How to Become an IT Consultant

Four Parts:Gaining the Skills to Work as an IT ConsultantGetting a Job as a ConsultantAdvancing your CareerBecoming an Independent Consultant

If you enjoy working with Information Technology (IT) but don’t enjoy working in a large office environment—or if you want to be self-employed—then you might be interested in working as an IT consultant. While the majority of IT consultants work for consulting companies, many others are self-employed. Working as an IT consultant brings unique challenges; you may need to grow your own customer base and keep up with developing technology. However, if you find a specialty in which you enjoy working, an IT Consultant job can be lucrative and rewarding.

Part 1
Gaining the Skills to Work as an IT Consultant

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    Choose the right major. The college major you choose will be invaluable in enabling you to work as an IT consultant. While there is no single “correct” major for hopeful consultants, a field like Computer Sciences will ground you in technology.[1]
    • Other useful majors include: Business, Marketing/Sales (if you plan to work with clients), or Electrical Engineering.
    • Many online colleges offer IT-specific degrees.
    • Also consider earning a certificate in an area of IT that you would like to specialize in.
    • Once you’ve earned your college degree, you’ll be prepared to start gaining experience in IT-related fields.
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    Gain work experience. Any IT consultancy companies that you apply to work for will want to see at least a couple years of experience on your resume. Experience in the IT field will also prove valuable when you need to generate a list of potential clients for your business.[2]
    • Internships are a valuable way to work in an IT field without going through a competitive hiring process. During or after college, personally visit consulting companies in your area and ask if they are willing to hire you as an intern.
    • Volunteer as much as possible; although volunteer positions are seldom paid, they look impressive on a resume and will quickly build your level of experience in the IT field.
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    Do your research. Decide what specific type of job you want; IT consulting is a large field and, in order to remain competitive and not exhaust yourself, you’ll need to hone in on specific jobs.
    • For example, consider if you would prefer to work as a systems engineer, network support, etc.
    • Do not plan to service overly large groups, such as “everyone” or “small businesses.” Both of these target markets are too broad for IT consultants.
    • Ask yourself what types of clients or technology you want to work with, by evaluating where most of your own experience and interest lies.[3]

Part 2
Getting a Job as a Consultant

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    Update your resume. You should have your resume laid out and up-to-date before you begin applying for any jobs. Keep the resume short (1 page), and focus on highlighting your previous work and experience in IT fields.
    • Consider which of your distinct skills will be most valuable in the position you are applying too, and foreground that on your resume.[4]
    • Pay attention to the wording of the job description, and tailor your resume to show your proficiency at the specific job skills that the employer has asked for.
    • Describe the specific steps of work (whether when employed or as an intern) that you have already performed in an IT field.[5]
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    Make use of your network. You can start developing professional contacts during college or early work experience, and they will prove valuable as you begin to search for potential employers.[6] Network contacts can also serve as a potential client base once you are working in an IT consultant position.
    • Professional and academic contacts are also a useful resource to ask for letters of recommendation.
    • A great way to utilize and expand on your professional network is through social media. Websites such as LinkedIn and Facebook allow you to easily keep in touch with a large number of people. You can also use these sites to reach out to consulting companies that may be looking to hire IT consultants.
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    Apply for jobs. Once your resume is ready, and you have used your network base to find out about potential IT consultant positions, you’re ready to start applying for jobs. When applying, don’t be humble or shy: highlight your strengths on paper and in person, and focus especially on your education, work, and internships in the IT field.
    • Websites such as “Indeed” allow you to specify the type of job you are looking for and the location you would like to work in, and then deliver a list of relevant jobs you can apply for.
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    Ace the interview. Once you’ve been called in for an IT-consultant interview, you’ll need to prepare and learn about the specific consultant company. As always, when giving an interview, present yourself with professionalism and confidence.
    • In the interview, explain how your It skills are relevant and helpful to the specific position that you are applying for. You should also come informed and knowledgeable about the company and their clients.[7]
    • Bring a couple of specific ideas to the table, and show that you are interested in the future and vision of the company, and in ways in which you can be involved in that future.[8]
    • Many IT interviews consist of multiple phone interviews prior to the face-to-face interview.[9] The phone interviews may discuss the job itself, and also inquire about your IT qualifications and knowledge.

Part 3
Advancing your Career

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    Find your niche. You’ll be able to work more effectively as an IT consultant—and you’ll enjoy you work more—if you find a niche or specialty within the IT field, in which you excel and enjoy working. Few IT consultant positions require you to work with all types of technology and clients—find a specialty that you enjoy, and hone your skills in that specific niche.[10]
    • During your first few months on the job, see which types of work you enjoy the most. Then, try to work with more clients in that specific area, and develop your skills through experience or even an academic certificate.
    • Your niche could depend on your prior IT experience, which types of IT work you enjoyed most in college, or which clients you prefer to work with.
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    Become a subject matter expert (SME). Once you have a job working in an IT-consultant position, it’s time to increase your knowledge and master the subject (keeping in mind that you’ve already selected a specific niche). Becoming an SME will also help you remain competitive in your job, as IT is a rapidly developing field.[11] Consultants who do not master their specialty can be left behind when competing for jobs or promotions.
    • Building your networking and increasing your credentials are two essential aspects of becoming an SME. A more developed network will include other IT-professional contacts, potential clients, and former associates.
    • You can increase your credentials by pursuing certifications and gaining experience in the field.[12]
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    Earn a promotion. Once you have worked in your consulting position for at least a year, you can begin to work your way up by earning a promotion and, hopefully, an accompanying raise. This is an important step of professional development.
    • When asking for a promotion or raise, lead with your accomplishments. Show your supervisor some of the successes you’ve had over the last year or two, describe your specialization and unique interests, and state your case for why you deserve a promotion.
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    Build your brand. This is your unique combination of specialized skills, work experience, and personal demeanor that your clients, coworkers, and employers will come to associate with you as an individual.
    • A valuable part of a personal brand is to know your area of expertise, and focus on promoting that. Take jobs that primarily play into your IT strengths.
    • Network and become known within your field. Branding also influences how you are seen within your professional network; attend conferences and workshops, and set yourself up as an expert in your niche.[13]
    • A strong and appealing personal brand will make you a more appealing IT professional to your clients. Your personal brand will help your clients trust you more.[14]

Part 4
Becoming an Independent Consultant

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    Make a budget. Although starting any type of small business involves startup costs, working as an IT consultant will not require a large up-front investment, especially if you are working from your own home.[15] Your major startup costs will come from:
    • General and Professional Liability (E&O) Insurance.
    • Purchasing a domain name and setting up a business website.
    • Creating business cards and a separate business phone.
    • Advertising and marketing.
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    Advertise your business. While a consulting business can be somewhat abstract—you sell your experience and opinion, not a concrete objects (e.g. cars or houses)—advertising is still a necessary way to attract clients.[16] Consider purchasing advertising space in venues like:
    • IT magazines, both print and online.
    • Other tech publications.
    • Cold-calling local small businesses.
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    Specialize your consultancy. The best way to specialize is to rely on your own previous experience. Personal work experience in the tech field is often the best starting place for your IT consultancy.
    • If you worked in computer repair and setting up servers for small businesses, as many IT professionals have, continue to offer these services as an independent consultant.[17]
    • Many new IT consultants make the mistake of trying to market too broadly. Consider narrowing down your focus by region, industry, company-size, and existing technology platform.[18]
    • Specialize based on the location you work in. Your geographical area may have a large number of desktop PC users, Mac users, cloud-based computing needs, etc. Exploit this kind of opportunity to provide the service most needed in your own location.[19]
    • If you are in a large urban area, you will likely be able to find plenty of IT work in your immediate vicinity.
    • If you are based in a smaller town or rural area, you may need to travel more in order to keep a business afloat. You may also need to service a broader spectrum of IT needs.
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    Prepare to juggle many jobs at once. Unlike working in IT in a large business or office setting, as a consultant, you will often have to multitask and keep up with several different jobs at the same time.[20]
    • You will need to simultaneously work with varying types of software, hardware, and network technologies.
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    Follow up with your clients. This is important to maintain strong business relationships with your clients. Ask them if the service you provided met their expectations, and politely accept any criticisms they may have.[21]
    • After finishing a job for a client, ask them if they will return to you for their future IT needs.
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    Focus on long-term client relationships. Make sure you work most with small-business clients that value the ongoing support and oversight that you bring to the table.
    • Many new IT consultants spend way too much time and energy dealing with one-shot-deal, transaction-oriented customers, with very little potential for substantial repeat monthly business.
    • Look especially for small businesses that have the needs and budget to consult with you on a regular basis.

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Categories: Information Technology Careers