Navigating the Silicon Valley consulting world can be a bit intimidating at first. You shouldn’t feel like you’re left to fend for yourself in your first engineering consulting project. That’s why we put together this list of survival tips, tricks and insight to help guide you through your first contract. This survival guide for new engineering consultants was written with first-hand experience from a seasoned engineering consultant.
We want to help you prepare for the road ahead by shedding light on situations you may encounter in your project. Here are a few survival tips:
Consulting positions are most commonly hourly positions, so accurately reporting your time is important. Discuss timecard expectations with your manager in your first week. Many managers use the timecard to not only track hours, but to keep updated with your work. Including a description of your work on your timecard will let your manager to see the progress in your role, even if they didn’t get a chance to meet with you throughout the week.
Depending on the company, engineering consultants may experience different levels of integration within the company. In larger companies, it’s not uncommon to be part of a team that has a diverse mix of engineering consultants and permanent employees. However, you could also find yourself as the sole consultant on a project. While there are pros and cons to each scenario, you might find yourself questioning whether you’re on the inside or outside of the group. Do your best not to take it personally. At the end of the day all employees, contract and permanent, are there to perform an integral role in the project.
By getting to know the company culture, you’ll feel much more comfortable in your role. Many engineering consultants post on Glassdoor and engineering forums about what to expect, so you might consider doing a bit of research before your assignment starts.
Engineering projects are often based on strict deadlines, which may require you to be flexible with your hours. This could mean working late, weekend hours, or adjusting your daily schedule to match your team. Try to accommodate the needs of your team and the project where you can. Of course, don’t forget to get approval on any additional hours beyond your standard schedule.
Working with an agency
If you found your consulting project through a staffing agency, use your Technical Recruiter to your advantage. They are there to discuss whether things are going well, or if they aren’t quite going as planned. Open communication with your recruiter can help turn a stressful situation into a dream project.
Keep it cool
While the majority of contracts are win-win situations for both the consultant and client company, occasionally a contract won’t work out. It can be an emotionally charged situation if the contract doesn’t pan out as planned. Stay professional during this time period. No matter the reason a contract ends, maintaining professionalism will keep the door open for future opportunities.
Go above and beyond
Companies bring consultants on board to tackle a specific issue, fill a skill set gap, or meet critical deadlines. Managers often say that their best and most extensive contracts are with consultants who can hit deadlines and confront issues efficiently. The key to success in your role is figuring out how your specific role fits into the project, and then moving full steam ahead.
Wherever your consulting adventures take you, we hope that this article can give some perspective on the types of things a new engineering consultant can run into. Understand that every contract, manager, and project is different, so continue to work to keep a line of communication open with your colleagues. Contract jobs can absolutely be both rewarding and exciting.
If you’re an experienced engineering consultant, feel free to share your insight in the comments!