The Future of Jobs
This post is an excerpt from The Consulting Economy by Jonathan Dison:
I’ve had the same conversation hundreds of times throughout my life.
It’s the conversation in which I convince professionals that not only are they capable of being a successful consultant, they’re capable of doing it today.
Let me start with a story...
One of my early hires at my consulting firm was a woman who’d never consulted. My firm specializes in servicing the energy sector—and she’d never worked in that world either.
She didn’t have a business degree, an economics degree, a background in finance, or any of the certifications that signal “consultant.”
In fact, the only relevant experience she had was as a project manager at a big company (Fortune 500). I’d met her years before, when I was hired on as a consultant by her company.
She was my client, and we worked together to execute a company-wide implementation of a new technology. She was smart and hard working, and though she had a reputation as a “bulldog” we got along very well.
A few years after we worked together, she called me after she’d been let go when her company downsized. She had worked there for 22 years, she loved the company and her job, and now it was over. She was in bad shape.
I immediately asked if she’d come work with me. Her response is something I’ve heard hundreds of times:
“I can’t do consulting -- that’s not for me. Why would anyone pay me to “consult” them.”
I told her: “Look, I need people on this project who fit the following profile:
— Have project management skills
— Have strong communication skills
— I trust them
— Care about doing a great job for the client
“Do you have those things? I know you do, because I’ve seen them. They aren’t hiring consultants to run their company, they’re hiring consultants to execute a project—a project I’ve literally executed with you before.”
She reluctantly took the job. Mainly because she’d be working with me, and believed I’d “protect her.” But I knew she’d be fine.
That project was at Chevron, a Fortune 5 company. In other words, this wasn’t some rinky-dink company--this was the major leagues.
Since that conversation, she’s been re-hired for projects at Chevron for over five years.
She’s never had one hour of downtime, she makes more money than she ever did at her old company, the client loves her, she owns multiple houses in multiple states, and has the freedom of an independent consultant.
She's happier and more fulfilled by her work than at any point in her career.
This isn’t a story about how I took some young professional under my wing and mentored them to success.
I didn’t teach her any new skills. I just opened her eyes to the opportunity of consulting, something she’d never considered, even though she was more than qualified.
In other words, I gave her confidence in skills she already had.
I’ve found this to be true with so many professionals. They think the only path forward in life is to become a full-time employee of a successful corporation and slowly grind their way up the ladder.
What they don’t realize is that they are uniquely positioned to take advantage of the most important economic macro-trend of the next decade:
The exploding market for independent consultants and contractors.
Stop Thinking “I Can’t Be A Consultant”
The most common question I hear about consulting is,
“What does a consultant actually do?”
There’s probably not another major industry so opaque that the general public is confused about what a professional actually does in it, and that’s not by accident.
Major consulting firms have spent over 100 years operating behind a curtain. Clients hire them to solve a problem or help with a change, the firm recommends and/or implements a solution, and they move onto the next contract.
In the past, clients didn’t have visibility into the firm’s internal processes, but that’s changing. This dynamic has created an image of consultants as “the smartest guys in the room.” If a company has a problem, they hire a consulting firm, and it is magically fixed.
From the outside looking in, it makes it seem like consulting firms are comprised of business prodigies who understand the high-level strategy behind every business.
In reality, maybe 5% of the work consultants are hired to do involves helping clients with their higher-level strategy.
95% of the time consultants are hired, they’re just there because they have the skills to execute a client’s project, and the client doesn’t want to hire full-time employees to do it.
If you’re a professional with a single marketable skill—project execution, change management, expertise with specific software, communication or marketing, accounting or finance—you can be an independent consultant taking home up to $400,000 a year, instead of an employee trading your time for a salary at a corporation.
You’ll Never Have Such A Great Opportunity Again
Full-time employment is a dying trend.
If you’re a professional now, in the near future you will have no choice but to become an independent contractor.
Companies have realized that it makes more sense to outsource the bulk of their work to an external workforce of consultants and contractors who they pay on a project-by-project basis, as opposed to hiring full-time, salaried employees for every project.
For example, it is much more affordable for a company to hire one salaried IT Director who oversees all technology for the company, and then hire a team of consultants whenever they have a new IT project, like implementing new software.
Relying on contractors for project execution, the company only ever pays exactly as much as they need to get the job done. No bloated payrolls, no need for a dozen managers.
The consultants they hire to implement new software aren’t going to be MBAs who specialize in mergers and acquisitions, they’re going to be people who previously would have worked in IT for a large corporation.
Now, instead of being professionals who trade their time for money to one single corporation, those IT experts get to be consultants, who bill at a higher rate per project for multiple clients.
Both parties—the IT consultants and the company—benefit from this approach and make more money.
This trend has been building for several years, but is accelerating now, and the demand for consultants with specialized skills is skyrocketing. Eventually the market will force most professionals to become a consultant or contractor, but right now you have a chance to get there first.
If you move to capitalize on your opportunity and become a consultant before the rest of the world, you’ll have a massive advantage.
Years from now, you’ll have competition, but for now, you have a path to success no one else knows about.
The key is to move now.
There is problem though: the transition to this world is hard.
There’s a whole lot of knowledge required to go from being a salaried professional to being an independent business.
You have to understand the market for your skills, the ins-and-outs of running a business, the keys to marketing yourself as a consultant, and most importantly, you have to truly understand the economic landscape that is creating this opportunity.
That’s why I wrote The Consulting Economy, to layout a blueprint for any professional ready to go out on their own and become an independent consultant.