I have been asked this question many times and again more recently it came up on Linked-In. Is it something you have done? (Taken the leap from a safe Government or ANSP job to going out into the world on your own?). What advice would you give yourself and others wanting to make the first step?
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Interesting question, I think that to be a consultant you should first stop and think what value am I capable of bringing to potential clients? What things I have learned that will benefit others? Have I worked in a complex & dynamic environment where I brought strong insights and now it is time for me to share it?
Many of those questions can only be answered by someone that has engaged in different areas and taken additional responsibilities during their career, most of the time unless you have been able to manage other people or being in charge of a project you will lack the management skills that are required to be able to perform a consultant job. Nowadays we are moving towards mentoring and coaching and less towards a pure technical consultant role. Being able to share your war stories is as valuable as the knowledge you have on specific topics.
Another thing to consider besides the technical aspects is how risk adverse you are to stop receiving a weekly or monthly paycheck and will now live chasing potential clients, payment, loss of revenue and having to take care of yourself in terms of health and retirement benefits? Being an AIM consultant may be a rewarding experience but it is not something to take lightly as it may be really hard specially when you start and also during bad times like we are experiencing at the moment with COVID19. When working at an ANSP most probably just go to work and expect to get paid at the end of the month but consulting is a different.
Having taken the plunge into consulting myself about one-year ago I can say that networking and connections are very important, if nobody knows who you are then getting a consulting job is very difficult. Of course participating at ICAO meetings, presenting at Global Conferences, writing and sharing your knowledge through different channels, managing internal projects within your company and interacting with vendors will definitely put you in a better position to transition towards a consulting environment.
What are some of the things that you think are better in a fix job environment than consulting? What are some nice perks of doing consulting instead?
discussion also continues here:
With consulting you always need to start from the basis of a solid academic, work record and relevant practical experience. Your experience needs to be long enough to be useful to other parties outside of your current network of contacts.
While at work always look for opportunities to widen your knowledge and volunteer for new projects when they arise. If possible try and get to the point where you are at a supervisory or senior technical level in your field. If possible become a trainer of other staff in your organisation (it gets you used to talking to different groups of people), also if you can get advanced to attend or speak at international meetings (like the regional ICAO meetings or form part of the delegations to IFAIMA, etc this will widen your circle of contacts within the industry.
Comment On-line and join groups within the industry, keep your Linkedin profile up to date. Post interesting articles about up-to-date industry practices or initiatives that you have been involved in. Nothing beats genuinely helping others and making friends in the field, within AIS/AIM you will have the possibility to have friends and colleagues in every country in the world if you work in it for long enough.