Consulting can be a dream job for some. For others, it turns out to be a nightmare. Consultants have early and ongoing responsibilities when it comes to advising the senior management of an organization. This opens up some great opportunities, but it also puts a lot of responsibility onto the shoulders of the consultant. If a plan fails, then it isn’t the senior management who are going to be criticized. It’s going to be the consultant. What are the other pros and cons of being a consultant? Here are the important key points to consider if this is the type of career you’re thinking about pursuing.
What Are the Pros of Being a Consultant?
1. Consultants can advance rapidly within their career field.
Many consultants find that the next promotion is only a year or two away. Even if a consulting job is extensive, most opportunities have an exit strategy built into the contract being followed. You’re going to be involved in the early decisions for a business to help it get on its feet or to re-establish itself and then you’re onto the next job. Some of those career advancement opportunities might even be with those organizations that you’re helping out during their early days.
2. You get to build a powerful network.
If you like the idea of being an industry insider, then working as a consultant is a major step toward that goal. This is because consultants tend to work in a team environment with skilled and talented individuals who share the same passions as you. This gives you the chance to build a lifelong network that can help you reach powerful heights. A solid network also makes it a lot easier to get your work done today, tomorrow, and into the future.
3. You’re always learning something new.
When you’re working as a consultant, then every day offers you a new opportunity to learn something. Many consultants frequently attend training sessions, sign up for webinars, or frequent breakfast seminars so they can further the depth of their consulting advice. This is training that can then be used in their own future endeavors as well. It is an investment that really does keep paying dividends.
4. Consultants are highly compensated.
Good advice doesn’t come cheap, but cheap advice is almost everywhere today. Many within the gig economy is working on being a consultant in some way. This is to your advantage because when you have a proven track record of success, you’ll be able to charge more than the other fly-by-night consultants that are offering lukewarm advice for a paycheck. When you can offer meaningful change, organizations will pay you what you’re worth. It’s not unheard of to have a consultant earning six figures once they obtain a graduate degree or higher.
5. You get to manage life around work instead of managing work around life.
Working as a consultant means that there will always be some days when you’re stuck at the office. It also means that there will be more opportunities to enjoy life more because you get to be in control. You can take calls from the golf course, work out of your home office, or manage your day so you can spend extra time with your kids. It make take some time to be able to earn this flexibility, but it is definitely worth it when it can be managed.
What Are the Cons of Being a Consultant?
1. There can be a lot of turnover.
If you’re working with a consulting firm, then 1 out of 5 co-workers you have is going to leave their job by the end of the year. This is because some consultants leave for more lucrative industries, others are sponsored MBAs who weren’t a permanent fixture in the first place, and the end result is that you have more work on your plate without necessarily receiving a pay boost in return.
2. There are many early career schedule sacrifices.
You might get to earn a good salary straight out of school as a consultant, but you’ll be earning that cash. When you first get started in this field, it is not uncommon to work 60-80 weeks on average. Add in the turnover rates that may be locally affecting a consulting team and the work week can go even higher. Stick it out long enough and you’ll be able to manage your life instead of your job, but for the first few years, there won’t be much fun time involved. For those who already have families, this is usually the most difficult negative key point out of all of them.
3. Travel can be extensive.
When you first get hired as a consultant, you might discover that you’re only at home 2-3 nights per week. Although it can be fun to stay in hotels for awhile, there will be the trips that take you to places where you’d prefer not to be. Needing to get yourself on the red-eye flight to your next location on a regular basis wears down a person, no matter how much fun they might be having with the travel.
4. Individuality is not always encouraged.
When you’re working as a consultant, the goal is for you to be a team player. All policies and procedures are going to be rigidly enforced. This includes dress codes and other image-conscious policies. All new hires are expected to conform and if there is an unwillingness to do so, that new consultant may find themselves looking for work in the very near future.
5. Let’s not forget about the pressure.
Consultants are always under pressure. They must meet certain metrics, do so by specific deadlines, and still be able to build up the experience of an executive team at the same time. Once you get started, you’ll find that there is always something else that you could be doing in your career. If you choose to take time for yourself, then you may discover that someone willing to make more sacrifices than you is taking your promotion opportunities.
When evaluating the pros and cons of being a consultant, it is important to note that some of these key points may be reversed on the individual level. Some people are motivated by pressure. Others might prefer to stay in the same job for most of their career instead of chasing down promotions or advancement opportunities. The right answer here is the one that works best for you.
What do you think the pros and cons of being a consultant are? If you are a consultant, what is the best piece of advice you could share with someone trying to break into this industry? We’d love to hear some of your thoughts on this subject.