Be a Consultant, Not a Job Seeker or a Novice

If you were unemployed and a LinkedIn user in 2008, you likely heard the advice to list your latest job as a self-employed consultant. This way, lurking employers would consider you as a potential candidate and you could avoid the (often unintentional bias) of being labeled “unemployed.” Although it wasn't a foolproof or completely viable strategy, it made me and others stop and think. As a business of one, CEO of ME Inc., or YOU, LLC, everyone is their own primary consultant.


When I was a personal trainer for a short time (at the same time I obtained a large career consultant client that consumed my time for the next 18 months). Personal trainers will perform assessments to see how their client is capable of moving and ask questions to gain more information about their client's physical abilities.


It's likely they may need to collaborate with a physical therapist or someone with advanced knowledge of kinesiology. If a client has a problem have certain movements, you know the client couldn't do certain exercises. For example if he or she couldn't bend his or her knees, then the trainer shouldn't prescribe squats in their designed workout. People who are enthusiasts or novices are unlikely to attempt any assessment. They are usually too eager to simply give advice.


As a job seeker, you must be more like the consultant and not the novice. The mindset shift goes from a technician’s view to an expertise perspective. Even if it's an entry-level position, you must have an expert strategy. When you are networking, be a collaborator. Here are some ways to do that.


Consultants solve difficult problems.

Answering questions and giving advice is only the bare minimum in approaching your new roles to set yourself apart from the competition. In my short time as a practicing personal trainer, I noticed novices who give general advice for the overall outcomes and didn’t collaborate with mentors, strength coaches or physical therapists. I also knew how the muscles work when challenged to grow, and when to get additional added opinions. Who would you have taken advice from?

Consultants ask questions.

I still don't get why many people feel they are at the mercy of the interviewer during the hiring process. Your questions are the only opportunity to ascertain high-level information. Your research-based questions must be direct. Irrelevant questions will dilute your credibility.

Consultants are perpetual teachers and learners.

Good consultants must learn new processes quickly, and then teach a revised version to solve business problems. It doesn't have to be the exact solution, but applied knowledge even if it's new is necessary. Behavioral interviews will test your application knowledge through simulation or scenarios under stress.

Consultants are prepared to apply technology in different ways.

More companies will eventually adopt the means to use virtual reality to assess a candidate's ability to adjust to technology changes. A few years back, Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine used virtual reality to prepare autistic adults for job interviews. Technology continues to evolve in job interviews. You may not need to be the expert in how it works, but you will need to understand its limits and potential. Personal trainers know how muscles work within their boundaries.

Consultants are agile.

Agility, in this case, has nothing to do with project management or software development, but how quickly and easily one can move from project to project. From a holistic career view, it’s how prepared are you to go from job to job with few interruptions. When I was a personal trainer, I had a client who was afraid to perform lunges. If I forced her, the potential was present for injury, so we came up with other exercises working similar muscles to achieve results. Similarly, this must be your mindset in offering solutions.

Consultants understand critical and timely service delivery.

If time and money are not mentioned in a business transaction, it’s not business. Your ability to deliver must have data in the form of money, quality, and the quantity associated with it. Although high-level analysis is not required, your ability to communicate awareness and its significance makes you well-qualified.

Consultants solve the long-game issues.

Trends and challenges shift constantly. Your solutions to problems should address them. If your approach is only in "job seeker" mode, the focus is what you have done, but doesn't often resonate as a "fit." Your plan as a consultant offers a holistic approach, addresses potential changes, and how your past shifts solved issues.


Once you can change your strategy to a consultant’s mindset, and established your brand, you’ll notice a change in your job search. Opportunities where your talents are valued the most will appear, your questions will have depth and foresight, and employers will approach you as a  partner instead of just another hire. Research deeper, customize your approach to every employer and look for clients instead of companies who will embrace solutions and collaborations.


Last Updated: July 10, 2017
About the author

Mark Anthony Dyson

Mark Anthony Dyson is a career consultant, job seeker advocate, career writer, and founder of The Voice of Job Seekers. He helps the employed, unemployed, underemployed, and under-appreciated find jobs. Mark has published more than 400 articles on his blog as well as some of the largest career sites such as, YouTern, and Come Recommended.