Most of us when we're working as an employee for a company never think about consulting or freelancing.
Why would you? Unless you've done it before, it seems like one of those things only those odd people who want to be lifelong free agents do. Their resumes show a string of Consultant or Contractor roles at various companies. It sounds unattractive at best and not much of a career at worst (which of course is classic confirmation bias).
But that's not all consulting is. The lifelong free agent path is a tiny sliver of the wide world of consulting.
And I'm here to tell you that you're missing out if that's your primary lens.
When you've done what you do for a few years, you accumulate a body of knowledge, experience, and expertise. There are two paths you normally take from there on out -- parlay that into a role upgrade at your current or another employer, or continue doing what you're doing at the job you are in.
Here's the thing. Those experience and skills you've gathered? Unless you keep pushing and prodding at their edges, they're going to start decaying. Sure, you'll still be able to continue to excel at your job because you're familiar with it, but that familiarity is precisely what impedes your growth.
One way to keep testing your edge and keep learning is to offer your expertise and experience to other_ companies and startups. Whether you're an engineer, designer, marketer, or in sales, you have a ton to offer up from what you've learned the hard way. Many startups are hungry to find people with proven skills and tap into their body of knowledge.
Now, unless you're already consulting, I'm not asking you to quit your job and or start moonlighting from tomorrow. Especially if you're in a key role or your role is a high intensity, highly responsible one, may be now is not the best time or place to explore any serious consulting.
But know that there are many roads that lead to the same destination. It doesn't have to be an all or nothing.
You can offer up a few hours a week where you help a team level up. This could be an advising or coaching role. You can also sometimes have real impact at a startup in as little as 10-20 hours a week (I'm currently doing this for almost a year).
There are other life circumstances too when this is totally doable. May be you are between jobs. May be you're taking a sabbatical and just want a short engagement to dip your toes into. Or if you're starting (or contemplating starting) your own thing and need to find a way to pay the bills while you explore that.
Consulting is also a terrific way to grow your professional network.
You'll get to know founders, executives, and peers at other companies. The exposure to new problems, people, and domains will keep you on your toes and provide incredible new opportunities to learn.
The world of work has changed significantly. You'd be surprised at what opportunities lie in plain sight.
Work doesn't just have to be a linear path of a string of jobs.
Consulting. Contracting. Freelancing -- whatever you call it, can open up entirely new doors that you probably didn't know even existed.
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