Being an independent consultant might sound solitary, but there’s community everywhere you look.
Being a human resources consultant has some great advantages. You can choose projects that interest you, take time off between gigs, and be your own boss. However, when I talk to people who are considering HR consulting, one concern I often hear is some version of “will I miss being part of a team?”
When you’re used to a corporate environment, being without a permanent team of colleagues can sound a bit intimidating. Who would you call when you want to bounce ideas off someone? How will you keep updated on new technologies and trends? Who will commiserate with you when a project gets hairy? Etc., etc.
Having peers is important to your career and mental health. Luckily, there are several ways you can be a consultant and have a professional community, too. Here are just a few them:
Use the buddy system
Start by reaching out to other consultants in your industry. It’s as easy as asking them for coffee. Meeting up regularly with other consultants is a mutually-beneficial way to share insights about the HR industry and the consulting life overall. At my company, Salo, we’ll match new consultants with more experienced consultants to get them started (upon request). Which leads me to…
Work with a talent firm
Working with a talent firm is not just about helping you find work. It also provides fellowship. For example, at Salo, we’re always looking for ways to bring consultants together—through events such as complimentary education programs and our great annual party. Additionally, there’s someone to talk to if you run into challenges (or celebrate victories) while on a job.
Get to know your client teams
Even if you’re only at a client site for a few months, it’s worth putting some effort into getting to know the team. Just by asking client team members where to get lunch or starting a conversation in the office kitchen can help you feel like part of the crew. And, after your project is finished, you’ll have new connections in your contacts list.
Get involved with professional associations
Showing up to meetups, conferences, and trade shows can help you feel less isolated. Even better, by joining an association board or volunteering at events, your network and your teamwork fix simultaneously. There is a wealth of professional associations to join. For example, here in the Twin Cities, we have many associations, such as:
- TCSHRM: Twin Cities Society for Human Resources Management
- HHRAM: Healthcare Human Resources Association of Minnesota
- TCCN: Twin Cities Compensation Network
- BE MSP: Professionals of Color
- WIN: Women in Networking
Find colleagues on social media
While social media isn’t for everyone, finding a group of people who share your interests online can be another way to get camaraderie, advice, and ideas.
Volunteer with a non-profit
Use your HR (or other) skills to help out your favorite charity. Again, this provides you with a consistent team over time, even when work assignments change. Of course, you get the added benefit of making a difference in your community to boot.
Consulting is really about people
Most of the time, professionals choose an HR career because they enjoy interacting with other people. That doesn’t stop when you’re a consultant. Consulting is all about interacting with people. In fact, as a consultant, you’ll likely meet significantly more people than staying in a corporate job. Although you may give up having a traditional corporate team, you’ll have a host of new connections and colleagues.