Posted by Dixie Walters on Friday, November 22, 2013 - 00:00
Several converging trends suggest that we may be entering a golden age for consultant jobs.
Talent shortages in critical areas have made this an ideal time for accounting and finance professionals with specialized skills and credentials to apply their experience on their own terms. Companies have come to value the flexibility and cost savings that come with bringing in project professionals for just the time they need it, rather than making a full-time hire. A consultant’s expertise is often preferred for complex projects and one-time initiatives.
Specialists value these arrangements as well. Many highly skilled professionals are choosing consulting and contract assignments over full-time work because of the career flexibility it affords them. A May 2012 Harvard Business Review article noted these are people with high-level experience who’ve chosen project-based careers instead of working for a single employer.
“They’re increasingly trusted by corporations to do mission-critical work that in the past would have been done by permanent employees or established outside firms,” observe authors Jody Greenstone Miller and Matt Miller. They go on to note that, “In the upper echelons, any stigma on (interim) jobs — and on the people who choose them — is almost laughably dated.”
Benefits of Consulting
Besides prestigious assignments and career flexibility, consultants reap other benefits, such as the opportunity to pursue diverse projects, earn competitive compensation, and broaden their skills and network. In addition, those who are interested in a full-time position may very well find it in the course of their assignments. Companies are increasingly relying on interim-to-hire arrangements as a way to identify suitable full-time employees.
Consultant careers are also viewed as an attractive segue into retirement, although today’s project professionals come from all points on the career spectrum. It is expertise — not tenure in the workforce — that matters the most in the consulting world.
Where are the greatest opportunities? Professionals with strong core accounting and financial analysis skills are always needed, as are those with skills in niche areas such as compliance. Business systems analysts also are in demand, as companies seek help with technology and ERP upgrades. At a senior level, individuals who have the experience to work as interim CFOs or fulfill certain aspects of the CFO role are often needed.
Professionals can pursue consulting work independently, but many prefer working through a specialized staffing firm. A specialist firm can handle the marketing and administrative aspects of consulting, while still allowing consultants to enjoy the flexibility associated with entrepreneurship. If you think consulting might be an option that interests you, explore our opportunities.