While the unemployment rate remains high nationally, most college seniors and MBA students are facing the anxiety and fear of graduating into a work world that doesn’t want them. According to a recent Chicago Tribune article, “Unemployment for 20- to 24-year-olds hit a record high of more than 17 percent earlier this year.” Graduating seniors wonder how they will compete in the job market against competent, out-of-work people with years of practical experience. How many months – or years – will they have to wait for all of those people to find new jobs before companies begin investing in newbies?
The fact is that the most likely scenario is in terms of years. As economic uncertainty lingers, businesses continue to be hesitant to hire new employees. They have become accustom to doing more with fewer employees. When they do begin to hire, they will look to hire people with experience to be productive right out of the chute.
Consider a career in consulting
With all of these chips stacked against them, what are new grads to do? Before converting dad’s den back into their bedroom, they may want to consider a career in consulting. While consulting firms are not breaking any hiring records, the economic climate may be creating a perfect enough storm to create demand for more college grads than most other industries. Here are some reasons why:
1. Hiring Trepidation by Businesses: While the economy continues its unenthusiastic pace of recovery, risk-averse businesses will be more apt to turn to consulting firms to perform needed projects and augment their staffing than taking the risk of hiring full-time employees. For two years now, experts have been talking about pent-up demand for everything from books to brick ovens. The same pressures exist in the corporate world when it comes to IT applications, marketing campaigns and strategic plans. As corporations recognize the need to implement these past-due initiatives, the consulting industry provides them with the flexibility to bring in a team to complete the projects and tasks they need carried out, and then send the consultants on their way when the project is done, without the burden of finding more work to justify the workers’ continuing existence and without morale -killing layoffs.
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2. Fear and Uncertainty of the Costs of Healthcare Reform: Ask ten people what they think the effects of last year’s Healthcare Reform will have on business and you are likely to get ten different responses. Predictions have run the gamut from a profoundly negative impact on job creation to simple reduction in benefits by business owners. No matter where you stand politically or socially on this issue, the only true certainty is uncertainty. Executives face the ambiguity of what the direct effects of new coverage rules will have on their business. Additionally, the effects the ever-changing legislation will have on the entire economy and its indirect effects on their business will continue to keep executives up at night.
Until they can develop a more definitive grasp on what the future holds, they will be more likely to turn to consultants for short-term initiatives. While more expensive in the short term, consultants provide businesses with the flexibility to increase and decrease staffing levels as needed without the negative effects of morale-killing layoffs and the potential increased costs of health coverage.
3. Help with Healthcare Reform Rules: As businesses continue to struggle with how Healthcare Reform will affect them, they will turn to consultants to help them lead the way. Congress has directed the Internal Revenue Service to administer several key components of the legislation. This opens up many opportunities for consulting firms focusing on accounting and tax law. As part of their continued efforts to do more with less, they will turn to technology to increase productivity of their existing staff rather than increase their staffing levels. This will create an opportunity for IT consulting firms that can implement either custom or packaged productivity tools. Additionally, since this legislation will significantly change the way benefits programs are structured, firms that specialize in human resource consulting will see considerable opportunities to provide guidance through the rough years ahead.
4. Electronic Medical Records. Related to Healthcare Reform, as part of the American Recover and Reinvestment Act, the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Heath (HITECH) Act provides monetary incentives to healthcare providers for implementation and adoption of Electronic Medical Records (EMR) systems. Until 2015, healthcare providers will receive subsidies for use of such systems. After 2015, the incentives disappear and medical facilities will face monetary penalties for lack of adoption of EMR technology. Since hospitals and physicians are not IT experts, they will rely on consultants to implement and maintain these systems over the next several years. The government predicts an approximate shortage of 50,000 IT and Healthcare consultants over the next five years.
5. An unencumbered lifestyle. One of the most-cited reasons that people get out of consulting is that as they grow older, get married and start a family, they find that either the long hours or the travel-or both-cause them to miss out on a lot of personal activities. It is a common trend to get 2-3 years of intense experience in consulting and move to a position in another industry,-perhaps one of their former clients – and settle in to a more family-friendly work-life balance. While there are plenty of college seniors with spouses and families, the vast majority is unencumbered and has much more freedom to work longer hours and travel for extended periods of time. College graduates will continue to compete with out-of-work experienced workers, but there may be fewer experienced workers willing or able to live the consulting life-style.
The job market in this challenging economy is difficult for anyone looking for a job. It’s that much more difficult for new college graduates. As they start their career in one of the worst job markets in recent history, consulting may be one of the few industries that are hiring.
What is keeping you from considering a career in consulting?
If you would like to learn more about working in consulting, get Lew’s book Consulting 101: 101 Tips for Success in Consulting at Amazon.com
As always, I welcome your comments and criticisms.