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Consultant or Contractor?

I read a great post by Pie on “A Career or A Job … Redux”.  In it he talks about how roles as both a contractor and a consultant are a career.  He makes some great points at an individual level, but I’d like to point out that just because you work for a “consulting company” doesn’t mean you’re not a contractor.  I see the symbiotic relationship that exists in a consulting company as the big difference but I’m afraid that this is slowly going away. 

Inside a Consultancy
A consulting company looks at both itself and its staff in the big picture.  The consultancy is not looking for an individual to fill a single role for a single client.  They are looking for how an individual can fit into the organization over the long term.  Consultancies will be concerned with issues like life balance and others that make sure that individuals will be around long-term.  They will continue to develop and train individuals in an effort to ensure value to the organization.  They understand see their company’s strength in their individual.

The problem is that at times a consultancy will need contractors.  This is most evident in small focused organizations.  Once a consultancy has an opportunity outside its focus area, which can be a technology, geography, or even client, they often look for ways to fill the need with minimal risk.  (Often ignoring the first question, should we do this?)  More than likely a decision is made to fill the role with a “contractor”. 

Contractor in Consulting
Now this can be an outside subcontractor or the “consultant in title contractor in role”.  And don’t think that “consultant in title contractor in role” only comes from the outside.  You could have worked for the company for years and find yourself in the situation. 

A contractor in consulting company is not a bad thing.  When things go well, like a new practice is developed or a new geography is opened up, you were there at the beginning and hopefully reap some of the rewards.  But you also don’t want to be the first missionary to visit a tribe of cannibals.  The thing to remember is that your success is really up to you, but you need to know the role you’re in.  You’re manager will know which one.  The real question is, do you?

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