While I was working at a consulting gig, there was a fire drill. I didn’t know where the ‘meeting’ (when the Fire Marshall may or may not quiz unsuspecting workers about evacuation points) was, so I followed two consultants with more seniority. “Hey, where are we supposed to go if there’s a real emergency?”
“I don’t know,” one replied, “I guess the consultants have to stay here and burn.”
We all had a co-conspiratorial laugh – but it got me to thinking.
When You Press the Panic Button, Sometimes it Opens A Door
However, in my personal experience as The Job Hunter, I discovered a dramatic increase in the amount of contract/freelance positions as compared to full-time exempt ones since the dawn of ObamaCare. After a layoff in the post ObamaCare era, I was frustrated – and jobless. I didn’t want to take a freelance or contract position, with an uncertain future. So I didn’t apply for many opportunities, even when the job sounded perfect for my skill set.
As my stretch ‘on the beach’ wore on, I started to worry. I approached the three month mark, where I feared for how long I could live on unemployment benefits. Ask me for ramen noodle recipes, I’ve got loads. Finally, I pressed the panic button and began to apply for freelance and consulting jobs.
I was employed within a month.
Every Workplace is Different
Don’t reject freelancing or consulting because you fear being a faceless, nameless minion. It all depends on the culture of the company for which you work. There are key questions you can ask of a hiring manager to help you figure out if the company is right for you.
- How would you describe the corporate culture for your group? For the company? While some might consider this a ‘fluffy’ question, I’ve found that knowing this information up front will help you choose the position that’s right for you. A satisfying job is a good fit – for both you AND the employer.
- Are there legal, compliance or other standards and practices that might be a challenge for me, as a consultant/freelancer, in this position? Some companies don’t allow temporary, freelance, or consulting employees access to certain software, documents, or even building areas. You may need to be a permanent employee to get this access. Without these permissions, you might have roadblocks in the way to getting your job done. If this is an issue for you, knowing about it up front is important. Perhaps the hiring manager can assure you that they have processes in place for getting the job done without clearance.
- What kind of a learning curve can I expect? If this is a job you’ve done elsewhere with great success, you might need only a hot second to get your bearings and hit the ground running. But if there’s a new software or process for you to learn that may take some time, it’s good to know this before you accept.
America’s Got Talent
One of the most daunting issues of consulting or freelancing is benefits. Yes, with ObamaCare, you’ve got more affordable options. But if you’re still uneasy about taking on all the cost of benefits on your own, consider reaching out to talent managers or headhunters for employment!
Look for companies that describe themselves as ‘talent managers,’ ‘management solutions,’ or ‘staffing agencies.’ MANY of these agencies will provide benefits for you (normally after a certain period of time) at a more affordable cost.
Another huge perk of working with a talent manager is you’ve got someone else looking for jobs for you! Talent managers and staffing firms get paid by employers for finding employees, so they’re extra motivated. In addition to benefits, a good talent manager will be very direct with you about the job responsibilities and corporate culture of the open position – it does them no good if you get to the job and hate it.
Is Consulting/Freelancing Right for You?
Don’t plunge into the consulting/freelancing pool just yet. Yes, it’s a paycheck. Yes, it might be easier to find one of these jobs before finding a permanent one. Ask yourself these questions first:
- Are you comfortable with an uncertain future? Many consulting jobs start at ‘a few months plus’ – meaning you might be pounding the pavement again in a quarter or so. The benefit to this is it’s a quick paycheck – so even if it’s not the perfect job, it might be over soon. The downside is, ugh, you’re the Job Hunter once again.
- Do you NEED to be an official ‘part of the team? Take a look at your past positions. Where were you the most happy? Was it in an extremely collaborative position, where there was constant group interaction? Even in the most welcoming of corporate cultures, freelancers and consultants are frequently challenged when it comes to being part of the team. If your best career days are in ‘work family’ situations, consulting/freelancing may not be for you.
- How ‘self driven’ are you? With permanent employees, there are usually training protocols and learning curves in place. With a freelance or consulting position, you may be ‘thrown in the deep end’ and expected to perform like Michael Phelps. Lots of people thrive on this kind of excitement, and it fuels them to succeed. Others need time to adjust and learn, so they can fulfill the job requirements thoroughly and methodically. Which kind of employee are you?
Had I asked my employer, and myself, some of these questions, I’d probably have not taken the job where I was expected to ‘stay and burn.’
Good luck, and happy hunting!