Self-knowledge is a process that continues as long as you are alive. There is no beginning and no end. Questioning yourself about your needs, personality type, strengths and weaknesses and your values is just a start. You should try to develop a day-to-day awareness of your behavior and attitude toward the myriad aspects of your life and consulting work. Ultimately it is perception and sensitivity that determine whether you, as a consultant, will be able to motivate, delegate, negotiate, communicate and perform all of the required consultancy tasks.
Since life is a continuously flowing river and not a static pond, you should be aware that you are changing – your body, your thoughts, your attitudes – every moment. It is important therefore, to keep up to date with yourself; to keep breaking the habit of thinking that you fit a particular mold.
You should keep a personal balance sheet, listing your strengths and weaknesses, values and desires, and then review it at a set date, every year or two years, to see how you have progressed. You may find, for instance, that on the debit side you listed “Take things to heart too much and am too stressful” and then wondered, when reviewing it after a year, why you ever thought it was a problem.
Be prepared to change. After gaining better awareness of your strong and weak points, concentrate on your strengths: winning is about giving your strengths full rein. That is not to say that you should ignore an obvious weakness. It will have to be dealt with. Through effort, training and experience, most consultants can become competent at all consulting skills.
Finally, be aware that the rate of social change is increasing and that as an independent consultant you will be working at or from home, and there will be more time for leisure. Change and impermanence are a part of tomorrow’s world. Be ready to accept the challenge. You should be aware of the fundamental changes in life that will affect you and your consulting work and be prepared to adapt accordingly.
After leaving school or university, you face the challenge of trying to establish yourself in the outside world. It is likely that you will be relatively fit and eager to get on with making money to pay for your rent and leisure activities. You will probably have lots of confidence and energy born from a lack of experience of failure, and these provide the necessary impetus to get you into your working life.
Later on, perhaps from the age of 25 to the early 30s, you will start focusing outside work on your personal and emotional life. Your job may not be as exciting as it first was but you have begun to establish a financial base and are now looking for a partner to share your life and a house to buy. Now is also the time when you may start looking for an alternative job.
From late 20s to late 30s you will probably be fairly set in your job, even if you have changed careers, and may be living with your partner in bought accommodation. Security will be high on your list of needs and you will still be ambitious, having been promoted but with more rungs to climb. You might have started a family. If so, you might find that your job, at least temporarily, becomes of secondary importance.
You might also find that babies mean sleepless nights and, coupled together with a tailing off of your leisure activities, it is harder to cope and more stressful at work. If this happens to you check to see whether your workload can be lightened by, say, delegating more. Also, make sure that you are using your talents and have not strayed away from using your natural core strengths.
In their early 40s, men and women experience a phase of transition. The infamous midlife crisis may result in turbulent change for you and your partner. You may have anxious feelings about fulfillment, linked to a concern about your career development.
Marriages can come under stress during these middle years. Couples may already have grown apart by this time: a jet setter on expenses, for example, is likely to grow away from a spouse with a less glamorous lifestyle; a middle-manager, dissatisfied with a humdrum job, may compensate by seeking excitement at the expense of family commitments. If you have children, their adjustment to adolescence may coincide with your problems at middle age, heightening domestic conflict.
If you have weathered the storm that follows the midlife crisis, you should be able to cope with the next phase of readjustment. Now you should have settled for your position in life and be making the most of it. Retirement will be increasingly on your mind: “How will I cope? Should I be saving more? Shall I try to carry on working or negotiate a settlement? Will I have the leisure interests to fill my day or will I be at a loss?” You will begin to take stock of your career and what you have and have not achieved.
The Right Time For Consulting
Age is an important factor when deciding whether it is the right time to become a consultant. There is definitely a right time and a wrong time. The fact is that everyone possesses different levels of ability at different stages of their career. It is also true that a consultant in their 20s and 30s, will have different values and hence a different service to offer, than a consultant in their 50s and 60s.
This will also be true from a client’s perspective. An old manufacturing company, where the average age of board members is 60, are unlikely to employ a consultant who is younger than they are. Equally, a young technology company, where the average age of board members is 25, are unlikely to employ a consultant who is older than they are.
It is also important to understand that clients will be employing different consultants for very different reasons. All that you need to ensure is that your consulting service ultimately reflects who you are at this point in time.
The old adage “If you are good enough, then you are old enough” really applies here. It is very rare that a client would employ a consultant merely because of their perceived experience. Clients still need to understand a consultant’s service and how it will be implemented. Relevant experience may or may not be an advantage, depending upon the nature of the service.
The fact is that you will know precisely when it is the right time for you to consult because your body will tell you, regardless of which phase in life you may be going through. If consulting is a strong desire for you at the moment, regardless of how old you are or how financially secure you are, then you are likely to have strong personal reasons for feeling this way. Only those who are entering the consulting industry, in the absence of something more suitable, need to be concerned about their current career path.