not to mention it allowed me to sleep well at night. I was happy to let my client know that an experienced colleague had provided expert advice, and I got a chance to refer him to this client for future work.
In these days of breakneck change, even the most senior of us cannot be expected to know all at all times.
By coming together regularly as colleagues, we know who to turn to in times of chaos, confusion or simply when we want to vent. By helping each other grow, we are serving as each other’s professional community, one that might otherwise be absent when we go back to our solitary offices.
By entering this field, you are likely motivated to help advance your sector, industry or niche. What better way to give consultants a good name than by helping to ensure that the organizations that gave us our start are thriving for the next generation? And of course, healthy organizations are often growing—and looking for good consultants to support that growth!
If you agree that successful consultants learn, grow and thrive best together, we hope you will help us grow the Going Solo, Going Big community. Forward this message to a new or aspiring consultant and let’s all venture down a career path that will increasingly make us all proud.