The recent liquidation of British multinational Carillion - with the subsequent threat of the loss of 20,000 people’s livelihoods in the UK - demonstrates the stark reality of an uncertain and rapidly-changing market which consultants and contractors must be prepared to face. At the time of writing, the government advised that unless jobs are rescued by other firms, workers will cease to receive wages by Wednesday. The severity of the situation has now been fully realised.
The crisis is devastating and frustrating for all those affected, including the hundreds of subcontractors and their staff base. There are key questions related to commercial lending risk, due diligence procedures and debt management that will have to be addressed in time. However, for the thousands of workers - including a large number of consultants - there is an immediate pressure to act in order to preserve their careers and maintain their livelihoods. It wouldn’t be unreasonable or unexpected for those in this situation to be in a state of panic.
As a consultant, even with exceptional time management and contingency planning, there will be externalities - such as the financial health of your client - that will always be outside of your control. What is inside your control, however, is your response. Rather than reverting to panic mode (“What do I do?”), ask yourself: “Where is the opportunity?” Taking control over yourself in a situation involving a degree of crisis by taking an effective response is likely to determine the outcome of securing your next role.
Your ability to dust yourself off and spring back into action is crucial, but your response is part mind, part action. As one of our prominent speakers of last year’s conference, Bernie Higgins, Deputy Assistant Commissioner for the London Fire Brigade, reflected: the first step in a response to a major incident is to gather information and intelligence. Your first step as a consultant will be to reach out to your personal network.
Step 1: Consider your personal network
As a consultant, you know that maintaining strong and positive relationships with pre-existing and potential clients is essential to any successful portfolio career.
Take a step back and consider what is your specific expertise and/or industry. If you have a particular expertise, either technical or advisory e.g. engineering, facilities management and project management, get creative: you have a skill-set that cross-cuts industries. Make parallels between your expertise and the potential business needs within your network. As a starting point, draw up a list of ten ideal clients that you would be happy to work with, and where you could add the most value.
If your experience lends itself to an exclusive industry focus, you likely have a closer network that can give you insight into and updates on potential clients’ needs. Still, taking the time to develop a strategic approach based on key variables - client reputation, personal experience and your career objectives - will be more effective and beneficial to you in the long-term.
If you have a mixture of both technical expertise and industry, you have options! In any case, the question you should ultimately consider is: Who can help me move forward?
Step 2 - Reach out
Once you know who you need to call, contact them without hesitation. Be bold: a direct phone call will be more effective and quicker than email. Armed with the clarity of your added value, as well as a pre-existing relationship with the client - a personal contact or connection is advantageous - you will have a strong chance for an opportunity.
Step 3 - Get support
Networks are constantly-evolving, and it is not uncommon as a consultant to simply be in the wrong place, at the wrong time. If your personal network isn’t demonstrating any immediate opportunities, reaching out for external support will be the next logical step to not just secure your next role, but also instill confidence in your known abilities and added value.
Look for innovative companies that bring consultants and hiring companies together. For example, The Consultant Hub hosts a platform of hundreds of roles, including exclusive positions, catering to a range of varying expertise and industries. It additionally supports consultants through accredited learning and development training, keeping you focused, confident and on-track to secure your next role. Visit The Consultant Hub Roles page to explore what opportunities we have for you.
Act quickly, but strategically
Act quickly, but strategically. Keep abreast of the wider employment climate and set tangible goals on a daily or weekly basis. Once you have secured your next role, ensure that you reflect on the lessons learnt, so that you know you are able to take control, should a crisis ever arise in the future.