I love to tell this story.
When I was growing up, my father went through a period of time in his career as a doctor coming home night after night complaining about the "consultants" at his hospital who clearly believed they knew more about what kind of equipment was best for his patients than himself.
One evening at the dinner table, I asked him just what exactly is a consultant anyway. He sighed and said, "It's just someone from out of town with a briefcase."
I'm afraid he'd have to expand his definition now.
A consultant is someone who...
- has a blog.
- has self-published a book.
- has a web site.
- hosts a podcast.
- has a byline on loads of articles written allover the Internet; none of which were for pay, but merely to serve the purpose of providing some web site with a bevy of free content that they were more than happy to accept with little concern over the writer's legitimate professional expertise.
- and/or is a certified coach credentialed by an organization no one has ever heard of before.
The three w's in world wide web might as well stand for wild, wild west. Not since the days of Doc Holiday and Jesse James, has their been so much opportunity for the fly-by-night traveling snake oil salesman.
Certified public accountants, psychotherapists, doctors, lawyers, school teachers, college professors, even hair dressers and plumbers, are all subject to a rigorous process to become certified and licensed in their respective fields. All are subject to maintaining their license and doomed if they screw up and lose it, as well.
Why am I going on and on about this?
The web has increasingly become one big bazaar for services rendered. The best shorthand distinction I've heard describing the difference between Web 1.0 and Web 2.0 is that Web 1.0 was about content and Web 2.0 is about connecting people. A big part of connecting people is for the purpose of selling services and not just the traditional kinds of services. New job titles are being made up as we go along in this brave new world.
My advice: the next time you're considering a faceless consultant you met on media bistro or Monster or LinkedIn to coach you in sales knowledge management or manage your google ad campaigns or to outsource all your search engine optimization strategy; don't be buffaloed by the shopping list of faux credentials above.
While there are plenty of highly skilled and professional service providers marketing themselves in such a way, how can you tell them apart from the charlatans out to make a fast buck in between layoffs from their real careers (whatever that might be)?