After I was made redundant from 20 years in the coalmining industry I embarked on a second 20 year career as a self-employed management consultant. And what a life it was too! Getting paid three, sometimes four, times the going rate for advising executives of the bleeding obvious; the joke being that they could have heard my thoughts down the pub at night for free! And if it went wrong? Well, the decision had been theirs with only the recommendation mine and, in any event, I’d be long gone over the horizon.
The downside was that it felt like you were permanently unemployed. You needed to look for your next contract even when you were working. Your last job could indeed prove your last job. Marketing yourself was therefore crucial and at the centre of this was networking – making and greasing contacts with people who might be of use to you.
I used agencies a lot as they had far more contacts than I ever had and a much greater intelligence of the needs of the market. Naturally they took a slice of the customer’s fees; they might charge a company £500/day for providing a consultant but paid me only £400. But so what? No-one carps at paying £3 for a beer, even though the landlord has taken 50p, the brewery 30p, the suppliers of hops, malt, yeast, transport etc their share and the government its. And in any event I might never have heard of the opportunity without the agency and 100% of bugger all is bugger all.
Anyroadup, I’d gone to a networking event along with about a dozen other arse-creepers. In one of those get-to- know-you exercises the agency’s “facilitator” (read head hunter) asked us all to introduce ourselves and, “to make it interesting” he said, tell us what sort of animal we would be.
The cringingly obvious choices cropped up early. Some pompous prick said he’d be an eagle, “soaring above the detail to see the bigger picture”. We nodded sagely. Another said a bulldog, once he got his teeth into something he never let go.
When it was my turn I said “a rhinocerous”.
There was a pause.
“Why’s that?” asked eagle.
“Because I charge a lot”.