The Work Search: Consulting

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Nick Corcodilos, the man behind "Ask the Headhunter" and weekly guest for the month of July, discusses how to most successfully navigate the job market. This week: the advantages and disadvantages of consulting work. Special Deal for WNYC Audience: If you use the code tenoffwnyc you can get a $10 discount on Nick's new online book, How to Work With Headhunters.


Nick Corcodilos

Comments [35]

J.C. from Minneapolis

Re: MW from comment 10 (& Nick from comment 29):

I just want to be technical about how American government works before we blame the IRS for everything. The IRS does not write the tax law; Congress does. The IRS merely enforces the law that Congress writes. The only leeway the IRS gets is to interpret ambiguous laws.

So the IRS does NOT have the power to set the tax rates or decide who gets unemployment benefits (that might be a federal law, but it's more likely to be a state law). The complaints, then, should be directed to your federal or state lawmakers.

Jul. 13 2009 04:49 PM
Nick Corcodilos from

I think I've hit every comment/question posted up to this point that seemed to want a response from me.

If you'd like to ask me more questions, please post on my blog, which I check regularly:

Look for the post, "Q&A from WNYC Radio." I'd give you the link, but Brian's blog truncates wide URL's...

There is no be-all, end-all advice about job hunting and hiring. I try to share a headhunter's contrarian perspective. Use your judgment, use your own juice, and do what feels right for you. But don't sit on convention and expect good things to happen. Stretch for what you want. Thanks again to Brian for having me on the show! Next week we'll be talking about job boards... Mmmm, my favorite topic...

Jul. 10 2009 11:07 AM
Nick Corcodilos from

@thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan: I think you're wrong, except in the case of companies that behave like rats. There are lots of consultants working for good companies without a problem. Experienced consultants cover their own cost of benefits because they charge more per hour/day than a company would pay an employee. Add up salary, benefits, overhead on a regular employee, and that's about what a good consultant charges. The difference is that the consultant has to manage what he or she does as a business, because that's what it is. The consultant can also write off expenses; that's another contributor to net profit. Please don't look at legitimate consulting as a way for companies to "hire" the same talent without benefits. Though I do agree - some companies use it as a ruse to save money. There are some bums everywhere. A good consulting gig pays enough to cover your benefits and overhead - but like any business, it takes time and effort to build a consulting business. It's not for everyone.

Jul. 10 2009 11:01 AM
Nick Corcodilos from

@Matt Barbarello: I'm referring to discussion forums and blogs that are relevant to the business you want to work in. There are thousands of these, each specific to a business, field or profession. Places where people go to talk shop. To get advice about the work they do. These are not job hunting sites. They are where you can participate and show your stuff -- that's how you get referrals and recommendations. By demonstrating your value to the community you work in or want to work in.

@Joey from Greenpoint: Be careful. There isn't anyone you can pay to find you a job. Headhunters don't do that. The people you're frustrated with are hucksters who peel resumes off job boards and mass mail them to a list of companies, hoping to "make a placement." They're not headhunters. 95% of headhunters aren't worth spit, because "the business" has such a low cost of entry - it attracts fast-buck artists. I referred earlier to an article on my web site titled "How to Judge a Headhunter." The best ones will find you, not the other way around. Sorry, but that's how the business really works. Good headhunters don't advertise. They go out and find the people they're looking for one-on-one. I publish the Ask The Headhunter website as a way to share how headhunters operate so you can do it for yourself. It isn't rocket science, but it also isn't the way people are taught to hunt for a job. The articles on the site are free. No catch. My revenue comes from licensing those articles to other publishers so you can read them for free on the site. If you want more, check out my book about How to Work with Headhunters. I'll warn you: There is no magic dust in it. But it'll teach you how to avoid the scammers and how to work with the good ones when they find you. Just remember: only a few jobs get filled by headhunters. That should not be your main strategy. (Any more than job boards should be - they don't fill any more jobs than headhunters do.)

Jul. 10 2009 10:55 AM
Nick Corcodilos from

@Brad Spear: It's "Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age" by Duncan J. Watts. This is a serious book -- not self-help. But it's very readable. I recommend it highly. You'll find a bit more info about it in the Ask The Headhunter Bookstore on my web site, under "Stimulants." Fast Company mag did a good interview with Watts a couple of years ago.

@tj: You're right: Unemployed people become quickly isolated. But the problem is magnified when they join "support groups." Unemployed people gathering to share job leads and advice. Think about that. It's patently absurd. The best thing you can do to stay motivated and to actually get something done is to hang around people who do the work you want to do. Starting your own business is not bizarre at all. Waiting for some company to come along and hire you is what's absurd. Waiting for some personnel jockey to pluck your resume from the millions on a job board - that's absurd. As for telling a company how to run itself better, why do you think companies hire people? Not to fill head count. They hire you to help them make more profit. If you can't explain that to a company that you work for, you will eventually get fired or laid off. If you can't tell it to a company you want to work for, then you have no business in the interview. Job hunting is not a step by step process. If it were, every ad would yield an interview which would yield an offer. Far from it.

Jul. 10 2009 10:27 AM
Nick Corcodilos from

@Z from New York: Sorry, Z, but I'm not talking about permalancers at all. I'm talking about people who carefully create and manage a business. Being a consultant doesn't mean just getting a contract somewhere. It requires planning long-term, doing marketing and sales, and managing your revenue and costs. Most who try this fail because they don't educate themselves. There are some good books on the topic. Two of my favorites are: Getting Started in Consulting by Alan Weiss, and Consulting for Dummies. Great books if you're just getting started, or if you want to learn to keep your business afloat.

Jul. 10 2009 10:19 AM
Nick Corcodilos from

@Rachel: Too many headhunters don't do their jobs. When they send you on an interview, they have an obligation to get back to you IMMEDIATELY after you interview to discuss the client's reaction and to gauge your interest. I'd call again and send an e-mail. Mark the e-mail return-receipt requested. If you still hear nothing, I'd forget about it. Your best "next step" is to pursue your next opportunity. And if this headhunter calls you again about something else, I'd give him a firm but polite talking to. Check the Headhunter Articles section of my web site for the one about How to Judge a Headhunter. I cover headhunters in my free weekly newsletter often. Links to subscribe are on the web site.

@Harold: My mission is to teach people not to "send" anything. Consider the competition that dopey little piece of paper (or e-mail) you send faces. It cannot defend you. Instead of sending anything, invest your time in tracking down people connected to your target company. Leverage these contacts to get introduced. While 1,000 other consultants are waiting to hear back on their mailing pieces, you'll be talking to the manager. Check the Headhunter Articles section of my website, find "A Good Network is a Circle of Friends."

@MW from Manhattan: The IRS sticks it to consultants. I agree with you: laws need to be changed to be supportive of people who "go off the dole" and start their own businesses. Today you get punished for being a consultant. If you lose your contracts, there are no unemployment benefits. You're not counted among the unemployed - those numbers are far worse than are reported.

Jul. 10 2009 10:14 AM
Nick Corcodilos from


I just realized that the column for the comments area of this blog is too narrow to accommodate URLs -- they get cut off. I'll post what responses I can, but I can say a lot more by referring you to relevant Ask The Headhunter articles on many of these topics.

I'll answer what I can here, and I welcome you to post your questions on my own blog, where there's plenty of room!

Just look for the posting about WNYC...!

Jul. 10 2009 10:05 AM
Nick Corcodilos from

@the truth from bkny: Please don't send me your resume. I don't read unsolicited resumes. If I did, I'd have no time to do my job ;-). As a headhunter, I go after the people my clients need - I go find them. The assignments are very specific. Be careful with people who claim they will "find you a job." I've been writing Ask The Headhunter since 1995 to try and help people be their own headhunters. Start here: There are over 200 free articles on the web site.

@Nicole: The IRS has strict laws about what constitutes a consultant, or "independent contractor." And you hit the nail on the head: If the individual is coming to your office, using your equipment, on the schedule you define, then you may not be able to pay him or her as a contractor or consultant (on a 1099). But bear in mind that many consultants are on a "consulting company's" payroll, getting benefits -- and that company assigns them to one of ITS client companies to work.

@Edward from NJ: I covered the topic of "how long should a resume be?" just a couple of weeks ago in the newsletter. I agree with you. What I said in that edition is, "Edit your resume to make it relevant to the employer, and make it as long as it needs to be. Make sure it's long enough so it reaches where it's supposed to go." There's a trend among some professional resume writers to make resumes quite long - maybe it makes them feel they're delivering "more value." Remember professors who would throw term papers down the stairs? The heavier ones that go farthest get the highest grades? No thanks. Though I've seen 12 pagers that were justified, that's very rare. Tell the manager what he or she needs to know, to understand what you can do for them. Life's not so complicated. Resumes shouldn't be, either. (I wrote a funky little article about this a long time ago: "Resume Blasphemy."

Jul. 09 2009 07:14 PM
Nick Corcodilos from New Jersey

Thanks all for listening to our Ask The Headhunter segment today... I'll try to answer a bunch of these Q's in a single post, then do more later.

@Al: I know this sounds painful, but you have to start looking by choosing your targets carefully. Job ads aren't the answer. You must select companies carefully - the ones you want to work for. THEN figure out what you think you can contribute, THEN track down contacts who might help you: Employees, customers, vendors, consultants/attorneys/accountants - people who deal with the company. Ask them for insight and advice about your target company. That leads to introductions. You know it's not easy - this is perhaps harder than doing the job ads, but at least you're talking to people and making actual contacts.

@Diane: Consultants are "hired guns." People who are not employees of a company. They are hired to handle specific projects or work, and when that work is done, they are, too. On to the next. This article by my buddy Scott Henty explains a lot about how the consulting business works:

@RJ: Only companies become clients of headhunters. Headhunters don't work for job hunters and we don't find jobs for people. We fill positions for our clients. So you become a "headhuntee" when we find you, not when you find us ;-). Sorry if that sounds rude. That's just how it works. This brief article might help explain further: If you want to learn how to work with headhunters (and what the differences are between recruiters, counselors, headhunters, and the scammers on job boards who pretend to be headhunters...), I just wrote a whole book about "How to Work with Headhunters" -

Jul. 09 2009 06:46 PM

In response to thatgirl:

Like anything to make yourself more marketable and valuable to a potential employer - the more skills and abilities you have the more desirable you are. Yes, in PR it helps to have contacts at newspapers, TV, radio, etc. but it is now at the point where you have to be able to put keywords into the HTML code of your webpages if you are posting a press release.

If it is not picked up by Google, then it is not a success.

For all these new channels of media, you have to be able to stand out and get your info out.

Jul. 09 2009 01:33 PM
Alyson from Atlanta, GA

I just heard a woman ask is Green Consulting for the Architecture Industry is a viable path in this economy and I want to tell her YES YES YES! My firm The Epsten Group, in Atlanta, GA has remained stable through the slow-down and has even hired 4 new employees in 2009 becasue our work is primary 'green' consulting. We specifically consult on the LEED and Green Globes certification systems. It is possible to do it independantly as a consultant. And if you are a registered architect, look us up, we are still hiring!

Jul. 09 2009 11:41 AM
lt in wahi

I second the request for the book reference.

Totally agree that Brian was asleep for this segment. The headhunter spoke in such general terms and not current.

Jul. 09 2009 11:23 AM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

"permalance" is just another word for paying someone a full-time/tethered to the office/company salary without providing benefits.

Jul. 09 2009 11:17 AM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

and yes, paying someone a fee to work with the same competencies and goals as a full-time employee, but without providing benefits IS illegal, but the u.s. seems to enjoy looking the other way as companies practice this "free market" approach to saving money on the backs of people willing to work at any cost.

Jul. 09 2009 11:14 AM
thatgirlinnewyork from manhattan

i don't know anyone who's been in p.r. who's been forced to learn dreamweaver (or otherwise web design) in order to be informed about social networking. sounds like this woman is conflating social networking as a tool with designing websites. in p.r., as in advertising, you're either working as a strategist with clients, or you're a technical/design person--they rarely cross over.

Jul. 09 2009 11:12 AM
Joey from Greenpoint

Next time, would your guest suggest ways to find a reputable, talented headhunter that places experienced mid-career individuals in mid- to senior-management positions? I've asked everyone in my network, but all experiences have been bad; we find that most headhunters simply try to move bodies by casting a wide net, not targeting appropriate jobs. In other words, quantity vs. quality.

Having been in my current position for nearly 20 years, and feeling rusty at job searching, I would be happy to pay a talented consultant to assist me in this area to (help) ensure that they're working in *my* best interest.

Jul. 09 2009 11:10 AM
Matt Barbarello from Massapequa Park, NY

The guest mentioned that job seekers should take advantage of social networking sites. Does he mean generic sites, such as Facebook, or industry-specific sites, or both? If he has generic sites in mind, does he have a recommended list of sites?

Jul. 09 2009 11:08 AM

This was a terrible segment. Almost chilling. The conversation seemed utterly detached from reality; the idea that someone at their kitchen table, six months into being fired, is going to be able to tell some company (and whom exactly at that company?) how to run itself, (or use information technology or green technology or whatever), is bizarre. There seemed to be a huge disconnect between the reality of the callers' situations, and the generic bromides and cliches that the guest suggested. Brian should have worked harder to bridge this gap.

It seems that the real issue is the social and knowledge-networking isolation of the recently unemployed, and the need for supportive communities, not a dated piece on how to turn yourself into a consultant from home...

Jul. 09 2009 11:05 AM
James from brooklyn

Most people get Dreamweaver and Photoshop for free by using pirated copies. I don't advocate that, but maybe you could use some free software off the web. I know it exists but can't remember the names.

As for green consulting, being LEED certified has a very basic effect on employability because you get an extra LEED point on any building project by having a LEED certified designer on the team. LEED is a racket and sucks, but this is at least something you can exploit as a designer.

Jul. 09 2009 11:05 AM
Daniel from Manhattan

Any contract professional (or consultant) can be completely portable with benefits. Check out:

Jul. 09 2009 10:59 AM
Brad Spear from Pelham, NY

I can seem to find on Amazon The "Six-Degrees" book mentioned on the show. Can you re-reference the book?

Jul. 09 2009 10:58 AM
George Hahn from Manhattan

For web design... there are TONS of free resources, in addition to manuals/documentation/lesson books that are available with the software. Also... Adobe's Creative Suite Web package (Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Flash, etc.) is only around $1500 as a bundle.

The lesson books that are available are MUCH cheaper than classes. I built a new career and small business with these tools.

Jul. 09 2009 10:56 AM
Z from New York

This person is full of crap. He's largely talking about "temps" or "permalancers." It's a disgrace that he's being taken seriously on this show.

Jul. 09 2009 10:55 AM
Patricia Jones from Brooklyn

Basically "consultant" is work for hire. But it means Labor remains undervalued unless you are in very specific/highly desired areas. The issue is really that skills sets and business needs as now constituted.
I think that everyone is using social networks and frankly businesses are using the current economic situation to highly discriminate against a broad range of workers.
And also at this point the competition is super sharp for both full time positions and consulting projects.

Jul. 09 2009 10:54 AM
MW from Manhattan

Basically good attitude and advice here. But lets get real in surviving in the USA. You do what you have to do to get by in this pirate or economic sharecropper economy, take your pick of epithets. But this is a sign of the disenfranchisement of the "educated". If you make the consultant jump, structure your company so that your personal income is low and take advantage of social services available to low income workers to get medicaid and food stamps so that you can save for the rainy days and compensate for the fear that wil come with "living on the edge" The IRS should revise the income tax to be paid over a 5 year average as people's incomes can be plentiful one year and nothing the next or the year after that, as it is now you are penalized for having "good times" and not compensated when its rough. Socialism anyone?

Jul. 09 2009 10:54 AM

For Nick, what are the basics of marketing yourself as a consultant? What should you send to a company?

Jul. 09 2009 10:54 AM
Rachel from Sunset Park, Brooklyn

This is off topic...

I had an interview last Wednesday and it was through a headhunter. I touched base with the headhunter and said I was interested.

The headhunter has not gotten back to me. Do you think I should kiss this opportunity goodbye?

Jul. 09 2009 10:53 AM
Edward from NJ

I've always been under the impression that resumes should be kept brief -- one or two pages. In the past few years, I've been in a position to hire people for web development positions, and most resumes I've seen are sprawling 4-5 page documents. Reviewing them, I've found my eyes glazing over. I've stuck with keeping my resume brief since that's what I'd prefer to read. To keep it short, I've distilled out a lot of less relevant information. As a recruiter, do you prefer to see everything in a resume or a brief summary?

Jul. 09 2009 10:52 AM
Nicole from Brooklyn

What the guest is describing sounds like having"permalance" workers.

Isn't it illegal to have people come in to work at your office everyday without giving them benefits?

Jul. 09 2009 10:50 AM
RJ from Brooklyn

It's probably that your friend with the 3-month contract is violating state labor and federal IRS regulations concerning employment. Many big companies tried this "save on benefits/taxes" approach in the 80s, and were found to be illegally reclassifying employees as consultants because there are IRS and state definitions of employees and the IRS does not look kindly on being cheated out of their portion of employment taxes.

Jul. 09 2009 10:48 AM
the truth from bkny

How do I get my resume to you Mr. Corcodilos?

Jul. 09 2009 10:46 AM
RJ from Brooklyn

How does one become a client of a headhunter? A "headhuntee"?

Jul. 09 2009 10:45 AM

WHAT EVEN IS A CONSULTANT???!!!??? I have many friends who are consultants and I STILL can't figure out what this job entails.

Jul. 09 2009 10:42 AM
Al from Manhattan

I am a mechanical engineer with fifteen years of work experience and an MBA from Stern. I have been unemployed for nine months. I don't even know where I should be looking.

I have a background in Medical devices but manufacturing is a graveyard right now. "Green jobs" are a myth. I have never been able to sell the MBA, and now is not the time to try.

I just need a little office job to get me through the recession. I'm considering restaurants. I have an interview tomorrow morning for a manual labor job in a warehouse.

Jul. 09 2009 10:09 AM

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