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IT consultants: Part of your job is to be delightful

April 03, 2014

In my career as a salesperson, a mentor gave me one bit of advice that has served me well: Do whatever it takes to make it easy for the customer to work with you. This philosophy of being easy to work with is a necessary mindset for IT consultants. As an IT consultant, you are constantly selling yourself to your customer. So whether your goal is simply to have great consultant experience, build your reputation or land a permanent gig, try following these principles.

Handle conflicts with maturity

Joining a team and adding to the client’s management pains will not reflect well on their perception of you as a resource. Discuss any issues  with other team members directly with your employer, i.e., your recruiter or account manager. They will be able to provide guidance on how to handle the situation. There have been a number of times I’ve been approached regarding how to deal with a situation with a co-worker at a client site. In almost every one of these conversations, the consultant and I have come to the conclusion that either 1) it’s best to approach the employee directly to maturely discuss the issue, or 2) there is more to be gained from ignoring the issue and adapting to the environment. Staying out of sticky situations is one of the best things you can do. This leads me to my next point.

Avoid office politics

The ability to avoid politics is one of the many blessings of a consulting job. Since your assignment is temporary, it is not part of your job to position yourself for the next opportunity. It is, however, your job to make your customer fall in love with you. Therefore, being positive, smart, hardworking and solution-oriented are more important than being a politician. Do yourself a favor and avoid involving yourself in office dramas—you’ll cultivate a reputation as a fair and trustworthy professional.

Be passionate—but not overly so

I once worked with a talented consultant whose employer came to depend on his excellent skill set. He was extremely passionate about architecture and Microsoft technologies, and that passion led him to develop great knowledge. While this passion  impressed his employer, it also made him somewhat demanding of others. The customer valued his incredible skill set but desired someone with a better cultural match for the organization, so did not extend a permanent offer. Having top-notch skills is critical, but you have to have the people skills to match will take you much farther.

Have the right tools for the job

A cellphone with a data plan and a laptop are simply requirements to working as an IT professional. As an IT professional, not only is it imperative that you embrace technology, it is also important to demonstrate commitment to your work by being available to your customer, so make sure they have your mobile number and email.

Now that you know of the softer side of consulting, I hope you can make your current or next consulting job a success. Keep in mind that your role is to support your client and help them achieve their goals—if you can do that, you’ll go a long way to achieving yours as well by making a great name for yourself.

Melissa McFall has spent over nine years in the IT staffing and services industry, including six years as an IT recruiter. She is an expert in recruiter/client relations and service delivery.

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