If you're a corporate technology professional who is considering becoming an independent consultant (standalone owner/operator), before you read What Color Is Your Parachute? or sign up for a comprehensive personality test, answer the 10 questions in this quiz.
You should answer the quiz questions as honestly as possible in order to help you determine whether IT consulting is right for you. Some IT pros talk the talk but don't walk the walk. I've managed intelligent staff who are committed to achieving an organization's planned objectives -- that is, until achieving those objectives requires cutting a vacation short due to a work-related emergency, skipping lunch regularly, or working more than 50 hours a week. Those folks just won't make it in IT consulting. Or, let me put it another way -- they just won't get paid.
Take the quiz1. Do you prefer:
a. An orderly, scheduled day in which you know where you will be and when?
b. To work weekdays only, so you can reasonably prepare for the challenges each day brings?
c. A chaotic schedule in which your most basic plans are regularly disrupted by clients repeatedly demanding immediate on-site service?2. Does your perfect job:
a. Enable you to set regular office hours?
b. Usually permit you to leave the office by 5:30 PM?
c. Require that you're available 24x7x365?3. Technically, are you best:
a. Restricting your knowledge to a handful of sites, networks, servers, and workstations?
b. Managing multiple sites simultaneously while developing passable expertise with several brands of routers, server OSs, and well-supported applications?
c. Having to concurrently maintain advanced mastery of numerous networking systems, multiple network OSs, more proprietary applications than you can count, and every OS Microsoft has ever released?4. Which do you enjoy most?
a. Managing, troubleshooting, and solving technical issues
b. Managing technical challenges, staff, and a budget
c. Managing human resources, marketing and advertising, vendor relationship, collections, accounting, billing, fleet management, legal and technology challenges, as well as countless budgets and projects5. Which statement best describes the way you feel?
a. I enjoy receiving a reasonable amount of time to plan and implement a project.
b. I don't enjoy talking about potential projects -- I prefer action.
c. I don't need anyone to tell me what to do; in fact, get out of my way and let me get to work.6. How do you feel about deadlines?
a. Deadlines make me nervous; I sleep best when projects are planned well in advance.
b. Deadlines are okay. You can always bump a due date, if necessary.
c. I'll work all weekend every weekend if that's what it takes to meet a deadline.7. How do you enjoy being the boss?
a. I enjoy bouncing ideas and plans off a team or department.
b. I work well with little direction.
c. I make a terrible employee; I'm always on the lookout for new and better ways to do things and prefer taking the lead.8. When a crisis hits and the chips are down, do you:
a. Batten down the hatches, determine what must get done and when, delegate tasks and get busy, unless you're supposed to be on PTO/vacation?
b. Take the lead, determine the best crisis relief strategy, and burn the midnight oil until the crisis is past?
c. Go to Home Depot for a generator and cabling to set up a temporary office in a devastated environment to ensure technology services are enabled for others when your own home and office have no food, electricity, or telecommunications services?9. Which is most important to you?
c. Freedom10. Do you work best managing:
a. One task at a time?
b. A handful of projects simultaneously?
c. Multiple concurrent complex projects with changing deadlines, incompatible vendor requirements, and inflexible budget restrictions?
If you selected mostly answer As, you're likely better suited to work in a corporate environment, where schedules and projects can be planned and completed with assistance from other team members.
If you selected mostly answer Bs or Bs and Cs, your personality is likely geared toward being a leader within a corporate environment or even giving the consulting lifestyle a go. While not cut and dried, technology success usually requires a willingness to sacrifice, a sacrifice often defined by the desire for reward (hence the purpose of question number nine). After all, it's not like IT professionals enjoy the repetitive and comparative peace of other less-impactful careers.
If you selected mostly answer Cs or Bs and Cs, your personality gravitates toward the maverick. Technology professionals who answer B and C to these 10 questions likely don't enjoy working within restrictive environments and instead prefer the freedom and wide-ranging experiences consulting brings, even when trading a more orderly lifestyle for the resultant chaos and conflict. After all, consultants are often only called in after business owners and even the internal IT staffs have tried to solve a technical issue and come up short.
Also read these TechRepublic posts
TechRepublic has published a number of posts that explore what's required to achieve consulting success. Here are six posts any corporate technology professional who is considering going into IT consulting should read.
- So you want to be a consultant?
- 10 personality traits of a highly effective consultant
- Do you have the right personality to be an independent consultant?
- Eight skills good IT consultants bring to the table
- 10 signs that you aren't cut out to be an IT consultant
- My early years in IT consulting: What I did and didn't do well
Consultants battling burnout may wish to read these four TechRepublic posts to determine whether they just need a vacation or whether a career change might be in order.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.