Consulting – career development and job security!

Author: Simon Forshaw, CEO

For many years the prevailing wisdom has been that if you want job security then you need to be working at a large, established company, or at least a well-funded product company.  However more recent trends may be turning this wisdom on its head.

Many large companies in Sweden, Europe, and the rest of the world are forced to restructure (lay people off) when things get tough.  For companies on the stock-market, that could be due to a bad financial quarter.  For product companies it could be due to rapidly developing competition seeing new product or service areas emerging, making the old ones less attractive to consumers.  It can also be due to changing competence needs as companies change strategic direction.

Another characteristic of product companies is that they often have a clear pyramid hierarchy.  A lot of people at the bottom of the pyramid, competing for less and less spots on the way up.  The best managers progress but it’s tough for those who don’t play the game as well, but still perform their job exceptionally well and give everything for their team and company.

So what does this add up to?  Less job security than was once assumed, but also a slower path to career development as you wait for your team leader or manager to move up or move out.   On the other hand the best consulting companies offer both more rapid career development and more job security.  How so?

Consulting companies need to have a regular supply of interesting assignments for their consultants, so they need to cultivate these leads over time and to make sure they will have the right competence to offer when the timing is right.  Competence development is key.  This means aligning personal development plans and training programs with the changing needs of the market.  When changing assignments then each consultant gains new experiences from the new client organisation, business area, and project colleagues.

Finally, job security. The best consulting companies learn to balance supply and demand, and have great sales people who can build trust with clients and help find the next exciting assignment for each consultant.  Developing these networks takes time but it means the time between assignment is kept to a minimum.  When one client needs to cut back for whatever reason – it’s seen as an opportunity for a new assignment for the consultant rather than a dramatic event.  When it is time to find a new assignment – opportunities can be found in the whole market rather than just the same or neighboring department or team.

However, to succeed with this strategy, the best consulting companies must hire experienced consultants who are flexible, with a broad competence, who think it’s fun to try different assignments without being too rigid in what an assignment must be.  That way, the learning opportunities come much faster.  The consulting company must also put the consultants first, whereas at a product company the product comes first.  Career development is of course important, but it is not the no.1 priority.

The other argument would be that it’s time for the gig-economy to take over.  But then the individual must take responsibility for sales, personal development, and may find themselves missing the camaraderie and sense of belonging that comes with working for a company with a real vision.

Time for a change of view?

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