Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Consulting assignment life cycle 8: starting the assignment, building a reputation

Posted in consulting, job search and career development by Timothy Platt on April 26, 2012

This is my eighth installment on consulting and the consulting assignment life cycle (see my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2, postings 225-231 for parts 1-7.) So far I have discussed consulting per se and finding clients in this series. And in Part 6: day 1 of the assignment and Part 7: getting set up and connected in I began discussion of the consulting assignment itself and on getting organized and off to a good start.

Parts 6 and 7 focused on getting oriented and getting connected into the information technology and other systems that you will need to work with, in carrying out your duties and completing your tasks. I turn in this posting to the issues and goals that you should be thinking in terms of as you actually begin working there. And as I often do in my postings I begin here with the fundamentals.

• When you work with a client as a consultant you are only going to be there through the duration of the assignment. After that, you will move on.
• So approach every assignment from its beginning with a consulting cycle approach in mind and with an awareness that you will be moving on. Perform with a goal of creating new opportunities for yourself through future work assignments.
• This can mean leaving an impression with your current consulting employer that would encourage them to bring you back for repeat business and even as a steadily repeating client.
• This can mean developing bullet-point success details to add to your resume and other marketing materials for your consulting practice. In that, the What that you have worked on can be important to share word about, but bullet-points that highlight your effectiveness and success in doing those tasks is more valuable for you as you build and develop your consulting practice.

All of this comes into focus on day one and most certainly on day two of each assignment that you take on.

• Where at all possible, strive to begin the assignment with an early win – and with a performance opportunity that will help you develop a solid reputation with this client.

I write that noting that as a consultant you are most likely going to have to address the most pressing and challenging issues that your client has just hired you to help them with first. But difficult and complex challenges are rarely monolithic. They break down into sub-tasks and completing the overall goals of a difficult and complex task often depends on dividing out the component parts and planning and executing on them in order, until they are all done. “Difficult and complex” often simply means “not knowing where to start.”

So even when you have to start an assignment by diving into what seems to be your client’s most irksome and pressing problem, look for a place to start in it that you can publically define your skills through – and that you can complete as an early success.

• And while you are working on this, scope out the details and requirements for the next steps in this process and the next. That definitely includes learning who within the organization to talk with and to partner with in carrying out your job.
• The types of detail that I write of here would have at least ideally come out in the discussion when you were first meeting with this client, and when both you and they were still discussing this assignment as a possibility.
• But always assume that no matter your due diligence processes in selecting and agreeing to consulting assignments and no matter how through and up-front they were with you, you will find yourself surprised by at least some important details.
• And awareness of that and flexibility in adapting to change can be key to finding and achieving that early, first step success.

I am going to turn next to the issues of working with your manager, and progress reports. As a foretaste to that I note that your preferred communications and reporting styles are not going to be as important as are those of the people you report to and work with.

You can find this and related postings at my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 2. I have also posted extensively on jobs and careers-related topics in my first Guide directory page on Job Search and Career Development.

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