SI Review: January/February 2014

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The Other Side: The Consultant’s Role

Why I enjoy taking on multiple assignments

By George Xidon

While there are pros and cons to any type of work arrangement, consulting has provided a platform for me to experience new and exciting career opportunities. It also has provided an environment that promotes the development of meaningful professional relationships across a wide subset of clientele. Here are some observations I have found during my tenure as a consultant.

Variety. Working as a consultant enables me to take on stimulating challenges throughout the year. It also provides exposure through various roles, along with the opportunity to build my personal tool kit. I have enjoyed enhanced credibility within my marketplace due to the depth and breadth of experience consulting has provided me, solidifying my reputation as a subject matter expert. The personal satisfaction associated with working multiple tasks helps keep my work load relevant, and helps to mitigate feelings of stagnation that may come with more traditional roles.

Professional Network. An ancillary benefit to working across multiple projects is the ability to build a network of colleagues from various lines of business in a relatively short amount of time. The visibility consultants are able to get provides an opportunity to meet and work with professionals across multiple levels throughout an organization. Over the course of my career, these relationships have helped me grow and mature and I have applied the professional teachings and guidance to help me become a more effective professional.

Flexibility. For me, consulting provides an element of flexibility that translates to a more productive and healthy work-life balance. This certainly doesn’t mean I have a sense of diminished workload and/or accountability. On the contrary, my experience has shown a level of professionalism and trust bestowed upon professional consultants to actively manage their work load appropriately. Of course, all contracts are different, and utilization requirements differ across various staffing firms, clientele and industries. The staffing firm and its client need to ensure the consultant understands the expectations up front before he or she starts the assignment.

In addition, consultants need to remain flexible regarding roles and responsibilities. Often, roles can evolve over time based on client requirements and needs of the organization. There may be additional assignments a consultant has to take on in addition to their daily workload. It’s important to maintain a positive attitude and willingness to meet these challenges head on in order to maintain a level of value add for both the client and organization as a whole.

In this vein, staffing firms should also keep up with their consultants’ roles as they change to ensure that they continue to be classified correctly.

Customer. Overall success as a consultant is a mix of the individual and environment. The client’s corporate culture needs to embrace contract employees as professional, value-added members of the team in order for us to be successful. If the culture of company perpetuates an “us versus them” mentality, the consultant’s — and project’s — success will be negligible. All parties need to realize that everyone is working toward a common goal, and leveraging each other’s talents will yield greater returns for the organization.

Staffing Firms. Staffing firms have a role to play to ensure mutual success. This is where communication becomes critical. Often, consultants can be an “army of one” in the trenches managing day to day operations. Communications with the staffing provider are crucial to overall individual success. Many have onsite relationship managers, who serve an invaluable role during the onboarding, contractual, and sustainment/growth of their consultants. This is particularly valuable for those new to the workforce or consulting in general. For a consultant to be successful, the staffing firm, customer and the individual have to work together.

George Xidon is an information technology contractor. He can be reached at gxidon@hotmail.com

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