7 Steps to Consider Before You Start Consulting

Consulting work can be a lifeline when you’re unemployed; it can also derail your job search and extend your unemployment.

Any out-of-work executive is likely to hear the siren song of consulting. You can lend your years of expertise to a business part time and temporarily. It can be a paycheck when you really need it, a foot in the door and a way to stay busy.

On the downside, it can also be a distraction from the job search and ultimately extend your unemployment.

Cheri Paulson, senior vice president of Keystone Associates, a Boston career management and transition firm, recommended clients who have just lost their jobs wait before they accept any consulting work. “Give your job search some time,” she said. “You can’t land a job if your search is piecemeal.” Once your search is proceeding well — when your resume is complete and you are regularly meeting with people and you know where to search for jobs — you can consider consulting.

She offers her clients the following checklist of seven items to use when considering whether or not to take a consulting job:

☐ Does it still give me time to be flexible in my job search?
☐ Would I learn anything new that I can use to showcase my skills and experience?
☐ Does the firm have cachet in the marketplace? Would it give me brand recognition by affiliating with the project?
☐ Am I going to be around great people with whom to network?
☐ Is it geographically reasonable? If it requires you to be on the road more than a few days every week, your job search will falter.
☐ Is the compensation worth your time?
☐ Can you protect your client list? Be sure that you are not being asked to give away your clients. “Those clients are something you may need to get you to your next job,” Paulson said.

If you do take a consulting role, you should still be in job-search mode, Paulson said. “Your goal should be to get in front of three to five people a week. Determine how many meetings, how many phone calls and how many events you will need to go to for the consulting position.

“Can you do some of that work during the day so you can fulfill your job-search goals? People like to feel needed and have a purpose, and they feel good when they are doing a project. But don’t get so absorbed that you stop your search.”