Consulting: An Option During a Long-Term Job Search
Once in a while you will face a rut in your job search. The transition from one job to another won’t always go smoothly. Other than working in what one terms a “survival job”, can you parlay what you learned in your previous job into something that can make you money and expand your professional network?
The answer is yes! You can always consult. Consulting is defined as “engaged in the business of giving expert advice to people working in a professional or technical field.” For example, if you worked in a trade association as a Communications Associate, you can use your experience from social media, and written communications (press releases, white papers, newsletters, etc.) to find work as a consultant. Being a consultant means you can approach nonprofits looking for someone to handle communications projects, or political campaigns looking for someone to write press releases or social media copy (in a paid, non-campaign staffer role). If you are successful, you can build a portfolio of work done, and use this to drum up more business. The more work you do the better. If I can advise a word of caution, it is this: be sure to properly balance project work, job search, and personal life. Also be certain to keep proper paperwork (tax forms, receipts from the purchase of supplies, formal contracts for work) in order. If you have gone into business for yourself, you must think like a businessperson.
In 2013 I was a consultant to an organization named TRG Arts. I worked on researching businesses in the performing arts field, and writing competitive studies for the Vice President of Communications. This role required close collaboration and constant communication in making sure that I was giving her what she needed. Not only was I able to parlay some skills I had in research, I was able to learn about a field that I never worked in. This work also lead to gaining connections in a field outside of my interest. Another benefit I gained from consulting was having something substantive to place on my resume.
Consulting can be feast or famine, however. Be sure to consider the kinds of projects you are able to work on, and don’t overpromise and under deliver. Remember your word is your bond on projects.
Consulting work can be done onsite or from your home. There are plenty of nonprofits that offer office space for consultants. This situation is great if you are working onsite and have access to the people you’re working with on a project. Who knows? You may be able to parlay that consulting job into an actual job in the organization you are doing work for.
Risk-taking, connections, expertise, project deliverables – all the basics of consulting. If you can be a good consultant, you can be a good employee. Surviving in times of scarcity can be tough, but you can do it!
Serge Thomas is a nonprofit and political professional living in Silver Spring, MD. He worked on the Mitt Romney 2012 Presidential Campaign and on state legislative races in two states at the grassroots level.