Preparing Your Consulting Portfolio

Posted on January 22, 2014. Filed under: Career Management, Consulting/Contracting, Job Search Tips | Tags: , |

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 oContractingwner 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.

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IT Outsourcing: Is It the End of In-House IT?

Posted on June 27, 2012. Filed under: Consulting/Contracting, Job Market Trends | Tags: , , |

IT outsourcing

IT outsourcing

Today’s discussion topic for #TCFchat (hosted by the Tech Career Forum Wednesdays at 3pm Eastern on Twitter) will center around the IT outsourcing market in the U.S. and the changing skills sets that will be (and already are) required from IT workers.

Without a doubt, the focus of IT is rapidly becoming more business centric, and the demand for business-enterprise architects, business technologists, systems analysts, network designers, systems auditing, and project managers is on the rise. Business skills will become as necessary as tech knowledge as business enablement becomes the main concern (see recap of earlier discussion: The IT Organization: Road block or true business enabler?).

Here are the questions for today’s discussion:
1. What are some of the current trends in IT outsourcing in the U.S.?
2. What job opportunities does IT outsourcing create for in-house positions?
3. How does outsourcing impact the current and future job market in the U.S.?
4. What should an IT professional do to leverage these trends in their career planning?

We hope you can join us at 3pm ET today!

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The Cure for Job Hopper Syndrome

Posted on June 5, 2012. Filed under: Consulting/Contracting, Job Search Tips | Tags: , , |

Job HoppingIn today’s job market, with even high-profile CEOs lying about their credentials, resumes are being scrutinized like never before. Thus, for good reason, job seekers with many short stints in their work history are concerned. After all, the label “job hopper” is one no one wants to wear.

As a resume writer, it is certainly one of the main concerns that I come across when working with candidates, especially technical candidates who have a consulting background: “What do I do to avoid looking like a job hopper?”

First of all, one of the main problems is in the definition of “job hopper.” Is it two years or less? Is it one year? Is it several short positions in a row? Personally, I don’t believe that one short stint at a company constitutes “job hopper,” and I think it is pretty shallow to suggest that someone is a job hopper because they were an independent contractor.

Nevertheless, I have to admit that avoiding the job-hopping label is a tricky issue for resume writers because a resume must remain truthful, and there is very little that anyone can do about the fact that a job seeker may have spent less than a year or two at some of his or her positions. However, thankfully, there are some things that can be done in these situations.

1. Focus on position and not on company.

Although your work history should be arranged chronologically, there is nothing to say that you cannot group companies together under one position title. Often candidates will have had the same position with more than one place. So why not arrange the work history by title first and then list companies underneath the title? I’ve seen this work very well with contract positions. Maybe someone was a helpdesk support contractor for 2 places from 2001 to 2004 (one for 1 year and one for 2 years). By placing both companies under the one title, then you place less emphasis on the short stay at each and more emphasis on the fact that you did that job for 3 years.

2. Keep dates, but place them in less prominence and avoid months.

Nothing says that employment dates have to be front and center or that you have to include months.

3. Use an Additional Experience section for older positions.

If some of your shorter stints are over 10-15 years old, then place them under an Additional Experience section. Most companies are primarily concerned with the last 10-15 years of work history anyway.

One caveat that I would like to mention here, however, is that some of these tactics may not always be looked on favorably with recruiters. Depending on which companies the recruiter is recruiting for, he or she might still want to see months or exact dates or want the resume more company focused rather than position focused. Job seekers would be wise to find out in these situations whether this is something the recruiter prefers or whether it is a make or break with the hiring company. There is a difference, and you have a right to put your best foot forward whenever possible. (That’s why you hired the resume writer in the first place. Otherwise, why don’t we all just fill out the same standardized form for every job application and be done with all this? But, I digress…)

Now here are some things you should NOT do when it comes to dealing with potential job-hopping situations:

1. Don’t leave off dates all together. This is just a bad move, and unfortunately, I see job seekers do this a lot. Now you just look like someone who has something to hide!

2. Don’t opt for the functional resume. Again, this is another bad move. Functional resumes aren’t effective in most situations. Semi-functionals are sometimes OK, but by and large, companies want to see a chronological work history paired up with job functions and accomplishments. In other words, they want the resume to tell a story. The problem with a functional resume is that it says a lot, but it doesn’t really tell the story. How frustrating it can be to have a job seeker say that he or she reduced expenses by millions but then not match that up with where that occurred. Now the hiring manager has no context for the accomplishment.

3. Don’t lie. How many people lie on their resumes? Many, and companies are getting better at sniffing them out. Don’t stake your reputation on it.

So although job hopping is certainly a cause for concern, there are some things that you can do to lessen the impact on your resume.

Did you find this post helpful? If so, please share it! Or send us a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

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