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I’ve Been “Consulting.” So What Do I Call Myself?

by Matt Gill

My rough estimation of the number of senior marketing execs who have converted to independent consultants in the last three years has doubled.   Some made this transition by design but most out of necessity as the economy plunged.  Now, as the market returns, marketing professionals are challenged with how to represent their experience, on paper as well as in an interview format.  Some of the most common questions I’ve been asked include:

Do companies think that “consultant” is code for unemployed?

What’s my title?

How do I represent consultant on my resume?

Here are my suggestions on how to overcome these challenges.

Do companies think that “consultant” is code for unemployed?

Yes.  Or they have a definition in their head that doesn’t match what you are actually doing.  Unless the potential employers have been  independent consultants themselves, they really have no idea what a day or week in your shoes is like.  So more than ever, painting the picture of exactly what you are doing or have done is critical.   In most cases the career of independent consultant is busier than that of an employed marketer.  There are multiple clients and the ever constant need to develop a pipeline and manage a business.  With all of your communications tools (elevator pitch, LinkedIn Profile, resume), you have to communicate to potential employers and clients what you do.

What’s my title?

I’ve debated this with other recruiters as well as marketers themselves.  In my opinion, don’t call yourself CEO.  Again, I’m talking specifically to the independent consultant, not someone who has built a team of employees. Your resume and LinkedIn profile will include your previous titles and responsibilities, so if you are concerned about not being perceived as an “exec,” don’t worry.  If someone is interested, they will do the basic research to know what level you are.  The other issue with CEO is that it paints a picture of an organization, when in fact if you are a one man band, it comes off as a bit deceiving.  Stay with the simple Consultant, Independent Consultant, Principal.  Most importantly, resist the urge to paint a picture with your title that isn’t clear and accurate.

How do I represent Consultant on my resume?

When at all possible include the name of the client, the time frame and the time commitment.  The goal here is to paint the picture of activity and “real” consulting work.  Too many times I’ve seen things like this on a resume:

CEO –Smith & Company 2009-present

Consulting firm working with small to mid-sized organizations on strategic marketing initiatives to create and improve brand positioning and revenue generating programs.

This person was in fact working with a brand that had 90% recognition and the results of the program were truly impactful.  I’m changing the details of the company but here’s an example of what we changed/added:

Independent Consultant  2009-present

Independent consultant working with small to mid-sized organizations on strategic marketing initiatives to create and improve brand positioning and revenue generating programs.

Clients:

Monster – 6 month contract 4 days per week working on a B2B product launch.  Brought in prelaunch to drive the launch strategy as well as oversee the sales integration and support.  The program resulted in the company’s most successful new product launch in the last 6 years.

We continued to list the other projects this individual managed.

The critical component to representing yourself as a Consultant is to provide the information that allows your audience to get a true picture of what you do.  The challenge is that the definition of Consultant is varied and to many means unemployed.  You have to use your actual actions and accomplishments to create and replace whatever definition your audience is predisposed to use.

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About Matt Gill

Matt Gill is the Managing Partner at MICA Consulting Group, a consulting and recruiting firm connecting people in Marketing, Interactive, Creative, and Advertising. He is a marketing recruiter across industries. If you think he can help with your job search, connect with him through the email, Twitter, or company links below.

4 Responses to "I’ve Been “Consulting.” So What Do I Call Myself?"

  • Jim Fisher
    February 16, 2011 - 19:50 Reply

    Finally a clear answer to what most of us have been asking for a long time…

  • Stuart Katz
    February 18, 2011 - 15:18 Reply

    Quality answers Matt. Thanks for the insight. I have not listed consulting clients on my resume because of NDAs. An alternative is to present the measurable results of specific engagements that relate to the full-time opening. In a few cases, clients also have graciously agreed to provide a recommendation on LinkedIn or serve as a reference. These have helped me communicate the consulting title and work I’ve done.

  • matt gill
    February 22, 2011 - 12:09 Reply

    Stuart, thanks for the comment. Great suggestion about how to get around the NDA. Thanks for pointing that out as I expect at least 30% of the engagements require one.

    Matt

  • Leland Riffel
    June 11, 2017 - 22:02 Reply

    I think I will change my firm Title from: Program Management Consultant (PMC),

    to: Independent Consultant,  to reduce the negative vibes I have experienced during phone interviews.

    Thanks for the straight suggestion.

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