If you are new to the consultant sector, there are often several things you feel unfamiliar or uncomfortable with. It may be difficult to keep track of what to do in certain situations or know how they are usually tackled within the sector.
Here are four common mistakes which new consultants often make - and tips on how to avoid them in the future!
1. Confusing an assignment with employment
Being a consultant is not the same as being employed. It is just as well to establish this right from the start - because it is one of the most common mistakes among newcomers to this line of business. You will not have your own boss, the same office to go to every morning, or even a payslip punctually popping up on the 25th of each month. As an employee you have a security which cannot be compared with your situation as a consultant. You have no probationary period, no three months' notice of termination and no safety net when out on an assignment. And even if it feels like you are really one of the employees at the workplace, it is important to understand that the conditions under which you work are different from theirs.
2. Trying to negotiate directly with the client
As a new consultant, it is often valuable to register with a consultant supplier, as a simple means of finding and winning the different assignments. But in this connection, it is important to know that it is not you who is primarily responsible for maintaining the contact with the client. All the legal issues, price negotiations and extension discussions are handled directly by your contact at the supplier's - the link between you and the client. If, for example, you try to negotiate your tasks directly with your client, you risk bypassing the procurement contract - which could hinder more than help.
Naturally, it is still a good idea to have open dialogue with your line manager or project manager - in order to coordinate your view of the project's future and gain an understanding of where the organisation is headed. You have the option of passing on these insights to the consultant broker, who will look after any further negotiations for an extended contract!
3. Confining yourself to a niche
In the consultancy sector, it is important to try to view your role as widely as possible. Many tend to restrict themselves to a particular niche, and insist that they are only, for example, a business controller - and will/can therefore only work in that role. But, naturally enough, this may limit your chances of winning an assignment! Abandon any ideas of prestige, and instead try to find different angles and perspectives on the basis of your previous assignments.
You will always find yourself in projects and constellations which point in a completely different direction - and being able to wear different hats and be adaptable is one of the most important characteristics you can have!
4. Not knowing how to sell yourself
Being a consultant involves selling one product at all times - yourself! Many newcomers to the sector do not know how to do this in a way which feels natural and self-confident - instead it can easily end up as empty boasting. But - even though you are promoting yourself, not everything revolves about you! For instance, if you go to an interview, it is important to think about what the person you meet is looking for.
Read through the advert an extra time and decide whether the organisation's visions and values coincide with your own. It will then be easier to match your attributes with the client's, instead of just talking about yourself!