A wide network is for many consultants the key to winning new assignments and developing their role. But despite what many think, your future is in no way dependent on having thousands of contacts on LinkedIn or on swapping business cards with everyone you meet at a lunch-seminar. Success as a consultant is first and foremost based on the right relations rather than many contacts.
Below you will find out more about what actually defines success for a consultant, and how you can achieve your goals to succeed in your career (without a huge network of your own).
The common ambition of all consultants is that they want to develop, gain experience and preferably enhance their practical skills and knowledge.
For many, "success" is about working on the exact projects you want, on your very own terms. By controlling your own working life you also have the advantage of only taking on the assignments which take you forward. Working on your own terms might be the right way to go in ordet to reach your personal - whatever they may be. If one of your career goals is to work abroad, for example, all your choices will be part of your journey towards achieving that goal. For some consultants, the financial aspect is a vital element of success. If so, say your goal is to have a higher income as a consultant than you would have as an employee. For others, freedom may be the most important factor, while others find their biggest success in helping clients meet their challenges and requirements in a way that makes the consultant feel indispensable.
A wide network can help you - but there are shortcuts
Having a wide contact network is important for many consultants, as in many cases it is a natural entrance door to new clients and projects. With a wide network, it is easier to make sure you always have a new assignment in the horizon. At the same time, many contacts means greater choice, and the opportunity to go on developing your knowledge within different areas instead of sticking to a narrow track. But a great network is not all, if it's not the right network.
Kudos for a wide contact network - but just having 5000 contacts on LinkedIn does not mean that you will be able to take advantage of them! The size of your network actually means nothing - unless you also have good relations with the contacts in it. A network is not a single thing and must not be treated as such; instead everyone is an individual with different needs, knowledge and experience. If you are unable to ask someone personally for a favour (and offer your own knowledge or understanding if someone asks for it back), then this contact is probably not very valuable.
Traditionally, the consultancy sector is an area in which business is done between people - unlike selling products or packaged services. As a consultant you have no wares to market - in the first instance, what you are selling is your time. Everything you have to offer is based on your unique skills and your personal qualities. But this is not just about what you write in your CV, instead it is about who you are as a person. Through your network, you are able to market yourself on the basis of your personal brand - which can be difficult if you have no personal contacts.
Value your existing relations
If you are relatively new in the consultant role, and have not yet built up a contact network, there are certain important things to think about - before you start adding every person you meet on LinkedIn. Instead, as a first step, stop a minute and analyse the persons closest to you.
Create a foundation on the following aspects:
● First of all, identify what persons really are close to you. You will always know someone! Start by stocking your closest contacts in the right order to see what relations might be worth building on.
● Focus on the contacts who will give you something in return - those who listen, those who are willing to give and take, and those who are interested in what you have to say.
● Do not waste your precious time on cultivating relations which may be enjoyable but will probably never contribute to the development of your career or professional role.
● Do not underestimate second-hand contacts - people you know may have their own wide-ranging contact network which you can make use of to expand your own. Good relations will take you far!
The consultant supplier is your springboard - be active!
The most efficient way of being a consultant is to have a carefully selected network of contacts thare are profitable. By registering with a consultant supplier, such as Ework, you automatically have the advantage of an enormous springboard out to many clients and assignments. Even if you do not have a personal relationship with each client, you can be certain that each assignment will provide a reliable reward. Linkage with a consultant supplier gives you a big potential for small sums, and dramatically increases your chances of success!
As well as just registering with a consultant supplier, it is important to view this as a relation as well - and something you will need to cultivate as you go. As a consultant the interest you represent lies in your professional role - but if you yourself are uninterested, it will be hard to get anything out of it. But if you regard the consultant supplier as a contact of equal standing, and make an effort to create good mutual relations and cooperation, this will generate a considerable added value for you as a consultant. In practice, this means you need to be committed! Do not wait for the phone to ring with an offer ready for you - but apply for the assignments which catch your eye. Follow up your applications, call the person in the advert and ask clarifying questions about the assignments. Be active and show that you are interested in the assignment, and the person on the other end will start being more interested in you.
Package what you have to offer and maintain your personal brand
As well as applying for specific assignments, it is also important to dare to become an attractive sales proposition, not least by packaging what you have to offer in a suitable way. Take a look at your experience and take the opportunity to expand your knowledge, based on the consultant you want to be.
Go to events organised by the consultant supplier - if only to say hello and get a look at people you have previously been in contact with.
Make sure you also invest time on your consultant profile - which is after all your main marketing channel. Update your CV, polish your presentation text and optimise your profile for the searchwords suggested by the clients and assignments you are interested in. Or why not find a new and exciting path for further expanding your CV?
Here at Ework, as well as advice and our own networking sessions, we also offer a special advantage to junior consultants, which will make it easier for you to make progress in your career.
Within the consultancy sector, technical skills and number of years of experience are always in focus - but in Ework's case we weigh personality traits just as highly when assessing a consultant's suitability. For example, in matching clients with consultants, it is of great importance that they are suitable for each other - and that the consultant's personality fits the character of the assignment and the client's culture, and also that they share the same values. As experience is not everything, this focus means that the boundary between juniors and seniors is less distinct. Even if the wording of a framework agreement means that a number of years' experience is often important, the right personal qualities can in many cases be worth more than you think. Ework includes this as an important part of the evaluation - a unique feature in our industry.
To conclude, an enormous network is not the deciding factor in success as a consultant. In practice, success is more about cultivating relations with the contacts you actually have, and in continuing to shape your personal brand along the way. In this way you will be able to contribute much more - and will enjoy more positive returns due to your efforts!