How to Plan for Your Next Consulting Gig

Life as a consultant is always interesting. We get to dodge some of the political issues, typically get better pay, and are seen as an industry expert. Despite those benefits, we also have to potentially deal with finding work on a more frequent basis.

bigstock-beautiful-business-woman-on-th-26121674This is the time of year when contracts can end and the mad search for the next gig begins so that consultants don’t have too much of a break in their income stream. With the holidays and budget years ending, it also provides some interesting roadblocks to finding new work.

How do you start?

Always network

As a consultant, you need to be constantly looking for new contacts and relationships. This is true whether you are an independent consultant or work for specific firm. As an independent, it may take longer to cultivate those new relationships and therefore find promising work. As a consultant that works for larger firms, networking can be seen as a positive reflection on your willingness to contribute to the larger team and also help keep you on the bench (if not land your own gig).

Keep your resume up to date

This can be a difficult thing to do if you switch jobs frequently or stay in one place with multiple projects. Regardless, if you make it something you manage throughout your project lifecycle, then it makes it easier to hop back into the market again.

Learn how to apply your experience

While you are working at a specific client, look for ways to leverage the new experience across industries. You may be lucky enough to stay in one industry, but you may not. You may find that you want to switch, and if you can’t provide context, you will be in a tough position as you start interviewing.

Learn new things

As a consultant, your life does not end at the 40 hour work week. It’s beyond that. Consultants need to keep up with trends in their area of expertise. If you have a topic that you are not familiar with, but may be showing up in job reqs, then you better get familiar really quick. It may mean you are already behind the times.

Learning new things means you can bring these to the table as you network and interview. That should also give you a leg up on the competition during the search process.

Start early

The time of year, the market and location will all have impacts on your searching success. At this time of year, I find that it is a little more difficult to be picky about the next contract. Once the new year starts, companies will often start funding more projects, which will lead to more openings. That doesn’t mean that you cannot find contracts starting late, you just may not be able to be as selective.

I’ve found that you really need to start your search about three months before you need something. While extensions are possible within the last 30 days of the contract end date, you may be sorry you didn’t look sooner if you waited until that date to get started. You can always use these efforts as networking to determine whether there are opportunities in the market place that are more appealing for your career.

What’s your roadmap?

What are your goals for your career and what do you value most? This will help drive the types of positions you look for, the money you seek and the locations you look for work. If you want interesting challenges and money, you may not care how far you drive to get those things. If you hate commuting, then you may be happier with sacrificing other things to get that. Either way, you need to know and be comfortable with your needs as you look, in order to not put yourself in a tough situation.

Image: Beautiful Woman on the Phone at Modern Building [BigStock]

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