Earlier today, British newspaper the Guardian began polling online readers with the question "could you become a consultant?" "With job losses looming," the publication prods readers, "could your future lie in consultancy?" The poll, which is accepting responses through the weekend, is part of a broader Guardian feature on consulting ahead of a live Q&A session it's hosting on Tuesday, March 1. That afternoon (morning for us Statesiders), consulting CEOs and industry experts will field questions from Guardian discussion boards on the nature of the industry, how candidates can break into it, and how companies can best utilize the consulting resources they pay for.
Guardian readers have thus far suggested that most would be up for a switch to consulting, and the prospect of the "higher day rates, more flexible work and the opportunity to make your skills count in an area you care about" that supposedly accompanies it. As of today, the poll, which permits only "Yes" or "No" responses, was trending around two-thirds "Yes" and one-third "No".
Responsible poll-takers will most likely have read the Guardian's piece entitled "Is consultancy your next career move?" The article examines the pros and cons of making the jump from less formal advisory to bona fide consulting work. The author cites "lucrative" compensation and the ability to "set your own working hours" as major draws of the consulting industry, assertions that many consultants at major firms worldwide would probably take issue with.
That said, the article does focus mainly on people jumping from the voluntary sector (that's Brit-speak for non-profit work); comparatively, there's no question that consulting offers superior compensation. But the ability to "set your own working hours"? Tell that to the countless consultants working back-to-back 16 hour days subject to project requirements and never-ending travel demands.
In fairness, the article's author does spend more energy warning readers of the potential drawbacks that could befall aspiring consultants than funneling bodies into the crowded industry. While she asserts that demand is high for strategy consultants and turnaround experts, not anyone can expect to waltz into the nearest McKinsey office and expect to have money and "flexible hours" thrown at them. "Too many people believe they can be consultants after two or three years of experience," says Tony Elischer of Think Consulting. "We want a minimum of 10 years. Without that, it's very hard to advise clients, who have increasingly high expectations." And for those advisors who think they can make the big bucks on their own, the life of a self-employed consultant isn't for everyone. "You need self-discipline, because it's tempting not to get up in the morning," says solo consultant Simon Hebditch. "And even if you've been in a highly paid, prestigious job, it's easy to get forgotten."
Of course, there are pros and cons of every job. But for the right person, the consulting life can be "bloody wonderful," according to a one consultancy CEO. "CEOs are always a hostage to fortune. But as a consultant, if you have confidence in your own ability, your future depends entirely on what you achieve."
So, could you be a consultant? (One cheeky Guardian reader replied "No, I am only an amateur bullsh*tter.")
To find out more, the Guardian's Q&A session on consulting takes place on Tuesday, March 1 at 8 am Eastern Time (1 pm GMT).
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