Good Day, Good Way To Be A Consultant
April 20, 2015 Dan Burger
Every way I turn, I find consultants. People I’ve known for years have parachuted from full-time jobs working in the traditional employee-employer circumstances to what amounts to freelance contract workers. The professional career doesn’t seem to matter. People want to get into the consulting business. Partly because businesses want to hire consultants. There’s a demand. And IBM midrange shops are no different from businesses at large. Welcome to the new job market.
You can thank technology for making all this possible.
If you’ve kept up with the latest business-tested hardware and software, or even if you haven’t, there can be a consulting job for you. Don’t get the idea it’s raining hundred dollar bills, but the odds are pretty good that you can exchange your knowledge into legal tender.
Patrick Staudacher says the demand for consultants is good and getting better. Staudacher is an executive recruiter based in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin, metropolitan area. His company, Talsco, is adjusting to the new hiring protocol that a lot of businesses are putting into place.
About 25 percent of his work is related to helping companies hire consultants. He’s been doing this for two years and he expects to be doing a lot more of it in the future.
“I’ve seen companies embrace consultants,” Staudacher says. Some of this comes from companies decreasing or eliminating full-time employees. Some of this is attributed to companies moving off the IBM midrange platform. He’s worked with companies that have IT budgets that include a certain percentage of employees hired as consultants.
“I recently placed a consultant in an RPG AS/400 company that is reducing its reliance on the system,” Staudacher says. “But the AS/400 will always be a component of what this company does. At the time I was first contacted, the company was looking for help during the transition to a new system. The company decided it didn’t need a 40-hour-a-week system admin and that a 20-hour-a-week consultant was a better option. In the future, the company plans to leverage more RPG consultants.”
He describes the IBM i professionals he works with as “career consultants.” They are not people looking for temporary jobs that will bridge the gap until they find full-time work. These are folks who work long-term contracts rather than being hired for short-term projects. They are self-employed and typically set up as a sole proprietorship known in most states as an limited liability corporation, or LLC.
The consultants bring a deep knowledge of the IBM i platform and usually have some unique skills. Some of those skills combinations are RPG with PHP or .NET, but he also placed two consultants that had CA 2E Synon development knowledge. In that instance, Synon is part of the company’s permanent road map. The business model there is to bring people on board for a year and if they work out well offer them a full time position.
Some of the consultants prefer to be independent. They stay as consultants rather than accept a full-time position. Being a consultant is a different mindset from being a full time employee and Staudacher recognizes that some are better suited for one situation rather than the other.
“I have some clients who are at a point where they are eligible to retire, but they still want to work. They split retirement with work and are happy with that arrangement,” he says. “But younger, non-retirement age people with IBM i skills are taking the consulting route as well. They are hungry and into the new technologies. When they have some of the-job experience, they can make this move. There’s a market for them. I would go so far as to recommend that younger people with technical and business skills set up their own consultancies. I’ve shifted my business in this direction because I see a demand that needs to be filled.”
It doesn’t necessarily take a lengthy list of specialized skills or a ton of experience as a prerequisite to printing business cards for your newly minted consultancy. A good attitude, a willingness to learn new things, and some positive energy will go a long way.
Staudacher says many of the corporate people he connects with share the belief that people can always learn new technologies. They can’t always learn the communication skills that relate to working well with others or the self-motivation necessary to work remotely.
This workforce strategy, he says, seems more prevalent than the one that requires a candidate to possess a shopping list of tech skills. There’s an understanding that the longer the list the more difficult it will be to find that person.