No matter where you look expectations for consulting/contract work across the United States and globally are high. Some predictions are as high as 40% of the U.S. workforce will be contractors by 2020.
In the past, I have discussed some important issues to keep in mind when transitioning to a consulting role (“Five Steps to a Better IT Consulting Business” and “Hey, Consultants Are Entrepreneurs Too“)….the biggest one being that as soon as you go from employee to contractor, you are now a small business owner, something that is often overlooked by independent contractors when they first start out. And even if your old employer is your one and only client, you need to begin to think like a business owner while continuing to massage your corporate presence. You are now walking in two worlds.
Because even if the job hasn’t changed much, the relationship has.
In this post, I want to look at the importance of preparing a consulting portfolio. All too often, professionals apply for consulting jobs in the same manner they would apply for an in-house position, but even though once again the window dressing might look the same, the role is different and requires a slightly different approach.
Furthermore, with 40% of the workforce headed into consulting roles, competition is going to be strong.
The good news is that most won’t be properly prepared, but you can be.
Here are some steps you can take to prepare a high-quality consulting portfolio:
- Your resume still matters. There are a lot of people out there saying that resumes are dead and that no one reads resumes so don’t really bother. It’s a nice sentiment typically coming from people who aren’t out there trying to get a new job or contracting gig. But with consulting work, in particular, your resume should always be updated and ready to go. Read or not, someone will ask you for one before they hire you. And if you are doing short-term contract roles, that means you will be using it a lot. And you should know how to represent all those consulting roles on your resume in a way that is easy to review.
- Your LinkedIn Profile matters even more. With social recruiting on the rise, you want to be found. And when you’re found, you want to have something to say. Sure, link up your resume with your profile, but make sure the profile is dynamic as well…and optimized for LI search. If no one is contacting you….or they are contacting you for ill-fitting roles, chances are that your profile is missing the mark. Remember, you are in business for yourself now. This is your marketing tool.
- Own your domain name. Personally, I think all consultants should have a website, even if it starts out as nothing more than an online business card. But at the very least, go buy your domain name. That’s your personal name. Please see my post on this for more details, but essentially, you want to own your personal brand online, especially if you are going to be a contractor.
- Build a Problems-Solutions-Results (PSR) page. I’ve been a bit of a broken record about this one lately, but with consulting work, I think this is a very good option. Although you still need a chronological resume, as an addendum to it, you should highlight a few key projects and build the PSR page to show the problem, the solution you and your team came up with, and the results of your efforts. This means getting better at tracking your work and understanding how to quantify the results.
- Be innovative. Here is another subject I’ve been passionate about. Companies want to see that you have experience and skills but also ideas. Creating an innovation page helps you to lay out your knowledgebase and what you plan to do with it. Prepare some ideas that are either industry or position based (or both) and showcase how you would implement them. This takes some thinking and skill, but it can be very effective in showing new contracts how you think and that you are looking forward.
With a consulting portfolio that hits these key target areas, and does it well, you will be on solid footing for the competition that has already begun and is sure to heat up.