Changing Careers: Which Career Path Should You Take -- Consultant or Corporate Executive?

Julie Shenkman
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Every time the economy expands or dips, executives who are tired, bored, displaced, or in search of above-market earnings come out of the barn in droves looking for "greener pastures". They frequently assume that their experiences running a "real" company qualify them to provide insight and expertise as a consultant to other companies. Meanwhile, consultants looking for financial stability have thoughts of going corporate. Consultants are often confident of their abilities to lead organizations. Who could be better qualified than them to run a company from the inside? After all, they have been the guiding hand for many companies strategic, financial and technology direction. They have been trusted counsel for their top executives. Unfortunately, grazing in the other "greener" pasture is more complicated than it seems on the surface. What Life as a Consultant is Like The defining characteristics of the consulting environment are remarkably similar from firm to firm, regardless of whether it is a large global firm or a small local firm. First and foremost, at a senior level, success is based on the generation of sales revenue. Dollars equal power. As a consultant, engagements are driven by thought leadership and strategy. Your clients typically have a list of problems that need to be solved -- and the list changes frequently. Corporate decision-makers assure that consultants have special access to people and resources. After all, they have already or will shortly write a very large check for their services. From a delivery perspective, work is often standardized and methodology-based. Engagements have a beginning, an end, and a defined scope. Often little or no responsibility for implementation or outcomes is specified. But, there are some exceptions. Certain contractual arrangements have shared responsibility for results and that is reflected in the fee. Secondly, the consultant handles implementation of a system or process. However, once it is "done," the consultant still leaves and doesn’t have to live with the consequences. Supervision and personnel responsibility is usually limited to performance on the project by the team members. Should You Be a Consultant? * Are you energized by smart people doing interesting work? * Do you enjoy a continuously shifting landscape of new problems to solve? * Are you easily bored? * Do you like providing "advice and counsel" with little responsibility for operational activities or outcomes? * Is selling fun? Do you like the thrill of the chase? * Do you enjoy socializing and building a network of contacts? What Life as a Corporate Executive is Like In corporations, whether public or private, profitability and shareholder value are the bottom line. For most executives, success is based on contribution to operating results. Organizational leadership, from vision to planning through execution, drives performance. Decision-making and risk taking, with accountability for choices, is fundamental. Outcomes are everything. Activities are heavily implementation and results driven. Few projects are intellectually stimulating. Most of the work of the organization is continuous and predominantly operational. Much is policy and procedurally based. There is a broad distribution of people in a corporation, with a tendency to gather around the mean in intelligence, motivation and interest in their work. Comprehensive personnel management is required by line and most staff executives to maximize the contribution of all employees in the company. Should You Become a Corporate Executive? * Do you like being on the front lines, directing others, making choices? * Do you like to see things through to the end? * Do you gain personal satisfaction from positive, measurable results that you had a significant role in delivering? * Can you keep focus on the long-term while dealing with tactical and operational concerns? * Are you willing to stand behind your decisions and be accountable for and part of outcomes with continuing consequences? * As an insider, can you gain the respect of others for your business acumen? * Are you energized by motivating and leading groups of people to successful achievement of common goals? * Do others follow you and support you? How to Align Yourself with the Career Choice You Make If you are a consultant and still think you are a candidate for a change to a corporation, consider whether you are most suited for a consulting-like role or for an operating leadership position. Your business acumen, facilitation ability, and communication skills are key skills that will be valuable in a corporate role. If you are an executive and still want to try your hand at consulting, consider whether you are most suited for a partner (translate that sales) role or for delivery management (translate that project or multiple projects). Your experience of making things work in the real world and your ability to negotiate complex organizations will be helpful in a consulting role. Remember, both consulting and executive roles have challenges and rewards. Neither is as easy as it looks from the outside, looking in. As long as you find the one that works for you, you will be where the grass is greenest. Paula Asinof, Career Management Expert and Founder of Yellow Brick Path, accelerates the careers of successful executives and professionals who want to move up or move on to their next career opportunities. Throughout her career, she has helped clients, subordinates, and peers recognize their unique capabilities and position themselves as "A" players. Before, you even think about a career change, go to and let Paula create a customized roadmap just for you.

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  • Chris Park
    Chris Park
    I have been in Hospitality industry for over 20 years. Hotel and Private Country Clubs are my expertise. Would love to share my experiences.
  • Ivy Aguirre
    Ivy Aguirre
    I'm a three time felon who turned his life around. I have leadership experience, apartment property mgmt. experience, lead maintenance experience (all fields of maintenence) automotive experience, HVAC Installer. My problem is when I tell people about my past, which they need to hear from me, they tend to look the other way.the only capital I have is my tool ( alot of tools) my truck and my word. All I need is a chance to show people my capabilities and they will speak for themselves.Thank You
  • Ronald Wilson
    Ronald Wilson
    I would like to know more about the way to start a consulting business. I have been a Maintenance Manager and now find my self searching for something else to do. Experience is in Electrical(High Voltage, PLC's , VS and automatic controls and measurement.
  • Tom Maguire
    Tom Maguire
    Please refer me to Food & Beverage consulting options
  • kenny morris
    kenny morris
    Consulting is something I have been away from for quite some time.  Now I find I have more time on my hands and am not employed at present, I have been thinking it might be time to share my aquired knowledge of the sales and management field and share it with others.  Tell me more!
  • James Wilkins
    James Wilkins
    I would like more info on consultant work in the golf industry. I have been in the industry for 10+ years and have developed many ways to overcome common problems that it seems every green grass facility face. Also have implemented some visionary ideas for membership growth, and tournament participation over the years with much success.
  • Elissa Penn
    Elissa Penn
    I have been a legal secretary for 25+ years and have been looking for work for over a year. I am very interested in learning more about consulting and what type of consulting would best suit me.
  • Zaffer Mirza
    Zaffer Mirza
    This is wonderful article encouraging people thinking outside the box. I certainly would like to try consulting as my next profession. I have been in the pharmaceutical industry in sales and marketing internationally and domestically for over 20 years. I sincerely believe consulting is my next calling.????
  • Tom cuevas
    Tom cuevas
    I would like more information on consultant pertaining to roofing/construction. Thank you.
  • Susan McCarthy
    Susan McCarthy
    My area of expertise is Human Resources.  I would very much like to explore how I can build a client base by offering my services in Labor Law Compliance, Loss Prevention, Employee Relations, Recordkeeping, Training and Development, etc.
  • Phillip
    I would like more information on consulting.
  • Leonel Loiseau
    Leonel Loiseau
    I am interested in providing Consulting Services in the area of: Defined Contribution Administration, Trust Analyses, Reconciliations, Defined Benefits, Systems testing, Implementation, New Business Implementation, Vendor Reconciliations, Payroll Reconciliations, Account Receivable and Payable, Audits and much more. I have over 25 years experience in the Administration of various aspects of DC/401(k) plans and in the management of these plans  
  • Larry B.
    Larry B.
    I would like more information on consulting.
  • John N
    John N
    I know someone who consults for the Siemens corporation and this person does quite well and works out of a condo on a laptop.Id be interested in knowing more about consulting.But which type of consulting would suit me is what I wonder.I am openminded toward new opportunities.
  • John S.
    John S.
    Would sincerely appreciate receiving information, and have many years experience in Broadcasting, Aerospace, Cellular systems, Electronics, as well as Medical Electronics and related services.
  • David C.
    David C.
    I am interested in becoming a consultant. Have done some but need to find gigs.  
  • Reginald J.
    Reginald J.
    Nice article. I would like more information on being a consultant myself since I have consulting experience.
  • Christian K.
    Christian K.
    I am a business and accounting professor interested in consulting as long as there are no start up costs.
  • Linda M.
    Linda M.
    I am an experience administrative assistant seeking employment and am very willing to work from home and/or in an office setting.  I am detail-oriented, reliable and dependable; I am proficient in Microsoft Office and all of its software.  I am currently commissioned by the State of Massachusetts as a Notary Public. I possess excellent verbal and writing skills.  I am open minded to learning new things.  
  • p
    As a medical professional with 15 years experience in the healthcare field, I am interested in suitable and challenging positions.
  • Dale A.
    Dale A.
    I have a degree BS in Architecture, an Associate in Electrical and 10 hrs short of a BS in Civil structural design. I have been in business for myself for the last 23 years and have a world of knowledge and construction experience. I have been a project manager on a 46 story high rise, a 214,000 sf research hospital, Carter Presidential library, a 16 bay fire house, a 6 story condo project and designed and built more than 50 homes ranging in price from $250k to $1.5M. I think I have the expertise to build just about anything, but the economy put me and my company out of business. If you are in need of someone of my talent please give me a call and lets talk. I am tired of sitting here doing nothing! Sincerely, Dale PS: My wife has a masters in Interior Design and is looking too. We make a great team for a Architect or builder.
  • Charles M.
    Charles M.
    I have 30 plus years experience in Food Beverage Hospitality and know within 15 minutes of walking into a restaurant what is right and wrong just on a cursory glance. If I spend real time there, especially if allowed in the back of the house, I can really see whats right and wrong. I would be a great consultant, and very much desire to do so, but don't know how to really get started. I also do not know how to get my first few gigs. I am positive in my ability to fix problems, assuming the one who hires me is going to implement the needed adjustments. Having been an employee before and bringing ideas forward I have been liked by MGR.s. There is however ALWAYS some reason, belief or excuse that it just can't be done right at this point in time, and although they are aware, were just going to have to live with this issue a little more, and hopefully muddle through somehow. This is mostly because the MGRs either don't have the needed authority, are afraid of rocking the boat, or their % numbers for the required fix would be unbalanced for a short while. This would then bring the unwanted attentions of their superiors and they would be viewed as either not staying within their parameters,or even though the required fix will cost extra right now, the fact that in the future the problem will have been solved and therefore be more efficient and SAVE the company $ from then on, they just don't want to be viewed as being too smart for their own good or the like etc.  This I have found in virtually every Corp run business I have ever worked  for, whereas Mom and Pop operations who only have to listen to their OWN mind and circumstance inevitably fix the problem very rapidly and move on with the ensuing streamlining in efficiency. In the corp. run ones, even though they KNOW you are right, well, they just can't be brought to do something about it for the reasons listed above. Since I KNOW I can do this and see it through I really would like to know how to get actually started,as my personal finances are of course tight with the way things are in the economy now. Although not afraid to venture the capital, I don't really know how to get off the ground and start to fly. Please tell me, right from square one, what is it I need to do,and I will do it,as I am just busting to put my experience to work for ME as well as the business in question. Thanks for listening,and I hope to hear from you soon!
  • Julayne J.
    Julayne J.
    Hello--my husband and I are interested in hearing about opportunities to work together.  We both have a license in Health and Life insurance.  My husband has a background in accounting and taxes and I have a background in Administration.
  • Ronald M.
    Ronald M.
    May 2011 - Awesome article! Well written and thought provoking. I am a Healthcare Clinician as well as a Healthcare Sales Specialist (Medical Device & Specialty Pharmaceuticals). I have nearly 20 years of military, medical and healthcare experience. Problem is, after 18 months of looking (unsuccessfully), all I keep hearing is.... overqualified.... dynamic, but we decided to go in another direction....stellar background, however.....etc. After awhile, it gets more and more difficult to let the rejections "simply roll off your back like rain". I am beginning to feel stuck and frustrated. I guess at this point I really don't know exactly where the "best place is" to start looking for Professional Consulting jobs, and I'm getting desperate to get back into the workforce.  Finally, is being a Consultant similar to being a Professional/Public Speaker?  Although I remain unemployed, my faith and family keep me going, and I have been able to help countless others with "friendly career advice and guidance". I have been told by those I have helped, and many others, that I would be a great Motivational Speaker on tour, especially for others finding themselves in a "career rut" and looking for their shovel to dig themselves out! One man's vision/journey, when shared, can be another man's answer to prayer and "a soothing balm to their tired and weary soul".Thanks again Paula Asinof for an amazing article. Any additional information you could provide, on Professional Consulting or Public Speaking, would be greatly appreciated. Ronald M. - BS, MA, LLP
  • Kevin k.
    Kevin k.
    Iam consulting everything from marketing to monthly statements. Looking for more clients!

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