When I was a kid, lots of people smoked and thus, matches were everywhere, and matchbook covers provided the informational equivalent of cereal box copy in a slightly different venue and often in a very different vein. Of course, that was quite a while ago (I celebrated my 57th birthday last weekend) and the catchphrase “Be an Artist” probably doesn’t resonate with Gen X and 7 readers who never saw it plastered all over the inside back covers of comic books and on matchbook covers at a young and tender age as I did.
If “Be an Artist” was a slogan for schoolkids seeking escape from the grind of daily studies, then “Be a Consultant” is the anodyne for work-weary IT professionals seeking a creative outlet from the daily grind. To those for whom this updated catchphrase has more than passing appeal, I’d like to recommend a recent article in Certification Magazine by Ken Sternberg entitled “Trend Spotting: Life as a Self-Employed Consultant.” In this story, Sternberg makes numerous valid points about scoring in the consulting game, using a profile of independent consultant Ken Conquest to illustrate them. Here’s a sampling of what you’ll find therein:
- Nail down a technical degree from a good school
- Pay your IT dues, and work your way up the food chain, wearing as many job hats as proudly and effectively as you can
- Customer service skills and knowledge are good, because consulting is all about customer service
- Soft skills to develop include conversation, effective listening, restating what was heard to clarify understanding, managing expectations
- Whenever possible, under-promise and over-deliver
- Make your certifications work for you, and put them to work in your resume, on your business card, and in your conversations with current and prospective clients
Readers seeking a lengthier, more humorous, and truly wonderful exposition of the consultant’s role in business could do a lot worse than to turn to Gerald Weinberg’s immortal classic The Secrets of Consulting (Dorset House, ISBN: 0932622013, 1985) or to turn to his identically titled blog. If you’re thinking about following the singleton’s route to IT bliss, be sure to check out these various resources. Good luck!