The case for consulting: 5 reasons to join the gig economy

A person's hands typing on a computer

In the past, the job hopper was an unpopular brand of employee. The perception was that they darted from company to company, never seeming to find a foothold, never reaping the rewards of job stability or career advancement.

But today, this narrative has shifted. The rise of the digital age and the gig economy — and most recently the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic — has shaken up the economy. For a growing portion of the American workforce, consulting has become a way of life — and the road to a rewarding career.

Just ask Joey Barsness.

Five years ago, Joey was a one-company man — a senior instructional designer with the rest of his career mapped out for him. Today, Joey moves from contract to contract and client to client as he pursues the perfect consulting gig for his personality.

What sparked this 180-degree sea change?

In 2015, the Fortune 500 company Joey worked at pivoted to the digital omnichannel space — eliminating his manual role and capsizing his career plans. In response, Joey sharpened his coding skills at a four-month digital bootcamp and teamed up with Horizontal Talent to carve out a consulting career in the software field.

“I tell everyone I know that consulting is realistically the best option for people in tech,” says Joey. “Great opportunities are out there if you’re honest and upfront.”

Testing the job market in a turbulent time

Today’s murky economic outlook is forcing many employees to ponder tough decisions. Slowed by lockdowns and unsettled by civil unrest, job security has become harder to come by. Rounds of layoffs loom. Competition for open roles is fierce.

“With COVID-19 and the shifting of the markets, you can get laid off very quickly nowadays,” says Jake Sayaraj, Creative Recruiter at Horizontal Talent. “This is nothing like our parents’ era. My dad’s been at his job for over 30 years and plans to retire next year. That doesn’t happen anymore.”

In the midst of the chaos and concern, opportunities abound for those with the right skills and the right mentality.

“This economy has affected the tech space, but it has also created different types of work with a renewed emphasis on digital,” Sayarai says.

The Minneapolis-based recruiter said he’s been placing quite a few content writers within the education industry as schools convert their coursework to online for remote classes this fall.

“Consultants interview over Zoom and sign onto a role without seeing the workspace or meeting the team in real life,” Sayaraj says. “They get their laptops mailed to them and even fingerprint samples in some cases. Our staffing process is completely virtual.”

Pre-COVID, many clients had strict work-from-home policies and inflexible attitudes toward remote workers. To effectively collaborate with the internal team, consultants were often required to be in the office five days a week. But thanks to COVID, companies have had to hurriedly pivot to remote operations. As a silver lining, looser polices are opening up firms to a larger talent pool.

As you evaluate your job prospects and explore your options during this uncertain time, the consulting route may be worth a look. Here are five major benefits of joining the gig economy.

Things move fast.

The hiring process for a traditional, full-time role is a grind that can drag on for months. And the communication gaps are even worse than the drawn-out timeline as you navigate phone screens, interviews and skill assessments. Not ideal for those facing layoffs and furloughs. By comparison, the hiring process for consultants is brisk and efficient.

“Last Friday, I submitted someone to a role with a Fortune 500 client and got an interview request for Monday,” Sayaraj says. “He went in and interviewed on Monday afternoon and got an offer by the end of the day. if it’s the right candidate and the right role, we can make that happen quickly. For some people that’s a big deal. They want to work now.”

As concerns about the economy loom, many consultants are planning ahead to line up work and ensure a steady paycheck.

“I’ve noticed that consultants are starting to look for their next job about two weeks sooner than they had before the pandemic,” says Tricia Ramotar, IT Recruiter at Horizontal Talent.

When a friend connected Joey with Luke Meyer, IT Recruiter at Horizontal Talent, he was impressed by the speedy process.

“I shot Luke my resume and I’m not even joking — that afternoon he had 10 jobs for me,” Joey recalls. “I learned two things. One, Horizontal is a fantastic place. And two, I need to stick with Luke Meyer to find my perfect job.”

You’ll never get bored.

In the past, the economy was engineered to reward employees who planted roots and committed to a company for the long term. But today, many people consult for their entire careers — earning a competitive compensation, expanding their skillsets, growing their networks and lining up a consistent flow of consulting gigs to sustain them over a long period of time.

“I’ve heard from many consultants who have been doing this for years that they prefer consulting over full-time roles because they’ll never get bored,” says Ramotar. “They’re constantly learning new things, jumping into different industries, learning new technologies and meeting new people. Consultants have the power to choose when, where, how they want to work.”

Consulting simultaneously offers a safety net and a springboard to the realm of full-time employment. You get the chance to kick the tires and test drive the car before you buy it, while the employer gets the opportunity to do the same thing. If things go well, consultants may have the opportunity to get converted to full-time. And if the long-term fit isn’t right, it’s easy to move on — consultants know they’ll be able to leverage that experience on future consulting engagements.

“If a job isn’t working out, you’re not boxed in like you would be in a traditional role,” says Joey. “Consulting offers you a relief valve if you’re frustrated. Just reach out to Horizontal and they can help you find roles that are a better match for your skillset.”

It’s a pathway to your passion.

After Joey upskilled at the intensive coding bootcamp, he still had to learn where his personality fit in the world of technology. He got his feet wet at a development shop before finding a match on the Quality Assurance (QA) side of software.

“Working in development is like being the private chef at the White House,” says Joey. “You’re changing your menu weekly and constantly researching new recipes. But QA is like being the guy at McDonald’s who makes sure the Big Mac comes out the exact same way every time. If a pickle is missing or the special sauce is off, you’re the first in line to figure out why. It fits my personality much better.”

Currently, Joey is a Software QA Test Engineer at a healthcare organization. He tests 3D and 4D image generating technology, which converts MRI and X-Ray data into visualizations that help identify COVID clusters in the lungs.

“My mom was a nurse for 40 years, so this job is a great opportunity to give back to the medical community and contribute to better health for the world,” Joey says. “I love my team and everything I get to work on.”

It’s a foot in the door at your dream job.

Is it your lifelong dream to work for a household name brand? Looking to gain experience at a global leader of innovation? Or are you interested in working for a dynamic start up? Consulting is a great way to get your foot in the door.

Beyond Fortune 500 companies, Horizontal also partners with small and medium-sized businesses. We can give you exposure to all types of clients you might not be able to access on your own.

You get an ally to tailor your opportunities and fight your battles.

At many large companies, HR’s approach is to throw new hires against the wall to see what sticks. They might hire five people and call it a win if two or three decide to stay. But at Horizontal Talent, recruiters take the time to develop relationships with their consultants and thoughtfully match them up with clients to ensure success.

“Companies like Horizontal need to be the staffing agency versus an antiquated HR department that’s more interested in the company’s needs than the consultant’s needs,” says Joey. “There’s no possible way for large companies to connect with their employees at the same level. As I’ve gotten to know Luke and we’ve learned more from each other, he’s been able to generate better and better opportunities for me.”

To keep the consultant hiring process painless, Horizontal Talent recruiters handle all the prep work.

“Once you give me your resume, I submit you to a client, take care of all the setup and help you prepare for your interview,” says Sayaraj. “After you start, I check in every week to make sure all your expectations are being met.”

As today’s dicey economy continues to flip the workforce on its head and turn the unthinkable into reality, Joey offers a few words of encouragement to those who are considering dipping a toe into the consulting scene.

“Don’t be scared. Just be yourself and I promise you companies like Horizontal will take care of you,” he says. “That’s putting my name and my integrity on the line, and I’m more than happy to do it based off my experiences so far.”

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Job Seekers, Talent