Changing Careers: Which Career Path Should You Take -- Consultant or Corporate Executive?

Julie Shenkman
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Every time the economy expands or dips, executives who are tired, bored, displaced, or in search of above-market earnings come out of the barn in droves looking for "greener pastures". They frequently assume that their experiences running a "real" company qualify them to provide insight and expertise as a consultant to other companies. Meanwhile, consultants looking for financial stability have thoughts of going corporate. Consultants are often confident of their abilities to lead organizations. Who could be better qualified than them to run a company from the inside? After all, they have been the guiding hand for many companies strategic, financial and technology direction. They have been trusted counsel for their top executives. Unfortunately, grazing in the other "greener" pasture is more complicated than it seems on the surface. What Life as a Consultant is Like The defining characteristics of the consulting environment are remarkably similar from firm to firm, regardless of whether it is a large global firm or a small local firm. First and foremost, at a senior level, success is based on the generation of sales revenue. Dollars equal power. As a consultant, engagements are driven by thought leadership and strategy. Your clients typically have a list of problems that need to be solved -- and the list changes frequently. Corporate decision-makers assure that consultants have special access to people and resources. After all, they have already or will shortly write a very large check for their services. From a delivery perspective, work is often standardized and methodology-based. Engagements have a beginning, an end, and a defined scope. Often little or no responsibility for implementation or outcomes is specified. But, there are some exceptions. Certain contractual arrangements have shared responsibility for results and that is reflected in the fee. Secondly, the consultant handles implementation of a system or process. However, once it is "done," the consultant still leaves and doesn’t have to live with the consequences. Supervision and personnel responsibility is usually limited to performance on the project by the team members. Should You Be a Consultant? * Are you energized by smart people doing interesting work? * Do you enjoy a continuously shifting landscape of new problems to solve? * Are you easily bored? * Do you like providing "advice and counsel" with little responsibility for operational activities or outcomes? * Is selling fun? Do you like the thrill of the chase? * Do you enjoy socializing and building a network of contacts? What Life as a Corporate Executive is Like In corporations, whether public or private, profitability and shareholder value are the bottom line. For most executives, success is based on contribution to operating results. Organizational leadership, from vision to planning through execution, drives performance. Decision-making and risk taking, with accountability for choices, is fundamental. Outcomes are everything. Activities are heavily implementation and results driven. Few projects are intellectually stimulating. Most of the work of the organization is continuous and predominantly operational. Much is policy and procedurally based. There is a broad distribution of people in a corporation, with a tendency to gather around the mean in intelligence, motivation and interest in their work. Comprehensive personnel management is required by line and most staff executives to maximize the contribution of all employees in the company. Should You Become a Corporate Executive? * Do you like being on the front lines, directing others, making choices? * Do you like to see things through to the end? * Do you gain personal satisfaction from positive, measurable results that you had a significant role in delivering? * Can you keep focus on the long-term while dealing with tactical and operational concerns? * Are you willing to stand behind your decisions and be accountable for and part of outcomes with continuing consequences? * As an insider, can you gain the respect of others for your business acumen? * Are you energized by motivating and leading groups of people to successful achievement of common goals? * Do others follow you and support you? How to Align Yourself with the Career Choice You Make If you are a consultant and still think you are a candidate for a change to a corporation, consider whether you are most suited for a consulting-like role or for an operating leadership position. Your business acumen, facilitation ability, and communication skills are key skills that will be valuable in a corporate role. If you are an executive and still want to try your hand at consulting, consider whether you are most suited for a partner (translate that sales) role or for delivery management (translate that project or multiple projects). Your experience of making things work in the real world and your ability to negotiate complex organizations will be helpful in a consulting role. Remember, both consulting and executive roles have challenges and rewards. Neither is as easy as it looks from the outside, looking in. As long as you find the one that works for you, you will be where the grass is greenest. Paula Asinof, Career Management Expert and Founder of Yellow Brick Path, accelerates the careers of successful executives and professionals who want to move up or move on to their next career opportunities. Throughout her career, she has helped clients, subordinates, and peers recognize their unique capabilities and position themselves as "A" players. Before, you even think about a career change, go to and let Paula create a customized roadmap just for you.

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  • James L G.
    James L G.
    I am interested in doing international consulting work. I have a 40 year history of providing and doing aircraft maintenance. Is this something to build on for becoming a consultant in the Aviation field?
  • Mary B-D.
    Mary B-D.
    I would like to know more about becoming a consultant-case management etc
  • C Wynn
    C Wynn
    I would like more information on consulting careers. I have expertise in IT.
  • David
    I would like more information on consulting. I have expertise in Oil and Gas Mineral Research. I would like to provide assistance to Law firms involved in litigation of Mineral Royalty Rights or damages from exploration/production companies.
  • donald samuels
    donald samuels
    How does one become a consultant in ones field?
  • Bruce DSalas
    Bruce DSalas
    Always great stuff!  
  • Carmen Walters
    Carmen Walters
    Tell me more about becoming a consultant in the healthcare industry with a laboratory background
  • Frank Zisa
    Frank Zisa
    If I was interested in doing CFO Consulting, can anyone suggest associations for professionals of this type to belong to?
  • Mosab Abuizhery
    Mosab Abuizhery
    If you desire to become a consultant, any position needs research, prior to accepting any offer or engagement make certain you have signed contractual agreements prior to giving out information to anyone! TRUST NO ONE, even written emails are not an agreement, especially from an international entity.
  • John Sorensen
    John Sorensen
    This subject & discussion that follows, indicates need for growth and guidance in related areas. Years ago, I consulted on the only true satellite cellular communications system in the world, and when no firm stepped up to manage the development it was acquired by the U.S. military services. Later, I consulted on the intricate electronics sequentially installed on most, if not all, of the 700 series passenger aircraft flying today. There must be somewhere that can use my rather extensive experience, but I have yet to find any.
  • john chappelle
    john chappelle
    I would like more info on consulting in the construction industry. I have more than 30 years experience as a commercial General Contractor.
  • Darla Hoffer
    Darla Hoffer
    I have been an entrepreneur,  business owner and technical sales/recruiting for many years. I would like more information on consulting.
  • William Whitaker
    William Whitaker
    I have been in the electrical field over 36-years and I have been unemployed for over 17-months. I have owned an electrical company for 19-years and employed about 50 employees. I am willing to work doing electrical consulting as Project Manager or Estimator. I am am proficient in word, excel and accubid estimating software. I worked for one company that did over 120M a year as estimator and project manager. I would like more information on consulting in my career field. Please help!
  • Michael Sopher
    Michael Sopher
    I very much like this concept! I have been brokering commodity Lumber and Building materials for over 25 years. Throughout my career due to my vast knowledge of Lumber, Building materials, and the Transportation, my customers have depended heavily on me to give them advice as to when to buy, what material is best, or better suited for a particular application, etc. I have recently done some consulting for an Investment firm and find this very rewarding. I enjoy this type of work and would love to do this full time.
  • Chuck Wolffis
    Chuck Wolffis
    I have 35 years of Human Resources experience and am currently unemployed as a result of plant closure.  I am very interested in looking at the opportunities in consulting.  
  • Vernon D. Hill
    Vernon D. Hill
    I'm a laid off construction laborer and started my own business a year ago. Building maintenance and Constrution services. I've earned my certification of completion in construction management. Also now looking to earn my AA dergree in the same thing.  I've also done a few bids and proposals on my own.  Now my goal with the help of the new economy, is making me consider free lance work, like an owners rep, or Contractual work in management in construction. Can I get some advice on that? Thank you.
  • Patricia Keating
    Patricia Keating
    I am very interested in learning more about becoming a consultant.  With my extensive background in retail as a Senior Buyer, DMM, and business owner I have a lot to offer.
  • Adrian F.
    Adrian F.
    Great article!!! I work in the Marine Engineering field as an Electrical Engineer. My home is in metro Atlanta and I'm currently working in the metro Washington, D.C. area.  I would like more information on consulting in my career field.
  • Robert
    Hi, I would like to get more information about consulting business.Thanks
  • Rod B.
    Rod B.
    I am very interested in the consulting field.  I enjoy analyzing and being able to advise people on what to do. Please, if I may, send me more information.
  • Oscar B.
    Oscar B.
    I have over 13 years in the immigration field.  i am available to do consulting.
  • Berlinda
    I would like to get more information about how can I go about starting my own business.
  • Paul L.
    Paul L.
    I would like more information about consulting opportunities within the oil & gas industry for safety and environmental professions.  Thank you.
  • Georgia
    how about some info on RFP's?
  • Roni M.
    Roni M.
    I would like to get more information on consulting opportunities.

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