Could I work as a consultant?

Make no little plans, they have no magic to sir men’s blood...

– Daniel H. Burnham

Are you a manager or a consultant?

Are you a consultant or an entrepreneur?

There will come a point in your life when you’ll ask yourself these questions and the answer won’t seen obvious.

It might be the labour market – a lack of opportunities – that prompts you to ask these questions or it might be you that thinks you could give more or that you have a lot to give …

The role of the consultant has evolved in recent decades in the world and in Italy in particular.

Strategica1

Nowadays the market “rewards” specialisation. If you want to present yourself as a consultant you have to have something “special” to say.

Identifying that something “special” might not be so simple.

The first step involves preparing an inventory of what we have to offer in terms of actual capabilities (the technical name for this is a “skills assessment”), thinking not only of work but also about your life and as such what you’re able to do in your leisure time, sport and in terms of voluntary work and studies.

Another important step is keeping oneself informed about what’s going on in the world. I hate to say it, but not everyone pays attention to this. It means studying, reading, attending conferences, reading books and newspapers, blogs, ads.

The third step involves mapping out some possible paths: establishing some options that can then be examined fully. Do I look for a job in the same sector I have been a manager in for 20 years or do I change sector and do a course? 
Shall I get a professional certification in the US and then try to work as an expert in a field that isn’t very well known yet in Italy? Do I try to get more specialisation and  reach out to a clearly defined clientele?

Do I manage the communication aspects with a website and/or on social media sites? Or do I use word of mouth with a simple business card? Do I use consultants myself? Do I look for professionals to help me define my offer or do I start quietly and … think about it later? In other words: how do I approach the market, how do I position myself? Do I work with others or should I work on a freelance basis? Should I say I’m on my own or do I say “we are”…?

Will it work? When do I start? Do I want things to be ready on paper and then start? Do I prepare a business plan because it needs to be done or because I believe it is a working tool that I am good at preparing? Should I do some market research or do I think I’ve got a brilliant idea I should keep hidden …?

What do I need to be successful in all of these activities?

A director, a trainer, a coach, a senior… Aside from words and titles: a person that knows how it’s done and can advise you and accompany you along the way, without simply doing it for you.  

This is not just chitchat: we use templates, examples, tests, interviews and provide a varied and extensive experience. We provide real case studies, contacts, companies that can provide the consultancy that might be necessary for each of the steps that are mapped out.

Catherine, a french communications consultant in Milan

For years I have been involved with the Professional Women Association (PWA) in Milan. It was founded in the ’80s by women who had moved to Italy with their husbands/partners /boyfriends or for work and wanted a place where they could meet up for social and cultural purposes and to have support in their day to day and professional lives. This is where I met Catherine.

Catherine is from France and after studying and working for a period she set-up her own consultancy company in the PR / Corporate communication sector in Milan. She had been working as a communications consultant for 14 years, essentially on her own, but using colleagues for specific projects when necessary.  

Marketing 01

 ... I understood that there was a period in my life before I got to Italy and another one after that. The choice of leaving my own country was very important in professional terms.

After I finished my degree in Italy I thought that I no longer wanted to do menial jobs and that the time had come to really kick-start my career. I thought about my experience as a journalist and I thought that PR was quite a logical choice (I couldnt write Italian as well as a native, so journalism was not an option). I sent some CVs and I had interviews before I started working for an agency. When this experience ended– because there wasnt enough work … I lost my job and had to start again from scratch.

PWA was a great help to me: I learned many things about the labour market, and it really allowed me to see things in a new light. This is how I thought about finding the resources to help me work on a freelance basis.

I took part in a competition organised by the Chamber of Commerce of Milan that helped me prepare a business plan, and as I progressed in this process I met professionals, including a consultant who became a real mentor for me. My project ended up coming second and I was awarded a free grant.  I took the big plunge - I have to say that my own personal experience that began in Paris, then continued with my Italian degree and work experience has given me quite a lot of belief in myself. It seemed achievable.

In 2008 the crisis struck. My main customer went bankrupt and that was a major blow. I asked a coach to help me. This period of coaching proved to be very important for me becoming a consultant as opposed to a freelance worker who occasionally had a customer as boss. I redesigned both how I marketed myself and my way of being.

Throughout all these processes I always had the support of my husband and family as well as many of my professional contacts. In Milan I found a real entrepreneurial culture that was of great help to me. The perception of my business from friends and people I know has been very positive (and I think it is very different to what it would have been like in France).

I have a great deal of belief in the strength of the network because on a personal level it gave me a great deal. The help of a mentor, knowing how to ask for help and even coaching – when you work on your own like me - can be a fundamental tool at key moments of your professional development as it enables you to focus on certain areas that need to be improved”.

                                                                                                                                   Catherine


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