Portfolio Careers: Is consulting in your future?

If you're at a fork in the road between consulting and your full-time job search, keep in mind that consulting is no walk in the park.

So you’ve been out of work for far longer than you — or anyone else in the family — ever expected.  You had — or more correctly, have — something special but nobody seems to be seeing it.  You keep hearing that good jobs that seem to fit you perfectly attracted 200+ resumes in three hours.  And nobody’s calling back.

And now your severance is gone.  Or will be soon.  What’s next? 

Assuming the issue is not your failure to develop a compelling personal brand or effectively help recruiters and hiring managers find you,  for many people, the answer to the What’s Next? question is exploring consulting or 1099 work (and there is a difference, but that’s a different post). 

The New York Times says we’ve lost 8.4 million jobs in this recession and many of those jobs aren’t coming back.  As many as 23% of U.S. workers are operating as consultants, freelancers, free agents, contractors, or micropreneurs, according to the Wall Street Journal.  The percentage of unemployed workers starting companies rose to 8.6% in 2009, a four-year high, with the biggest increases among people 55 and over, according to the Challenger, Gray & Christmas outplacement firm.  The underemployment rate — which counts people who have given up looking for work and those who are working part time for lack of full-time positions — has been hovering over 17% for a few months now.

The trend toward “portfolio careers” — where employees cobble a career together from multiple consulting (or 1099) engagements is growing and demand for high-end temporary business talent is not focused on cost-cutting projects but on driving innovation.

But not so fast.  Even with a great value proposition or skill, it’s not that easy.  First you need to think through whether you have the temperment for the ups and downs of this strategy.  Then you need to think about company structures, the sales process, and a myriad of other things.

Recapturing what you used to make may not happen for years, if ever.   The percentage of new projects you capture will be much lower than you might expect.  You can’t do aa full-time job search and consult at the same time…at least not effectively. For many people, the process of selling yourself is more daunting than a root canal and may require skills that are somewhat alien to those you had when your company was giving you direction.

On the other hand…

The best way to find a full-time job may be through an “audition strategy,” where you demonstrate your value to a full-time employer prospect through a short-term project.  Many people think that’s the best way to separate themselves from the masses these days.

And this may be a way to pay the bills and prevent you from taking a job that will make you miserable.

In the weeks to come, I’ll be blogging on some of these considerations and assessing the market for offering services that help people like you (the ones who have read this far) make the decision.

So two requests.  First, let me know what concerns you about making the leap to consulting.  What do you need to know before making the decision?

Second, if you’d be interested in learning more and finding resources that will help you make the decision or be more successful if you do pursue consulting as a full-time career choice or a short-term bridge to something else, please send me a note at peter@bulldogconsultant.com.

I look forward to hearing from you.

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