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10 ways to Improve and Build Your Consulting Portfolio – A Guide for Beginners

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Here are the 10 most important and easily available avenues where you can get your consulting case experiences.

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1) VOLUNTEER SERVICE: Does your intended area of expertise has some volunteer function associated with it?Join some volunteer organizations where you can participate in some advisory services free of charge. Many of such volunteer organizations have international presence and as a result of year’s long association with them, they would be glad to recognize your volunteer advisory services. You may be in a position to join many volunteer organizations at same the time depending upon your bandwidth. I recommend the organizations having international presence. Who would not be glad to take you in provided you give them free services? But many organizations are very careful who they get associated with.

2) ADVISORY SERVICE: Are you good in something? Run informal advisory service on that subject / topic. Make it known to other friends. Gather stories and build your case experience.

3) FREE TRAINING SESSIONS: This is the most strategic way you can position your identify in the market. Is your intended expertise a training-savvy area? Deliver some free training sessions to groups you are associated with. Who wouldn’t want it free? From that point on wards you would see invitation traffic of enquiries for help. Use invitations from previous organizations to build new leads. In the beginning it may feel a tiring, but eventually you would be able to secure a consulting association (even if it is less paid or free) with some companies. There are N number of agencies out there in market who would want to sign you when they hear you provide free training and they would want to have you on their rolls of associate trainers for their clients. But you need to deliver with your key expertise otherwise you would get lost in the crowd. You could also take a step further by writing and sending your resume to training agencies in your town saying you can deliver free training sessions on such and such and in return you need a letter of appreciation or some document which provide evidence that you indeed were engaged in some training activities.

4) ASSOCIATE CONSULTING: Some training agencies are involved in part-time consulting and they need associate consultants on contract or assignment-basis or on commission-basis. This is becoming quite popular especially in training, learning, instructional design and IT.

5) REGISTERED TRAINER/ FACULTY: Proven way to build consulting portfolio will be to get associated with some business school as associate faculty on part-time basis for some evening courses for working professionals. Many business schools have corporate consulting wing which pulls the resources from their faculties. It is recommend that you get yourself as associated faculty for evening courses because usually those courses are for working professionals and that will help you build the network.

6) COUNSELLING & GUIDANCE: Provided it matches with your expertise and area of interest you could join some career counseling, graduate counseling or even social work counseling and guidance help lines. This is pretty excellent way to develop you portfolio. Usually career counseling, graduate counseling could be a good starting point. Some cities operate phone counseling and guidance help lines.

7) MEMBERSHIP OF PROFESSIONAL BODIES: Take membership of an active club engaged in consulting. Choose a membership type something in your metro area where you can attend the events and networking sessions on regular basis. As compared to formal certification, I would suggest to take membership of an active club engaged in consulting. I would suggest not taking membership of remote association where you don’t have in-person presence, rather choose something in your metro area where you can attend the events and networking sessions on regular basis. Holding a membership of a consulting organization, society or professional body itself indicate you are consulting professional.

8) PROJECT WORK: First develop solid project management skills while you are deployed on certain project (area does not matter). Then take an extra effort on the project matching your areas of interest where the results of the projects adds to your portfolio, evidences and real case experience as a consultant. Project management in general context is the most powerful skill consultants have to have. Ultimately as a consultant, you would be working on “Projects” and “projects”. Instead of a CMC, a project manager certification will pay you off long way.

9) RESEARCH WORK: Most difficult avenue but unmatched in rewards. Develop networking with some university professors involved in academics or research in the area of your consulting goals. Ask for potentially assigning you some module of his research work and guiding you along the way. Tradeoff is usually having his name in your publication and don’t ask funding. This develops your data analysis skills and hopefully get you noticed with a breakthrough publication.

10) WRITE AND WRITE: As you write more and participate in Q&A as well as online discussion forums, you would your presence on internet. Eventually you may want to setup your website and blogs and link these Q&A to you website to get more presence in consulting world. Suggest write few articles in the magazines or online blogs that represent your intended area of consulting. If you are outstanding in writing, why not to write a short book? But remember these writings must be based on your personal experience and learning to give a feel of “experience” consultant inside you.

Is that all you need to get started with consulting?

Probably not.

These are the strategies for you to move to a beginner role of consultant and start your journey as a consultant, without really requiring a certification. Make sure there is coherence between your various experiences above. It should not happen that some of your experience in career counseling and some experience in organizational development and some in IT training. It would not help you unless you develop single track specialization and build upon that. Right upfront you got to freeze your intended area of consulting rather than saying you want to be management consultant. Better you say you want to be a niche consultant in certain areas. Be prepared to defend the experience you gained. As a consultant, you would need testimonials, evidences and credentials to establish you on the way to consulting. You got to make sure you have evidence of each and every consulting, guiding or other volunteer experience. At one stage your portfolio of association will be so big that you do not need a formal certification of CMC.

Consulting expertise is built slow and steady, but at one stage you may see that you probably will get management consultant designation through grandfathering merely based on real life experiences. But you need to work on multiple tracks in order to fetch that consulting experience.

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