Transitioning from a Corporate to Consulting Role

By: Sajid Khan
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An effective consulting career often begins when someone is in a situation where they have increased noteworthy experience and mastery in their field, and feel confident to take the leap from a corporate to a consulting role.

As a founder of iAgility, I’ve been asked the question many times. How can one make the transition from a corporate to a consulting role, or start a consulting business of their own? Oftentimes, it’s something the asker has been contemplating, but isn’t quite sure how to make it happen.

Once you’ve made the decision to make the move into consulting, you need to first decide which way is the best way to do so. There are two ways to transition from a corporate career to a consulting role.

  • The first option is to find a full-time consulting job and spend all your time, efforts and strategies into building this new career.

This can be a very effective approach, as investing your time and efforts into your consulting career and future can pay off for your new venture. In doing so, you will be fully committed to growing your business without distractions.

  • The second option is to keep your corporate position, while beginning your consulting as a part time venture as you gain experience in the role of consultant. This approach can be useful in helping you shift slowly and steadily from a corporate career.

While this approach is comparatively slow compared to consulting full time, it does have its own advantages. For example, if your family depends solely on your income, keeping your full-time job will help maintain financial stability. In addition, starting a consultancy business requires a financial investment. Keeping a full-time job while you start your business can keep you from incurring debt during the transition.

Both approaches have their positives and negatives. Many people think the first option is the best approach, since you can give your new venture 100% of your attention, while others think the second option is a better, more cautious way to approach the transition. Like many things in life, there is no right or wrong way to accomplish your goals. What you choose will depend on your personality, circumstances and life situation.

 

Transitioning a career from corporate to consulting is a major decision and requires total knowledge of the consulting business. However, before transitioning your career, you should consider the challenges the consulting world might bring.

Challenges of Transitioning from a Corporate to a Consultant Role

Getting a Bad Project

Not all projects are created equally. Sometimes, a consultant will get a project that is not easy or interesting. It might be a project that involves many. It is important to be aware that you are not going to get paid to solve simple problems; you are much more likely to get paid to solve complex and difficult problems. Sometimes you get projects which need to be completed within a tight time frame, or even with unreasonable expectations or not enough resources for the assignment. In these cases, it can be very difficult to complete the job.

Difficult Clients with Unreasonable Demands

Clients pay consultants their hard-earned money to solve problems, and they demand results and progress. While this is a fair exchange of the consultant-client relationship, sometimes consultants encounter difficult clients. Working with a client with irrational or illogical demands can be very challenging. In these instances, you will need to figure out how to not only solve their problems, but also how to strategize to meet their demands, even when their demands seem unreasonable.

Working with a Tough Team

If you choose to work in a consulting firm, your company environment and teammates play an important role in achieving the best overall results. Sometimes you have to work with employees who are not cooperative, which can become a challenge for you.

Unexpected Travel Demands

In a consulting career, travel is part of the job. When choosing a consulting career, you should be prepared to travel where the business is. If you are working with a consulting firm, they will likely have their own travel policies. If you are an independent consultant, you will need to make and plan your own travel schedule.

 

While these are challenges you might have to overcome when transitioning to consulting, there will also be many opportunities that will come with consulting as well. Consulting can be an incredibly successful career choice as it gives you the freedom and opportunity to implement your ideas and use your skills.

How to Succeed in Your Consulting Career

Working in a corporate role will help you when you are ready to transition into the consulting sector.  Below are a few ways you can use your corporate skills in your new venture.

  • Commitment to Solving Business Problems

Consultants need to be able to solve a variety of business and technical problems, and need to have the desire and ability to step in to solve problems when needed. Consultants should possess leadership qualities that allow them to see the needs of the team and what work it will take to benefit the team most. You also need to have a positive attitude toward a variety of situations and issues that might arise.  There will likely be many hurdles on your path of success, and a positive attitude when handling them will help you reach the height of success.  Along with a positive attitude, it is the willingness to take initiative and be committed to make changes that your business needs that will help define your ultimate success. As Vince Lombardi once said, “Most people fail, not because of lack of desire, but because of lack of commitment”

  • Excel in your profession to be valuable to others

Remain committed to your professional at all times. In order to succeed, your work deserves your full concentration and working on your soft skills will also help you stay ahead on the path of success. While technical skills are without a doubt very important to your work, soft skills can often be even more important. Try to explore your potential in these areas in order to present your best professional self and a valuable asset to everyone in your professional circle.  As Albert Einstein once said, “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.

  • Leverage your contacts for collaboration

Leveraging industry contacts is one of the most powerful tools you can use. While working in the corporate industry, you have probably made many connections such as contractors, partners, prime partners, clients, candidates, or customers. These contacts might come in handy when you are in your new role as a consultant. You can and should share your ideas and your career plans with contacts you feel might lead to possible future collaboration. As the saying goes, “Competition makes us faster; collaboration makes us better.”

  • Never Burn Bridges

Always be aware: the bridges you burn today will be the bridges you’ll need tomorrow.

It’s important to value the commitment you have made with your current employer. Even if you’re planning to leave your current job, doesn’t mean you should act in unprofessional ways. Be sure to respect and value any non-disclosure agreements and abide by any rules you have agreed to with your employer. This will help keep your relationship with your current employer strong which might lead to future possibilities or even new clients based on your employer’s recommendation.

 

I encourage you to follow your dreams and career goals, and continue to work as hard as you can. If you have been thinking of transitioning to a consulting business, go for it! Just be sure to give your best shot. Stay strong and positive, as there will be hurdles on your path to success. Keep your focus on your end goal and you will eventually get there.

If you have any thoughts or opinions on this topic, I would love to hear them!

 

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Srini Chari
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Srini Chari

I think there is a third option. Just start it and launch it. The hard part with this is the uncertainty of getting a steady stream of manageable projects. But you can do this if you have areas of expertise that are in demand and you are willing to constantly learn and focus on making the clients you chose to serve happy. The first option you give is hard and often comes with employment agreements that preclude you from competing in the future with your consulting company employer. The second could create conflicts of interest and you also have limited… Read more »