When someone tells you they are a consultant, how many times have you nodded your head and then after a moment’s pause asked, “… what do you consult for?” On the one hand, the consulting umbrella encompasses all types of work in any industry allowing for ample flexibility, but on the other hand, consulting can be as ambiguous as it sounds. At Xtreme, our consultants (also referred to as contractors depending on the company supported) work for our clients. This can be in a specific role or for a defined project, where the nature and length of the consulting activity varies based on our client’s needs.

Depending on the type of person you are and where you are at in your career and life, consulting may or may not be the right choice for you. When I was first introduced to the consulting world, someone memorably told me that there are (generally) two common types of consultants: 1) the people trying to break into an industry or launch their career and 2) the veteran FTEs who are ready to introduce more flexibility into their schedules and variety into their projects. In my mind, I categorized these two types of consultants into the Newbie and the Professional. Let’s take a closer look at the advantages and disadvantages of these two common types.

The Newbie

+ Pros:

Greater agency. Consulting is great for people launching their careers or venturing down a new career path. Consultants work with recruiters who have direct contact with hiring managers at major companies and have the expertise to market your skills in an easily translatable way.

Pay. Consultants often have a bigger pay range to negotiate within since benefits packages may vary depending on the role, client and consulting company. This can result in slightly higher compensation, while typically working a true 40 hour work week.

Contracts. Contracts are shorter term so you can try out different types of roles to gain more skills and find the industry and position that are the best fit for you.

Networking. Consulting gives you the opportunity to build your network and connects you with all different kinds of people and companies.

Full Time Potential. If you’re working for a company as a consultant, that doesn’t mean your managers aren’t looking for star employees to add to their team. Even if your manager doesn’t have an open position, they may keep you in mind for future roles or recommend you to one of their peers.

+ Cons:

Contracts (again). On the flipside, while some consultant roles are ongoing, typically a consulting position has an expiration date, determined either by the completion of the project or by client needs or policies. For people looking for long term stability, consulting may not be the best choice.

The Professional

+ Pros:

Break up the monotony and branch out. If you’ve been in a full time position (also referred to as FTE for “Full Time Equivalent”) for the extent of your career, you might be ready for a change. Consulting gives you the opportunity to break away from the daily grind and have more flexibility to pick and choose your projects and assignments. Maybe you’ll even find yourself in a new industry you were always curious about.

Be the pro without the politics. As a professional consultant, you can to focus on what you truly love doing, separating yourself from office and company politics. Instead of concerning yourself with every piece of the puzzle, you get to concentrate on just your piece.

+ Cons:

Smaller impact. A consultant’s impact on an organization is typically less than the impact they would make as an FTE. Consultants are hired for specific projects, therefore they often don’t have the opportunity to add to the overall organization beyond their direct project work.
Access. Consultants don’t always have access to the tools and systems that FTE’s have, making it harder to acquire the information you need.

Of course, consultants come from all walks of life, so I’m not proposing a blanket standard for who should and shouldn’t consult. Depending on what you’re looking for next in your career, consulting might be a viable option to consider.

Topics: Staffing & Hiring, Featured

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Leah is a Project Manager at Xtreme Consulting. When she's not geeking out with Visio and process flows, she can be found hiking the PNW trails with her dog or baking cookies while watching "Friends".