It takes a lot more than a job title to be a consultant

Some call themselves consultants because they don’t know what else to call themselves. Others put it on their LinkedIn profiles because they’re in between jobs. Still others work for some big IT contracting company that gave them the title consultant, and now they fly around the country “consulting” with clients, which mostly means they’re writing code under pressure.

Nonetheless, I love to think of myself a consultant. It’s all I’ve ever really wanted to be in life even though I’ve taken roundabout ways of approaching it. But I’m with Peter Block on this. I’m not a consultant just because I say I am. And you’re not a consultant just because that’s what it says on your business card, your LinkedIn, or because you feel like a jetsetter when your client foots the bill for your Southwest A-List Preferred status.

No. Consultant is a title you earn after a lot of nuanced, subtle, and thankless hard work. Consultant is a conclusion, an aspiration, an outcome.

Aspiring to consultant status means, fundamentally, focusing on building and expanding trust with the client. Consultants earn trust moment by moment, day by day. And that trust, when it expands, unlocks many doors. Real consultants have license to challenge and even change the status quo, take their clients to the next level, get their clients to think differently, help clients accomplish things they thought impossible.

Even more challenging, it’s a title you have to earn again and again with each client and with each person you work with at that client. Just because you were a consultant for Jones doesn’t mean Smith will accept you as one. You have to earn consultant status with every person you meet.

Consulting is a misunderstood but wonderful profession. But it’s a hollow job title if you don’t work to earn it every single day.

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