Are You on the Cutting Edge or Following the Pack?

I have been helping consultants find positions with clients for several years now and I’ve noticed an interesting trend. A large percentage of consultants only skill-up or get equipped after they have a specific work need.  The reason I find this interesting is two-fold:

    1. The consultants with the most up to date skills have more offers of work.
    2. The consultants with the least up to date skills are the ones calling me asking if I have any leads for them.

Because I live by the belief that all consultants want to have a lot of consulting offers, I’ve put together this list of questions to ask yourself to determine if you’re actively staying up to date.

#1 – Do I Know About New Trends?

Do you spend any effort keeping up with the new trends? Do you have blog feeds or eNewsletters on industry trends to keep you up to date? If someone had asked you in 2010 about using SoMe in workplace learning would you have known what that was?

If your answer is no, you should make a goal to work on keeping up with the trends. Select two blogs to subscribe to and commit to reading them each week. Attend some of the free webinars out there. Take a colleague to lunch and ask them questions about what they are working on. Attend a professional meeting on a topic that you don’t really know much about.

Remember, clients expect consultants to be experts.

#2 – Do I Have the Right Equipment?

Do you have an annual budget for new equipment? Or do you wait for your laptop to start smoking before you replace it? Or worse, do you work off a desktop and expect your client to provide the laptop?

It has been well over five years since clients asked about our equipment because it is now assumed that each consultant has a fully equipped laptop with a somewhat recent version of Microsoft Office. As a consultant, you should always have working equipment that can keep up with your client. Try budgeting for a new laptop every two years. At today’s pricing, that is only about $50 per month out of your budget and will keep you ahead of the hard drive crash.

#3 – Am I Equipped to Work Virtually?

The number one request I receive is for virtual assignments. Luckily, many assignments now offer virtual work as an option because it is less expensive for the consultant and the client. But before you can be considered for virtual work you have to be completely prepared for the different work style. This means you should have:

    • A fully equipped, dedicated home office.
    • Reliable high speed internet.
    • A good understanding of how to use FTP sites.
    • Proficiency at using collaboration tools such as webinars, conference calling, and document sharing.
    I have been successful working virtually for a long time and have learned what is necessary. For example: 

  • I have dedicated office space in my home – and I keep office hours.
  • I have a free conference call number I can use if needed.  
  • I subscribe to GoToMeeting and initiate three or four meetings per month with SMEs or clients.
  • I have dropbox for document sharing.
  • I have a virtual office location that I can go to if my internet goes out.

Before you ask for virtual work be sure that you are prepared.

#4 – Do I Know the Latest Software?

Your resume says you know Captivate. However, when a recruiter calls you and asks questions, it turns out you know Captivate 3. Last year, I called many, many consultants looking for someone that knew Captivate 5 on behalf of a client. Each one said they’d be willing to learn it if they got the contract. (They didn’t get the contract.)

I want to remind all consultants that getting trained on a company’s dollar is for employees – not consultants. They expect us to be proficient and productive on day one. If you market yourself as an expert at Lectora – then you should be keeping up with all versions of Lectora. When a new one is released, you should download the free trial immediately and learn it. In fact, if you’re really on the ball, you should be in the Beta Testing group.

#5 – Do I Actively Network?

Do you sit at home putting your resume on Monster or Career Builder hoping for a contract position? Do you invite countless strangers to “Link” with you on LinkedIn? Or do you actively attend professional meetings and take opportunities to meet others?

If you don’t attend one professional meeting every other month you are not networking enough to find work. It can be any type of professional meeting, but you should be out there meeting people.

So that’s just a few tips on keeping up to date as a consultant. I welcome further tips from all of you that have been successful at keeping busy.

Comments
4 Responses to “Are You on the Cutting Edge or Following the Pack?”
  1. Regina says:

    Thank you so much for this information! I am trying to get started in this field and this has helped to know what areas to direct my focus.

  2. This is a great article. It’s like a consulting checklist.

  3. Great post, Leighanne! I find myself writing about this a lot lately – especially item #1. I have started using Feedly to organize my collection of “things I need to read” and setting aside a little time each afternoon to actually read a few articles. The challenge has been not to get too overwhelmed with how much information is out there. (My feedly review: http://tinyurl.com/42rlbo5 and a few thoughts on keeping up: http://tinyurl.com/3tonkah)

  4. As always, great advice for all of us in L&D! Thanks for making it so clear.

    I would add volunteering professionally as a skill-building and networking activity all rolled into one.

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