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Are Consultants Always On The Road? The Top 5 Myths About Becoming an IT Consultant

You've got a great job in IT – you're full-time, you get good benefits and you're well paid, but you're bored. Maybe you've climbed the ladder as far as you can at your job. Or maybe you have your own business, but time you have to spend finding clients takes you away from the development work you love. Or maybe you're just starting out but you don't know where you should look for work.

If any of these sound like you, you've probably considered — at least for a second — becoming an IT consultant. But perhaps you're reluctant: you may be worried about trading job security for more interesting work, or that you'll get thrown on the first job a recruiter has for you, whether you're qualified for it or not, or maybe you're afraid you'll always be traveling.

There are a lot of stereotypes about consultants and consulting out there and not all of them are based in fact.

In this post, Omni's talent team will explore - and explode - five of the biggest myths about consulting work.

  1. Consultants give up financial stability and job security.
    “The problem here is a common misunderstanding: contracting and consulting are not the same thing. A contractor is essentially a freelancer: once their contract is up with a client, they’re not guaranteed more work. Consultants; however, don't have to be freelance contract-only workers,” says senior talent acquisition consultant Kerry Weber, a recruiter with more than 20 years of experience.

    "We can hire them as consultants, as a full-time salaried employee with full benefits," she says, "And we can hire people to the bench."

    What's "the bench?" Well, when a project a consultant is working on wraps up, they're typically moved right to another project. However, if there is no project for them to go to, Omni keeps consultants as full-time employees, often working on internal projects, until another client needs them — aka “on the bench”.

    "They're still a salaried full-time employee with Omni and have benefits, so they have that stability and security," says Talent Acquisition Manager Kaycee Whitaker, Omni's veteran recruiter.

  2. Consulting means perpetual, anxiety-inducing uncertainty.
    When you work full-time for a company, you know what your days are going to be like and what you're going to be doing. When you're a consultant you don't always know and that can be unsettling. What if you're sent to work in an industry that you have no experience with? What if you don't fit in with the client's culture? What if you're sent out on the first available job and you don't know what you're doing?

    All of this is the stuff of anxiety nightmares, but you don't have to worry. A good recruiter isn't going to send you to a client who needs work that you can't do.

    It's the recruiters' job to make sure you're a good fit for the project, the client and the people you'll be working with — after all, Omni (and other staffing agencies) want clients to be happy with you and your work.

    "Typically, Omni works directly with a consultant to make sure the project is a good fit for their background and their interests," says Whitaker.

    As for there being some uncertainty in consulting? Well, that can be true, but it's not always a bad thing. The variety of jobs consultants take are often a big draw for people who love new projects, which brings us to our next myth:

  3. You're not the right type of person to be a consultant.
    You've worked only in one field for years and your skills are highly-specialized. Or, maybe you're a generalist who has worked in many IT fields. You're brand new to the workforce, or you've been at one job forever, or you've been out on your own, or you've taken family leave and it's been a while since you've worked. You're too old. You're too young. You have experience but no education, or you have a great education but have only worked on your own projects.

    All of these things, you may think, disqualify you. That worry couldn't be further from the truth: there is no ideal candidate for consulting work because no two clients have the exact same needs.

    Consultants can come from a range of backgrounds. They can be specialists, talented generalists, leaders, teachers or mentors. The only quality a consultant needs is a willingness to learn new technology and solve problems — good potential consultants are often life-long learners, tinkerers, teachers and people who adapt well to different kinds of environments.

    They should also understand business, so they can address the pain point behind the technology they're working on.

    "You're not just a technical person," said Weber. "You're there to really solve problems with the business."

  4. You'll be on the road all the time.consultant
    Consultants are always traveling, right? They fly out to a client on Monday morning, live in a hotel all week, and fly home on Friday. If you have a family — or just like being home — that can turn you off the idea of being a consultant.

    But here's the thing: not all consultants live like that. This is something you'll have to ask a recruiter about, because every company handles it differently, but at Omni, consultants have choices — they'll either be placed locally, or work remotely.

    "In reality, you're going to be placed at a client that’s feasible for you," says Weber.

    We can be flexible with how we hire people based on what suits their needs best.

  5. There is only one way to be a consultant.
    Maybe you freelance as a consultant and you're wary of talking to a recruiter because you think you might lose your freedom. You might end up locked into a contract, or be unable to keep working for your own business.

    But here's the thing — just as you won't necessarily lose your stability if you become a consultant, nor will you necessarily lose your freedom. There are various ways to be a consultant: you can be a W-2 hourly contractor, work as a 1099 hourly contractor, you can work through your own LLC or you can be salaried.

    "It's not one size fits all," says Talent Acquisition Specialist Michael Kenyon, "It's not as rigid as people think."

Think you're cut out for consulting? Contact Kaycee, Kerry and Michael to talk about finding opportunities that are right for you.


Image Credit: 
Man on Computer: photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

A.J. O'Connell

About Author A.J. O'Connell

What happens when you love technology but your skill set means you’re more into writing prose than code? You write about technology. That’s what A.J. O’Connell does. A freelance writer who got her start in newspaper journalism, A.J. has been writing professionally for almost 20 years. She loves writing for Omni because she gets to write about cutting edge technology; it brings her back to college, when she hung out with all the computer science students in the IT lab. A.J. lives in CT with her husband, her son, and a lot of animals.


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