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How to Return to Industry After Consulting

Consulting can be a highly lucrative and rewarding career, but let’s face it; it can be stressful and demanding. Your schedule might be unpredictable and your income can fluctuate, depending on many factors, some of which are beyond on your control. Just as breaking into the consulting world requires a clear strategy and plan, so does re-entering industry.

Make Sure That Exiting Consulting is Right for You

You’ve heard the saying “The grass is always greener on the other side.” But is it really? If you’re considering transitioning back to a permanent role from consulting, it might be because you think it will be easier to leave the hustle behind for a more stable situation. The reality is that virtually every job has its pros and cons. It’s up to you to weigh the advantages and disadvantages and determine what’s right for you. What are some of the pros to a permanent position?

Improved Work/Life Balance – At the end of the day, as a permanent employee, you can generally leave your work at the office. As a consultant, it’s very difficult to separate work from home life. It doesn’t matter if you’ve already worked 40 hours as a consultant. You work as many hours as it takes to get the job done and satisfy your client. You may also spend a lot of time and energy looking for the next gig.

Better View of Your Impact – As a consultant, you step into the project, complete deliverables, and move on to the next initiative. You might never see the results of your efforts become a reality. However, as a permanent employee, you’ll likely experience the satisfaction of benefiting from your efforts.

Steadier Paycheck and Benefits – Sure, there’s a lot of money to be made in consulting, but in some industries or fields, you may experience a “feast or famine” situation. As a permanent employee, you don’t have to worry about market fluctuations. You don’t have to chase clients for payments. You can anticipate a consistent, steady paycheck (and benefits), regardless of how busy you are.

What matters most to you? Be sure that returning to a permanent position aligns with your needs and expectations.

Determine What You Want to Do

You need to know where you want to go to build an effective roadmap. What industry are you targeting? What job type? What level? Are the prospects for your target strong in your geographical area, or would you need to move to a new location? As a consultant, you’ve likely acquired a broad range of talents as you’ve completed projects; you must figure out how you want to apply that expertise and for whom.

Do Your Homework

Just because you’ve got a wide range of skills and might have been exposed to many industries, don’t assume you know everything. When stepping into a new permanent role, you’ll need to learn as much as you can about the required skills and the industry. There may be a sharp learning curve, and doing your research before you accept an offer can help make the transition a little smoother. Review job specs, talk to peers in similar roles, and really get to know the industry you’re targeting. You may have some skills or knowledge gaps that you need to fill.

Polish Your Career Branding Materials

Once you know your target and the skills and knowledge required, you’ll need a compelling career marketing portfolio to get your foot in the door. You’ve only got a few moments to impress a recruiter or hiring decision maker. You need persuasive branding materials to make your case and capture an employer’s attention. Undoubtedly, you’ve picked up a wealth of skills and expertise as a consultant, but if you don’t present them effectively in your resume, cover letter, or LinkedIn profile, for instance, you’ll likely miss out on opportunities. Don’t assume that a colleague’s recommendation will be enough to land an interview, even at a high level. And don’t wait until the last minute to update your materials!

Network, Network, Network

As you pursue permanent employment, you’ll still need your business contacts, just as much as you did as a consultant. One of the easiest and most efficient ways to land a job is through networking. As the saying goes, “It’s not what you know; it’s who you know.” That certainly applies when you’re searching for your next career opportunity. As you exit consulting, be sure you don’t burn any bridges. Maybe you had a poor experience during a prior consulting engagement with a certain client. Don’t let that affect your networking. Keep a positive attitude and outlook, and communicate often with your connections. You never know when your next career opportunity might pop up.

Time Your Exit Appropriately

You’ve found an awesome executive opportunity at the company of your dreams and you really want to take the leap. Do your best to time your exit from consulting properly. You don’t want to leave in the middle of a project and risk tarnishing your reputation, for example. Try to close your consulting gig on good terms with your client (or clients). Who knows; you may want to return to consulting in the future.

After a few years of consulting, you may find that it’s time to move on. If that’s the case, you’ll need to be strategic to enable a seamless transition. Determine your end goal, build a plan, and follow through. You’ve got the skills; make the most of them!

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