By Eilea Knotts
Have you heard about consulting as a possible career path? Have you asked the questions, “am I a good candidate to go into consulting”, “what are the pros and cons”, and “how do I start a consulting business”?
The American Geosciences Institute (AGI) recently uploaded a course module titled, How Consulting Works. The module’s instructor is Dave Koger, who has over 30 years of consulting experience. This 2-hour online course explores the how-to for starting a consulting career, including the risks and benefits of choosing this career path, details on how to set up a consulting business, and the essential strategies needed to build clientele through networking and marketing.
I recently took this course to better understand my career options as a newly graduated student in a COVID-19 world. If you are in a similar boat, come sail with me through the waters of consulting.
Here follows my summary of the course.
The first question that you probably are asking is, “how can consulting be beneficial to me?” This inquiry has greater significance if you have recently been laid off, are between jobs, or just recently graduated and are looking to pursue a career in consulting.
- It fills your resume with experience during periods where you are not working for an employer.
- It keeps you current in your profession.
- It enables you to develop a wider network of contacts.
- It allows you to explore topics you are curious about or interested in.
- It allows you the flexibility of time to manage projects and other pursuits.
Of course, we start seeing the pros of having a job where we can still feed our passions for our aquatic systems and scientific disciplines. But what about the cons? Isn’t your income completely dependent on others? What if you can’t get work? If you are like me, you can’t help but whip up a Pro & Cons list.
You control your time
|You will work long hours
|You can earn more
|You risk having no pay at all
|You can focus on work that interests you
|You have no tech support
|Work fills in your resume
You have no health benefits
|You have a wide variety of clients and useful contacts
|You have no control over customer projects, budgets, and personalities
|No bosses or organizational roadblocks can limit your potential growth
|You will encounter sharks, and you face them directly, without support
You probably looked through both sides and picked out your top pro and top con.
For me, the top pro was controlling your time. I like flexibility in my scheduling. This probably comes from the flexibility I had for the past six years in graduate school. My top con was the risk of having no pay at all. While there is the potential to make more money in consulting, the possibility to go for some time with no income is frightening to me. Dave Koger states that, before starting, you should have a safety net or little “nest egg” as a financial consideration. Did you just ask, “What if I don’t have that financial situation yet?” The answer was to get your finances in order first.
Once you have your finances figured out, all you will need is a business plan, with a strong focus on to whom you will market it, and how. Plus, a little grit.
Once you know whom you are marketing your skills to, you need to get networking. I know networking can be difficult if you consider yourself to be introverted, but it is DEFINITELY something that makes the world (and consulting) go round.
- Joining local scientific organizations and societies
- Conducting workshops and presenting talks at conferences
- Attending pre- and post-conference social activities (and socializing!)
- Collecting and distributing business cards
Interpersonal skills become very important if you go into consulting. These skills will be used to make sales, manage clients, and negotiate with stakeholders. Are you worrying that you don’t have those talents? Don’t be too concern! If you do not have good interpersonal skills, you can learn them!
In the end, consulting is about being an expert and staying current in your field, reading people, and maintaining relationships. If you are…
- a positive thinker
- a self-starter
…you can be a great consultant.
Are you still interested in learning more and getting specific answers to questions like, “how do I know how much my skills are worth,” and “which mediums should be used to circulate my business and skills”? I suggest you check out the free 2-hour course available here.
Good luck with choosing your career and stay healthy!