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Getting on a consulting track

Pursuing a consulting career in IT is a long-term, total saturation effort. Getting on a consulting track Pursuing a consulting career in IT is a long-term, total saturation effort.

Dear Molly: I spend a lot of time using a computer for my job and I love using it. I think I would like to get a job either creating software for business use or in some way helping businesses learn more about making the best use of computers. I know this is asking a lot, but could you tell me if I could make a living doing this, and what “this” is called?

Molly says: The term “consultant” springs to mind when I hear people talking about advising companies on better ways to spend their money or time. You could also consult with companies that create business and personal software to help them understand what it’s like for non-techies to use the stuff they make. Maybe you could, for example, convince them that there doesn’t have to be a menu, keyboard shortcut and right-click option for just about everything. To most people, this multiple-choice approach makes about as much sense as having three different ways to start a car.

You can make money, some times serious six-figure money, by being a consultant. You also have the option of working with a consulting firm or working on your own–much as other professionals such as lawyers and architects do. If you decide to work towards this kind of career, you will probably need to get a job for a firm first, and then leave to work on your own later. It’s much harder (I think) to build a client base if you start entirely on your own. You might even want to get a non-consulting job for one of the big consulting firms and work your way into a consultant’s position–just to get started right away on your new career.

Head for the Software Information Industry Association Web site to learn more about the business of creating and selling software programs. IBM and Deloitte Touche are just two of the big firms that have IT-related consulting divisions. Visit their Web sites to find out more about the kind of consulting they do.

Above all, you’ve got to dig in and learn all you can about the areas of IT that interest you and get involved. Go to conferences, network with people you meet there, read books and magazines, scavenge Web sites for information, and so forth. It’s got to be a total saturation effort on your part to get to where you’d like to go.

Molly Joss also writes the monthly Career Advisor column for ComputerUser magazine. Ask a career-related question at [email protected]

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