As a consultant, you need to know your sellable skill set or knowledge base. And just as importantly, you have to be able to package yourself in a way that the people who are buying your services will be comfortable in engaging you.
I decided to write this particular post because of the same question that has been asked of me by several consultants over the last two years.
When you change the marketplace of where you offer your services, when do you really experience the risk of the decision? When I ask that question to consultants that are considering taking up a new area of expertise, they don’t have much of an idea as to what I am talking about. So let me explain….
To highlight the issue, I will give an example of a specific conversation I had with a consultant I have known for just under 5 years. This consultant is a pharmacist who is very experienced with Cerner Millinium applications. She has worked for two different hospital systems that have used Cerner solutions and has most recently been working in the consulting world. Overall she has worked on 5 different Cerner implementations around Cerner Pharmacy Solutions (PharmNet, CPOE, eMAR, etc…). So, this consultant has asked for my opinion regarding an opportunity that she is currently considering. That opportunity is to be a part of an EPIC implementation. EPIC, as most people are aware, is a very hot market place right now and has been for the last few years….and for that matter probably will be for at least the next couple of years as well. She tells me she has an organization that has offered her the opportunity to come in as a consultant on the EPIC project primarily working with Willow. She thinks it is a great move and has sought out my opinion.
What I told her was, “You know, if you have an organization that is going to hire you as a consultant because they see value in the knowledge you have and will give you exposure to a new application and they are willing to pay you an amount of money you are comfortable with, then today you have absolutely nothing to lose by joining that project. You are going to be part of an exciting project, make good money in the process and come out at the end with a new set of skills and an expanded knowledge base. But you will not know if you lost anything until you look for your next project.”
At this point the consultant said: “What do you mean?”
Dave: “At this time, if you have an organization who, knowing what you know and don’t know, wants to hire you and give you exposure to new things, you have nothing to lose at all today“…with an emphasis on “today.”
Consultant: “I agree. But what do you mean today?”
Dave: “What I mean is, the only time you may have something to lose is when you are looking for your next project, the one right after this one is completed. And since this organization is planning on having you for six months to a year, you may not know until a year from now.”
Consultant: “Dave, I still don’t get it.”
Dave: “One year from now you will begin to look for a new project right?”
Dave: “Will you look to stay in the Epic market or go back to the Cerner market?”
Consultant : “Either one, whichever has the best opportunity for me.”
Dave: “O.K., well let’s look at both scenarios a year from now. If you look at another Epic project, you will be presenting yourself with the experience of one EPIC implementation against other consultants who have participated in many. And if you decided to get back to the Cerner projects, you will be presenting yourself into a marketplace where you have not worked in a year.”
Dave: “So, from what I have seen is this…if you have an organization that is going to hire you right now and give you exposure to something new, you have absolutely nothing to lose today by accepting it…Whether you have something to lose in the longer term, we will only know a year from now and we won’t know that until we know what demand will be like then. If demand is like it is today (in a future post I will get into how to forecast future demand for your skills) you will be fine or better then fine. But if the market tightens up, how will you fare in one market with the experience of one project and in the other where you have multiple projects yet have not worked in during the past year. .”
Consultant: “O.K., now I see the point!”
My point here is not to say that you should not change markets, as most people will have to reinvent themselves at least once if not multiple times if they want to have a long and successful career in the world of consulting. The point is to make sure you are evaluating all aspects in making a good decision not only for today, but for the future.
This is one of the top issues you should be sure to consider as a consultant when changing your marketable and sellable skill set.