CXO

Try consulting on the side before diving in

Have you pondered becoming a consultant but feared striking out on your own? Here's an option that will help you ease out of your old job and into your new one.


Let professional business coach Karen Childress help answer your career questions. Karen will be sharing hints and tips on a host of career issues in this Q&A format.

Question: Should I start a consulting business?
I am in the process of a career change and recently graduated from an accelerated IT course. With the recent layoffs in the IT industry, I am finding it hard to obtain entry-level positions.

To gain experience, I am thinking of starting my own consulting business. I have an opportunity to provide e-commerce seminars to clients of my previous employer, with the understanding that I can obtain a client base from these seminars.

However, if I find there is not enough demand to sustain my business and I start applying for positions again, how can I present my attempt at self-employment to employers in a positive manner?—Duane

Answer: Opt for the best of both worlds
It’s not uncommon for people to venture out on their own and then return to corporate America. You will have to explain your rationale so be prepared for the question at interview time. Be totally honest and play up the fact that you are a risk-taker and a visionary. If those qualities fit with the corporate culture where you are applying, then you should be fine. If they don’t, then you probably wouldn’t want to work there anyway.

Have you thought of combining your two options? Consulting can be a wonderful experience, and if you’re an extrovert, giving seminars is fun and rewarding. I’d suggest that you develop your seminars, deliver them anywhere and everywhere you can to get the exposure, and take whatever consulting jobs come your way.

Simultaneously, keep looking for a regular job, maybe something less than full-time, where you can get good hands-on experience in your field. Getting started in consulting is usually slow in the early days—especially since you don’t have years and years of experience—and having an income will take the pressure off.

Maybe you can have the best of both worlds for a while. If you decide to try this combo route, make sure you are on the up and up with your new employer that you are doing work on the side.

Karen Childress is founder and president of ihavegoals.com. She is an entrepreneur, management consultant, and certified as a professional business coach by the Hudson Institute. A frequent presenter, she delivers keynotes and workshops to groups of 20 to 200.


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