When I'm talking with people about their career options, the subject of consulting frequently enters into the conversation. Many times, they just aren't sure if consulting is for them. In these situations, I try to give them a starting point, in order to determine if it's a path they should explore further.
First, let me say that there is a difference between consulting and staff augmentation (contracting). For the sake of this post, I'm not going to spend time differentiating between the two. Instead, I’m going to define consulting around your ability to provide a service to an organization on a short-term basis. As for “short-term,” I mean that you can work for an organization without being their full-time employee. As for a “defined timeline,” I’m referring to projects that will, in 85% of the cases, last somewhere between three months and one year.
So, why do most people who get into this type of career path decide to do so? If you find that you’re personally considering some of the things I list below, then maybe this is path is for you.
Over the years, I’ve found that people turn to consulting for one of four reasons:
1) A lack of other career opportunities in their local market.
2) To do more of what they love doing.
3) To make more money.
4) To have more time for other things.
Let me elaborate on each a bit.
A lack of other career opportunities in their local market.
If you work for a provider IT organization or informatics department, then your skills and knowledge would, most likely, be of most value to similar organizations. Most people live in areas where there are only a few other provider organizations that could possibly employ them. So, many people seriously consider consulting, with weekly travel as a better option than relocating for another job.
To do more of what you love.
A few years ago, when an employee of a provider organization participated in a new project, such as a major application upgrade or implementation, that employee was provided with a level of job satisfaction that they typically didn’t experience when they served primarily in a day-to-day support role. When an organization completes the major project without another major initiative on the horizon, it’s common for people to consider other career options that would present the opportunity to be a part of another major project. Consulting can offer that option. Recently, though, this has becoming less of an issue: With the number of projects within healthcare organizations that are developed to achieve “meaningful use,” many people are experiencing a higher level of job satisfaction at their current organization.
To make more money
Consulting offers higher levels of compensation when compared to that offered by the average healthcare organization. This higher rate is offered for skills that are in high demand, because:
• The person will be used only on a short-term basis.
• The marketplace pays a premium to someone who is required to travel on a weekly basis. Such travel must be seriously considered, as it is the #1 reason why more people do not get into consulting.
To have more time for other things.
“Independent contractors” working through consulting or staff augmentation firms are paid on an hourly basis. In order to have more free time, many people are opting for a higher hourly rate for a limited period. Then, with the extra money they’ve earned, they can take time off in between engagements. If your skills are in high enough demand, and you are heavily networked, so that you can find new projects in a timely manner, you can make the same amount of money working eight months as a consultant that you would working 12 months as a full-time employee. For many reasons, this additional time off to spend on other things is as important as the amount of money made in a year.
In closing, consulting certainly is not for everyone. There are some additional pros and cons that I will discuss in upcoming posts. But evaluating the above can give you an indication as to whether you should consider this profession further.