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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  • Neil
    are there possibilities in the mechanical design checker realmNeil
  • mark jones
    mark jones
    I am a successful IT Engineer. I have lead positions in Systems, Networking and Acitive directory Architecture in Africa, Kuwait and for the U.S Airforce in Vulnerability management to name just a few.  I would be intersting in Consulting CONUS and INternational CUstomers in helping move their communicAtions firther into the future as smooth as possible. Let me know If can help.
  • Robert Collyer
    Robert Collyer
    I have always considered myself somewhat of an internal consultant since that is the type of business human resources is.  I am intrigued with the concept of utilizing my vast experience to help small or medium sized companies increase the effectiveness of their HR and administrative functions from the outside.  How do I get information on furthering this career opportunity for myself?
  • Donna Greer
    Donna Greer
    I am a highly experienced and award winning TV producer for news and public affairs.  Looking to consult with businesses on maximizing their marketing and public engagement strategies, as well as web and social media through well-honed messaging and highly produced video applications.
  • Jim Hulton
    Jim Hulton
    If I could unearth opportunities in consulting in my discipline (communications/PR), I'd gladly do that. Can't seem to locate any. Consulting is also an area where there are peaks and valleys.Jim Hulton, Communications ProBlue Bell, PA
  • Sheri Jacoby
    Sheri Jacoby
    I am a Director of Reimbursement in Health Care with 22 years experience.  I would like more information on consulting.
  • Kirit Shah
    Kirit Shah
    I was working as a consultant and I enjoy that more than anything else. I enjoyed challenges and the accomplishment I received for the customer.
  • Orjense
    I am a Facilities Space Planner and would need information on consulting services in the field
  • edith piaf
    edith piaf
    I am a professor of business and marketing and would like more information on consulting, as long as there are no startup costs or fees.
  • Theresa Okore
    Theresa Okore
    Please forward more information on the consulting job opportunities. Iam interested and ready to start working right away.
  • Roger Wheeler
    Roger Wheeler
    I am interested in viewing more information in this field.  I am in a consultant position now and need to expand myself.
  • Azad Saxena
    Azad Saxena
    After attaining a level of expertise and business acumen, it is better to work for yourself than others. Consulting is a viable option for a knowledge worker. One has to work hard for marketing oneself.
  • Tom Borg
    Tom Borg
    Being an independent consultant has many rewards and many challenges. Marketing yourself is key to success. Joint venturing with other professionals who compliment your services can be an excellent  strategy that can help make your success happen.Contact me with your comments or questions at 734-812-0526.
  • Lindsey Becker
    Lindsey Becker
    I would love to hear more about this opportunity.  The description of the position is exactly what I am looking for and my strengths and qualifications are an exact match.
  • mt & compapny
    mt & compapny
    I am returning to the consulting world after 13 years. My new venture,m.t. & company, is dedicated to providing topmost software application training and computer support. Visit our website and let us know how we can help you.
  • Barbara Cerda
    Barbara Cerda
    what greater joy of the challenge can there be than to be a Project Manager guru.  To bring order to choas in a support role and consultant.Making a company or individual shine because of your efforts as an SME in any business is amazingly wonderful!
  • Evan A. Held
    Evan A. Held
    I've been in the restaurant management business for almost 25 years now, and pulled a couple of consultations here and there, but the ownership always wanted me to stay on to run the place/multiple locations. The deals promised me were too good to be true, and ended up exactly that-untrue.I know my stuff, and am tired of the corperate/franchise game. I want to be able to go into a business, tell them what is wrong/what they are doing wrong, what they need to do to fix it and become profitable again, and leave after they feel comfortable with the solutions and systems that have been implemented to help them. I know that I'd be a very good consultant, I just need to be steered in the right direction.
  • Phaedon Hadjisavvas
    Phaedon Hadjisavvas
    what are the available consulting assignments and where??
  • Anthony Okoh
    Anthony Okoh
    I am pursuing a PhD in "Organization and Management" (I have a bachelor's degree in Economics, a post-graduate degree in Statistics, and an MBA in Applied Management)and I am interested in consulting. What do I have to do to become one?  
  • Rod Graber
    Rod Graber
    Laid off after 25 yrs from corporate level property management now for over a year, I've taken a sales position. How do I find consulting opportunities?
  • Miriam R. Smith
    Miriam R. Smith
    I am interested to start consulting business industry to guide, generate, coordinate, direct company sales account executives to maintain largest annual sales revenue to stay strong competitive market. Sales very important to all company to meet and exceed budget expectations to close all target quotas and new business opportunities for company's financial growth.   
  • juan bossler
    juan bossler
    how do you start a bussiness with no money and your on public assistance and no one would loan you the financials you need to start on up?
  • Jon Gruett
    Jon Gruett
    I have invested the last 27 years in the electronics manufacturing business in both corporate and as a manufacturers rep of robotic equipment for the automated assembly of the electronics. Since I was laid off 20 months ago I have found it very difficult to find the right corporate gig because there aren't any, or so it seems. Employers that are hiring are able to get top drawer talent at a deep discount. There are so many underemployed people out right now and the employers are taking advantage of it. Unfortunately for them, this trend will reverse and they will be looking for people to replace their top people they got for that discount. I have been doing consulting for about three years and it is great!  The only problem is that getting your name out there for companies that are looking for you is the challenge. If anyone has any pointers then let me know. I have a lot of expertise and business education that is just itching to be utilized.
  • Don Mullen
    Don Mullen
    I have started to do some consulting in agri business, including mergers, acquistions and problem solving. I have been involved in the past with some consultants who tend to tell board more what the think the Board wants to hear rather than what the real problems are and what solutions are available to them. I enjoy challenges because that is the opportunity to suggest and make changes for the right reasons, future growth and profitabiltiy.Don

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