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Becoming a Scientific Consultant

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Communication, communication, communication.... you got the message by now. Papers, publications, presentations, patents, all that jazz. What about the allures of consultancy post your doctorate degree and what are the factors that you are going to be measured against there and then?

Consultancy is not about providing professional advice and services, it is all about game changing. It is about rules: knowing the rules, breaking the existing rules, establishing new rules. You will be hired to restructure, reform and redesign - successfully, if you want to be rehired. You will need to audit the current standing and to put the road map to success of a business that you might never meet again. You need to be engaged, trustworthy, yet to keep and maintain objective distance. There are important questions, that you need to know the answer prior to delving in consultancy. Are you going to be the expert in a narrow field or are you going to be the strategist that overlooks the development of an industry? Are you going to offer and produce the ultimate solution, or a number of choices and options that could be further implemented and executed? Are you going to keep your deep knowledge and understanding in a field, or are you going to take a bird eye view of the industry at large, keeping track of all the bits and bobs on the market? These are all different question, despite how identical they might seem to you at present.

What you will need in order to achieve that?

Pick an industry: you can be the one trick pony, but you cannot serve it all. Pick up your specialty, find where you fit and where you desire to be and then explore all the options inside and at the overlaps: patents, biotechnology, nanotechnology, healthcare, pharmaceuticals, instruments, devices, regulations, ....pick your segment and serve it.

Portfolio. Consultancy is all about selling yourself and your skills on a sequence of projects as well as solving a variety of problems. Well, you need to be convincing and confident as a problem solver and an asset for a project - this can come from your portfolio. Make sure that you know the details and hallmarks of all the projects that you have worked on during the years, and what you have learned from them. Keep a perspective journal of best and worst and what you have learned along the steps on the road. Up-to-date and impeccable, honoring both your skills, but also client's sensitive information should not be exposed.

Contacts, networking, people management. Fostering relationships in a professional way is the way to go. Being a consultant is all about talking to people, understanding their needs and offering them a solution or two on the immediate task or the long run. Make sure that your colleagues, friends and network at large see where your experience and expertise is, your commitment, so that they know how you can assist them with your knowledge. Working with the best and learning from the best - this is the way to sharpen your skills and knowledge, explore your limits and strengthen your confidentiality and professionalism.

Presentation, presentation, presentation... think of yourself as being a think-tank that solves the problems of the world, day in, day out. But in order to be the think-tank, you need to become one and to present yourself to the world and its problems as such: what can you offer, whom can you offer it, what can you bring to the table, what can you remove from the table --- it is all a matter of presentation and collation of data and outcomes. Presentations mean a lot of them, customized and tailored to the prospective clients. Mind the confidentiality agreements and non - disclosure annexes - what is off limits, is off limits. What is privileged, should stay such.

Being the think-tank, requires yet another skill: can you trade depth for horizon, scope for scale, scale for execution, global for local, profit for sustainability, and balance sheet for public good. And then back again, in any order. You need to understand limitations and to search for opportunities all of the time. These are a great asset for your portfolio as well: they can help customer understand your skill set and what you bring to the table.

Efficiency and effectiveness: Efficiency is objective, it is all about time and efforts and it is quantifiable, you can prove it and you can broadcast it to the world.Effectiveness is subjective, from the client's perspective and is a measure of whether or not your services produced the desired outcome. Efficiency is all about your portfolio, effectiveness is part of the testimonials, references, referrals and recommendations - it is provided upon request and is a deep asset to your portfolio, but it is not a part of it. Humble much?

Risks: they are part of life and part of professional life. Limitations, opportunities and risks are all connected together and your role as a consultant is often associates with risk assessment, evaluation and removal. Keep risks in your portfolio, and have a clear and concise story how you have weighed them and eradicated them in one degree or another.

Yes the world is flat (according to Thomas Friedman), and consultancy is all about fast switch between projects, clients, and teams, while on the same field. It requires adaptability and flexibility, that you need to deliver.

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