(By Megan Brimmer, Director of Resources)
You’ve been there before. In fact, if you’ve been an independent consultant for a while, you’ve probably been there many times. You’re about to roll off a project and the next project has yet to appear. Should you take some time off? Spend some time decompressing before jumping onto yet another project? The answer, my friend, is no. But here’s what you can be doing.
1. Connect Early, Connect Often
It seems like common sense, but you shouldn’t start calling your contacts and recruiters the Monday after your project ends. Granted, you want some time off. Maybe it’s been a long project. But if you’re calling your contacts after you’ve already rolled off, your bench time could be longer than you anticipated.
And connecting once is not enough. You might think that since you reached out to that recruiter or contact, you’re covered. The best consultants reach out early and often to stay top of mind. You should be connecting with your key connections every 3-6 months, even if you’re on a project so that when something unexpected happens or you’re ready to roll off, you know what’s coming down the pipeline with your key contacts and you already have that relationship developed. They know who you are, what you can do and what you’re looking for so they already have an eye out for projects that would be a good fit to your expertise. Things change and they change quickly in this industry. Talk to your key contacts on a regular basis to see what’s on the horizon for them and plan ahead for when you’re ready to roll off.
2. Be Responsive and Expect Responsiveness From Them.
For your key contacts, put their numbers in your phone so you know when they’re calling and so that you can call them when you need to. Return phone calls and email and expect your phone calls and emails to be returned within 48 hours, even when they don’t have a project for you. If a company can’t get back to you within a reasonable period of time, they’re not making the investment in their resources that you should expect.
3. Look For Firms That Screen Their Consultants.
If a company submits you for a project without doing technical screens and checking your references, you’re not going to get a whole lot of leverage out of that company. The companies who do check your references, ask where your home city is, what your travel preferences are, etc., those are the firms that are going to invest in you. Not only will they invest in you, but they also have reputations to protect and they’ll only submit the resources they think will be strong representatives for their brand. They’re not just looking to make a quick buck, they’re looking to invest and build their company with solid consultants. And more often than not, those are the companies who are submitting you directly to their clients, not to third parties. Those are the kinds of companies you want to work with.
4. Make Your Resume Impossibly Easy to Digest.
No one wants to go scanning through your resume to get to the summary of your expertise before they dig into the nitty gritty of each project you’ve ever been on. We recommend that our consultants summarize their key expertise areas and indicate if their knowledge and experience in that topic is advanced, intermediate or basic, and to put that on the first or second page of their resume. It makes it a whole lot easier for the recruiters and companies who will be looking at your resume if they can find exactly what they’re looking for, front and center.
5. Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile.
If a recruiter or company gets your name from another resource or company and wants to know who you are, they’re going to check out your LinkedIn profile. Think of LinkedIn as the Sparknotes version of your resume. What do you do, how long have you done it, and what are the highlights? And once you’ve completed your LinkedIn profile, connect with all the people you’ve worked with over the years, follow the companies you’ve worked with, and join the groups that are relevant to you. As an independent, you’re only as strong as your network and LinkedIn can help you grow that network and keep it active.
6. Ally Yourself With a Consulting Company That Will Let You See Their Sales Pipeline So You Can Better Plan Your Projects.
If you’re lining yourself up with a company who gives you insight into what’s coming up in their pipeline, not only are you more prepared as a consultant to land your next project, but that company is also investing in you. Any company can submit a resume for a project; you want the company who will take the time to find the right consultant for the project. If they’re letting you know in advance what’s coming, they’re making an investment in you, and in their client. This will also give you time to iron out the details (or even better, iron them out ahead of time by creating an MSA with the consulting company) versus the “we need you yesterday” approach.
And yes, in case you were wondering, SCM Connections is always looking for strong resources in APO, ECC and IBP for our projects. To learn more, check out our careers page or contact us directly: firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks for reading.