Short term consulting could mean long term employment

Three months ago I was contacted by the Program Officer in neighboring units Dean’s Office. The Dean was starting up a new summer program for entering freshman and heard I had experience teaching college students. She asked if I would assist by providing some short term consultation time and perhaps participate in the program.

At the time I was busy juggling NIH funded research, several manuscripts, two summer courses, and my dissertation. Though I had little free time, I accepted, both because of the added income (about 1 months rent) and because of the possible networking opportunities that might present themselves. In the long term, this could pay off dividends.
Over the course of three months I was extremely open with my time and met with the program lead frequently to share my knowledge and skills. Towards the end of the program I also offered to conduct several focus groups, just about the only evaluation option available in a short notice. Though they would take additional time from my schedule, an evaluation seemed important.
Three months later (today) I presented my findings in the form of a written report and discussion at the monthly staff meeting. More importantly, the last 30 minutes of the discussion were about me, my education and research, and my long term employment goals. The team lead even asked, “If the planets were to align, would you be interested in working in this office?” I smiled and replied, “absolutely.”
Finding the time to assist in this project was not easy, and I found myself working in the evenings and weekends on more than one occasion (I realize, now, I probably under-billed my hours). I was crammed for time, stressed, and on more than one occasion up late working on some project that was reaching a deadline.
The benefits of the extra effort and small consultation work, however, far outweighed the concerns. By doing this sort of consultation work I:
  • practiced (and learned new) research skills;
  • was paid doing something I enjoyed doing;
  • listed the consultation work on my curriculum vitae (academic resume);
  • networked with a new academic unit (and the associated faculty) and set up a time to meet others;
  • lined up possible employment.
All of this certainly seemed worth the effort and I recommend it. Give it a try. Put yourself out there and start some side consultation work. You may find you like what you do.