Wednesday, January 16, 2019 | ePaper

Making the move from consultant to staffer

  • Print
Emma Smith:
Working as a consultant can be very appealing to global development professionals at different stages in their career. The flexible nature of consultancy work means that during or in between projects you can pursue studies, take care of family, or travel. For professionals transitioning from another sector or simply looking to get their foot in the door with the employer of their choice, consultancy roles can be a way to gain the relevant experience that could eventually lead to a staff position.
Multilaterals, aid organizations and NGOs across the sector rely on consultants for project-specific expertise, and some often work with consultants on an ongoing basis. Many international organizations use short-term technical consultants, explains Katja Juvonen, senior strategy officer with the African Development Bank Group. But most of the them, including the AfDB and International Fund for Agricultural Development, also hire many long-term consultants. Contracts can range from six months up to a year. They rarely exceed a year term as consultancy funds are often decided on an annual basis, but they can be extended. Juvonen, who is based at AfDB's headquarters in Abidjan, previously worked as a senior strategy consultant for over two years with the bank. She says most departments or divisions within the institution are working with at least one consultant at any given time, and often more.
"There is no right or wrong career path," says Juvonen, but working first as a consultant can help better position you to land a staff position down the line. Here are some additional tips from global development professionals on making the move from consultant to staffer.
If you have been in your current position for a few years, you may be feeling restless and ready for a new challenge. It can be difficult to see where your career is leading you and to know next steps to prepare for your next position. Here are seven tips to help you leap to the next level of your career.
Set yourself clear career goals and look for roles that will help you get there. While any work experience can of course be beneficial on your CV, if you want to work in a particular region or with an organization focusing on certain issues, look for consultancy gigs, which will allow you to gain hands-on experience in these specific areas.
"One needs to make sure that you have enough relevant experience," says Juvonen, "so if you want to work in operations in Africa, you should look for consultant opportunities that will allow you to have that type of exposure." This will also allow you to build a network of relevant contacts within the sector and within that region, she adds.
As a consultant, the emphasis is often on technical experience to complete a specific assignment. Possessing a technical in-demand skillset can also lead to a multiyear assignment on a project or, in some cases, a full-time staff position with a company, says Leif Kindberg, environmental and natural resources associate at Tetra Tech. Kindberg, who has now been with Tetra Tech for over two and a half years, first started working with the company as project staff on a USAID-funded program looking at African and Latin American resilience to climate change.
He was full time for the duration of the three-year program, which came to an end in 2015, at which point he joined Tetra Tech. In addition to proving your technical skills and expertise, he advises demonstrating your ability in areas such as people management and communication.
"A well-rounded skillset with leadership and management skills, the ability to effectively communicate with diverse audiences, and some in-demand second language skills [are] important to success in a long-term staff position at most organizations," says Kindberg.
As a consultant, you might be working remotely and only communicating with the organization's employees via emails and calls, or you might be based in their field or regional offices. Either way, take advantage of this opportunity to build relationships with the different departments and staff in the organization and their partners. Many organizations often recruit internally for positions that come up, so knowing people who already work there can help you find out about job openings and opportunities. The staff you have worked with during your consultancy gig can provide a reference for you when a position does open up, which could make a difference to your application.
Juvonen recommends finding a mentor or seeking out a colleague who is more senior and can help you find out about and apply for staff positions. "It just helps a lot if you have someone you know who believes in you," says Juvonen.
This person can help you make connections and talk to the people with hiring power, she adds, because often the technical staff who you are working with on a daily basis are not those in charge of hiring. Kindberg also focused on building trust and relationships within the company, in addition to taking on new responsibilities and proving himself a team player, during his multiyear project with Tetra Tech. "Had I not focused on these important aspects of professionalism," he says, "my colleagues at Tetra Tech would not have had the confidence in me or been willing to recommend me for a long-term staff position."
(Emma Smith is a reporting and communications associate at Devex, based in Barcelona).

More News For this Category

May's defeat and fate of Brexit deal

BRITISH Prime Minister Theresa May's Brexit deal has been defeated in the Parliament. It's the worst parliamentary defeat for a British government since the 1920s. The MPs have voted down

Ensure ideal working atmosphere for women

THE bike of Shahanaj Akhter, who became a social media sensation recently for her struggle to maintain her family by offering ridesharing services, was recovered from Raghunathpur area in Narayanganj

Nature and metallic pollution in Bangladesh

Shishir Reza :More than 170 million people are living in Bangladesh which is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. Agriculture plays a fundamental role in the

IMF efforts to prevent money laundering

Rhoda Weeks-Brown :Al Capone had a problem: he needed a way to disguise the enormous amounts of cash generated by his criminal empire as legitimate income. His solution was to

Updating copyright rules for news

Richard Gingras :The European Publishers Council uses strong language in their op-ed published in EURACTIV when it describes our position on Europe's copyright reform. We do not oppose the principle

Readers’ Forum

Unbearable air pollution in city With the arrival of winter, the level of air pollution has sharply risen in Dhaka city. The city has been engulfed with toxic air, smog

Solution to Rohingya crisis still a far cry

Terming it a very serious issue, newly appointed Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said that he does not see any "easy" solution to the Rohingya crisis. "We'll have to face

Don't waste public money in the name of development projects

A Bridge built 22 years ago over a canal at Chilarkandi village in Moulvibazar's Kulaura upazila remains unused as it has no approach roads. The incident may be cited as

Transport crisis for BD working women

Helal Uddin Ahmed :The womenfolk of Bangladesh have played a glorious role in all national movements including the language movement of 1952, the mass upsurge of 1969 and the liberation

Preserve Syria's territorial integrity

Rayhan Ahmed Topader :In 2016, Turkey became the first country to deploy ground combat troops to fight the so-called Islamic State in Syria. Our military incursion severed the group's access