Questions About Becoming an IT Consultant

A hearty thanks to all of the CIOs-turned-consultants who posted in response to this column. James Huguelet, president of the Huguelet Group, offered a useful list of questions any CIO ought to ask before making the move:

Will I be as comfortable taking directions and accepting decisions as I was giving directions and making decisions?

Will I be fulfilled operating at a lower level of responsibility and involvement than when I was a CIO?

Will I enjoy rolling up my sleeves and being a “doer” (creating deliverables like documents), when I was always a “leader” (deciding what deliverables were needed)?

If you can answer “yes” to these questions and those posted in the column, you may well enjoy a successful turn as a consultant. But that still begs the question: Is there a career benefit to consulting?

Like the response to most good questions, the answer is: “It depends.” If what you seek long term in your career is a new senior-level executive position where you are effective, challenged, fulfilled and successful, consulting can be a powerful transitional move. But if you do not treat it strategically, consulting may not help you achieve this goal.

Let’s say you know that you want to be the CIO of a consumer packaged-goods company. Make a list of target companies, then join a consultancy that will expose you to senior executives at these businesses. When you have secured a consulting engagement with one of your targets, build up your internal contacts. Once you have built solid relationships, you will be privy to executive-level changes and decision-making processes, which will help as you pursue employment. Plus, as a valued consultant, you will have the credibility to set you apart from other candidates.

If you treat your time in consulting strategically, you will emerge with skills, experiences and contacts that are finely tuned to your next executive position. But if you don’t, all you’ll have to show for it is a big stack of frequent flier miles.

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