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The 7 building blocks for a prosperous consultancy career

Making that leap into a consulting career can be difficult and challenging. It takes a great shift in mindset to leave the security and relative peace of mind that comes with a full time executive position to that of portfolio-based consulting career. 

The decision to strike out on your own has become even more difficult during these economically trying and uncertain times, particularly in the light of recent events, particularly Brexit!). 
Whether you’re unsure how to make that first move and begin your consulting career, or you’ve already started work as a Consultant, here are 7 tips that will help you to be successful and face any challenges head-on:

1. Decide how to invest in yourself 
It’s in making the decision that great things happen. Book on to 2 to 3 personal development courses every year. Find and speak to a mentor who will help you get to where you want to be. Make sure at least one action takes you right outside of your comfort zone.

2. Outline your next quarter targets 
Ask yourself some key questions. How will any new customers and contracts give you what you need to achieve your goals? Will the target stretch you? Why do you want it so much (in other words, what’s your motivation for achieving this?) What’s the one action you can take today in order to move closer to your goals?

3. Create an action plan 
At its simplest, work out the high net worth projects, map out your campaign to contact at least three new prospects every week, and write three social media posts. Commit to one new campaign every week.

4. Consider your personal network
This is particularly important during difficult times in the market. As a Consultant, you know that maintaining strong and positive relationships with pre-existing and potential clients is essential to any successful portfolio career.

Take a step back and consider what is your specific expertise and/or industry. If you have a particular expertise, either technical or advisory e.g. engineering, facilities management and project management, get creative: you have a skill-set that cross-cuts industries. Make parallels between your expertise and the potential business needs within your network. As a starting point, draw up a list of ten ideal clients that you would be happy to work with, and where you could add the most value. 

If your experience lends itself to an exclusive industry focus, you likely have a closer network that can give you insight into and updates on potential clients’ needs. Still, taking the time to develop a strategic approach based on key variables - client reputation, personal experience and your career objectives - will be more effective and beneficial to you in the long-term. 

If you have a mixture of both technical expertise and industry, you have options! In any case, the question you should ultimately consider is: Who can help me move forward? 

5. Don’t be shy - reach out!
Once you know who you need to call, contact them without hesitation. Be bold: a direct phone call will be more effective and quicker than email. Armed with the clarity of your added value, as well as a pre-existing relationship with the client - a personal contact or connection is advantageous - you will have a strong chance for an opportunity.

6. Get external support
Networks are constantly evolving, and it is not uncommon as a consultant to simply be in the wrong place, at the wrong time. If your personal network isn’t demonstrating any immediate opportunities, reaching out for external support will be the next logical step to not just secure your next role, but also instil confidence in your known abilities and added value. 

7. Be strategic about your pipeline of work
Keep abreast of the wider employment climate and set tangible goals on a daily or weekly basis. Once you have secured your next role, ensure that you reflect on the lessons learnt, so that you know you are able to take control of your work pipeline and can prepared should something completely outside of you control occur. 

As a Consultant, even with exceptional time management and contingency planning, there will be externalities - such as the financial health of your client - that will always be outside of your control. What is inside your control, however, is your response. Rather than reverting to panic mode (“What do I do?”), ask yourself: “Where is the opportunity?” Taking control over yourself in a situation involving a degree of crisis by taking an effective response is likely to determine the outcome of securing your next role.

Learn more about starting and running your own successful business at the Northern Business Expo. It's the biggest event on the North's business calendar, takes place at Manchester Central on 17th & 18th March, and is totally free to attend. You'll find inspiring keynote speakers, practical skills masterclasses, huge networking opportunities and more, all you need to do is get your free ticket online now!
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