Being an independent consultant is a great way to get relevant experience that will help you find a good job when you are ready to enter the workforce. At Parker Dewey, we can help you build that experience by helping you find suitable projects. But how will you decide which project suits your needs best? Once you’ve identified a project that you think will work for you, how will you secure it and prepare for it? Here are some guiding principles that will help you to make the right decisions.
Know your skills and preferences
You can identify suitable projects when you have a clear idea of your skills and what sort of work you would like to do. For instance, if you’re studying marketing, it would be more advantageous for you to select a project that involves creating product campaigns or writing proposals than one that is unrelated to your field. While you might be able to generate income from an unrelated project, you are not best positioning yourself for a full time role. In addition, this allows you to explore different areas within your field of study, industries, and company sizes leading to more success when you do pursue a full time role. If you’re not sure what the project involves, ask for details before you make the decision to pursue it.
Improve your soft skills
While you may be confident about your potential to complete a project, you will need to demonstrate most, if not all, of the skills mentioned below to succeed.
- Time-management: You will need to find a way to balance your school assignments, your project work, and any other commitments you may have. When you are selected for a project, the client will expect you to deliver high quality work on time, irrespective of your other obligations. An excellent strategy for efficient time management is to differentiate between urgent and important tasks. According to Stephen Covey, all important tasks may not be urgent and vice versa. It’s usually a good idea to complete all urgent and important tasks (project deadlines, meetings, and other crises) first and then move on to the other tasks. Tasks that are urgent but unimportant (answering a phone call) should be minimized. Tasks that are important but not urgent (having your house renovated) should be postponed to later. And, if you are unsure of the urgency or priority of specific client tasks, ask the client.
- Accountability: Be accountable for your work and take responsibility for it. If you’ve made a mistake while working on a project, own up to the mistake and fix it. The client contact is likely to appreciate your honesty and integrity. When you are trying to secure a new project, if possible talk about your experiences that demonstrate accountability.
- Teamwork: When you are selected for a project, you may have to collaborate with others to execute the project the way the client wants. It is therefore very important to be able to demonstrate your ability to work with others. If there is a need for teamwork in any of the projects you are applying for, be sure to highlight how you have successfully executed team projects at school or any other relevant experience.
- Professionalism: It is important for you to create the right impression every single time you interact with the professional world. You need to have a professional email, and you must ensure that your image projected through social media is appropriate. You also should be sensitive to using appropriate language and terms with the client – while your friends may appreciate the use of emoticons or abbreviations, the client may not. Use your judgement and your privacy settings well!
- General awareness: It is always beneficial to keep abreast of current affairs. If you can make intelligent conversation about trending topics, be it politics or social concerns, you are likely to create a favorable impression.
While you will get the chance to demonstrate at least some of these soft skills on the project, you must also show excellent communication skills when applying to work on the project. Your written communication must be flawless. Express yourself clearly and succinctly. Show interest and ask questions about the project. When you have a clear idea about the work, you can decide how best to showcase your skills and position yourself to be selected by the client.
It’s very important to showcase what you bring to the table when you are trying to secure a project, but be wary of overselling. Potential clients are interested in knowing what your abilities are and how you stand apart, but they are most interested in knowing how you can help them. Don’t overpromise. You must be honest and realistic about what you can do. If you overpromise and end up delaying the client’s schedule or producing poor quality work, you will put not only your reputation at risk but also your University’s. This will reduce your chances of winning recommendations or securing a full-time position later.
- Choose projects that align with your career aspirations.
- Balance your project work with other commitments
- Take responsibility for your work
- Demonstrate that you can work well with teams
- Be professional and aware.
- Be honest about what you can do without promising more than you can deliver.