If the thought of taking a consulting position while you’re between jobs makes you recoil, you’re not alone. Many people shy away from consulting for fear it will hurt their long-term job prospects and put them in a position of constant instability.
However, consulting can actually help you land a permanent position and it offers more stability than you might think. Although consulting is shorter-term by nature, we’ve seen candidates consult on two-year contracts – that’s a longer tenure than some people have in full-time positions.
That’s not to say that you should seek a consulting position over a permanent role. We understand the desire for the latter, but it’s important to consider all of your options while your search is still underway. Before we look at the upside of consulting, though, we’ll start by dispelling some of the myths.
Debunking the Common Consulting Myths
Let’s set the record straight on some of the most common temporary consulting misconceptions:
Consulting Doesn’t Include the Same Benefits As a Full-Time Position
Consulting contracts don’t always include health coverage and other perks offered to full-time employees, but that’s not universally the case. Some companies provide attractive compensation packages on par with those given to permanent hires.
For example, BVOH Finance & Accounting Search offers 401(k) matching, health insurance, and other benefits to consultants, and we’ve seen other companies create similar deals.
Consulting Will Distract From Your Job Search
Not only will consulting not detract from your job search, but it may even help you land a full-time offer faster. Instead of waiting at home for an interview, you’re gaining experience, making connections, and earning an income.
When you do land a face-to-face with a prospective employer, they’ll be more impressed with what you’re achieving as a consultant than they would with a significant gap in your employment record.
A Consulting Gig Will Weaken Your Résumé
Employers like to see initiative, so a consulting position often looks better than having six months of unemployment on your résumé. A gap like that can be a red flag for employers, especially in the Bay Area, where unemployment among accounting and finance professionals is under two percent. Unless your reason for the gap is clearly stated, they’ll wonder why you couldn’t find work and may dismiss your résumé based on that alone.
You can also use a consulting position to learn new software programs or cultivate soft skills you’ll need in your next full-time position. Being able to tell a hiring manager you took a short-term job so you could learn a new computer program shows tenacity and resourcefulness, and that’s what they’re looking for in new hires.
This is especially useful if you want to transition to a new industry. The bar for hiring consultants is lower than for full-time employees, so you may be able to get in the door via a short-term gig, then leverage that experience into a great offer a few months down the road.
The (Often Overlooked) Benefits of Consulting
Now that we’ve put those myths to rest, let’s discuss the ways in which consulting can make you more marketable:
Expanded Industry Exposure
Consultants tend to be highly adaptable, which works to their advantage when they apply for long-term positions. It takes a lot to be able to jump into a new company and a new team.
Your ramp up period is usually very quick when you’re hired to consult, so you learn to work fluidly within new team environments. That levels up your interpersonal skills and expands your industry network.
Ability to Work With Versatile Teams
As a consultant, you’ll need to work with a range of teams and personalities, and that positions you for dynamic roles in the future. Managers in particular need to know how to engage and motivate different types of people to help them deliver results.
Additionally, consultants must be able to work on a wide range of projects, so you’ll be building a broad knowledge base you can apply to a prospective employer’s priorities.
Someone who has been in the same position at the same company for 10 years might have great experience, but a consultant who has a fresh take on industry trends based on their work with multiple businesses may be more attractive to hiring managers. Being able to share how your recommendations helped a client streamline their invoicing or save resources through automation will impress hiring managers and show that you offer unique value to their organization.
A Consulting Success Story
I’ll end with a story that illustrates the opportunities for growth and advancement you can find through consulting. A BVOH client was looking to make his first finance hire with the eventual goal of bringing the business’s accounting in-house. Instead of rushing to make a full-time offer, he hired one of our candidates as an interim VP of Finance in a consulting capacity.
This consultant became instrumental in building out the company’s finance operations and strategizing for long-term growth. Now she’s looking to join the company in a full-time role, and her relationship with the team there has been more substantial and rewarding than she ever expected at the outset.
Consulting offers candidates a way to make a real impact while looking for their next full-time role, as this candidate proved. You may not have a permanent offer but you have an opportunity to empower teams, help companies build better strategies, and influence their long-term prospects.
If you are searching for your next big role, don’t discount consulting as a means of getting there. Working as a consultant enables you to work with companies you’re passionate about and help them blaze new trails, all while developing your own skills and gaining the experience you need to evolve into a great long-term position.