I have been working as a consultant for the past 12 years. I spent the first five years of these working full-time for three different employers, each of who sent me on client assignments ranging from 3-6 months. Business was good, the sales teams were doing their jobs and I did not have to worry about the next assignment.
Since the past 7 years, I have not had the luxury of a sales team to support me; I’ve had to undertake my own job hunt. I got my first independent assignment courtesy a friend who did his best to dissuade me from taking the job even though he himself had given me the job lead. The reason that he tried to dissuade me was that I was married and I had a young family. Consulting is not kind to family life, nor is it high on stability.
The project was initially scheduled to last 6 months; it went on for 3.5 years. I was contracted to work for the ‘direct client’; there were no middlemen involved. I worked almost like an employee – my commitment to the client was not less than that of an employee. In turn, the client treated me like an employee; my contribution was not measured by the time that I spent in the office at my desk, but by the work that I did and by the quality of that work. If I put any overtime on my timesheet, I did not have to have prior approval for that; my manager generally approved it without asking any questions. I was, as I call it, an ‘Embedded Consultant’.
In these tough times, I am sure that all independent/ small-business consultants would love to be embedded consultants. So, what is it that makes you an embedded consultant? How do you reduce your 'redundancy factor'? To zero, if possible?
The first thing, as I have already noted, is the commitment to your client. If something needs to be done, it needs to be done. Be prepared to go the extra mile; even if you suspect you are not going to be paid for it. Do it once, do it twice, and you’d have established your bona fides. The next time you are required to go the extra mile, it will not be the unpaid extra mile. Your client will definitely recognize your contribution.
Second, do not draw boundaries, artificial or real. Let me explain what I mean. My expertise (?) is primarily in the area of Oracle Applications. However, I have a ‘knowledge surplus’ in other areas as well; meaning that I know more, than the average Joe, about stuff in other areas as well. So, when average Joe walks up to me and asks me for help in formatting an excel worksheet and/ or plotting the data on a suitable graph, I try to help. Of course, I let average Joe know that (1) I am not an expert on Excel, and (2) more importantly, I am taking time away from my Oracle work to help him. Maybe, it just earns me brownie points, but these are invaluable brownie points that I earn. When the time comes to renew/ extend the contract these brownie points could suddenly be the difference between extension and termination of the contract. If I were to ‘jargonize’ this, I would say that it helps to have transferable skills and a ‘knowledge surplus’ in multiple areas.
What do you think? I’d love to hear back from you.
A very close encounter, too close for comfort
3 years ago