5 Things You Need to Form Your Own Talent Acquisition Consulting Shop

February 6, 2014


Have you ever considered striking out on your own? If you think you’re ready to climb out of the corporate recruiting trenches and advise your peers, read on.

In the last several months, two of my favorite corporate talent acquisition leaders stepped away from high-profile corporate roles to launch their own consulting firms. First Kara Yarnot, who previously ran the Talent Acquisition Center of Excellence for Fortune 500 company SAIC, resigned and launched Meritage Talent Solutions. Then Lars Schmidt gave up his Senior Director role at NPR to focus on his new business, Amplify Talent.

In speaking to both, I identified certain commonalities in their stories (beyond, coincidentally, both of them living in the Washington DC metro area).  As they struck out on their own, our protagonists each had the following 5 things going for them:

1. The sudden impetus to go out and do it.

Both Kara and Lars were sitting pretty in their previous jobs – until a business shift made them rethink their careers. In Kara’s case, SAIC split into two separate companies, heralding change for the Talent Acquisition function. And while Lars had been mulling over the opportunity for a while, the catalyst was the departure of his VP HR and the resulting team re-alignment.

2. A powerful and extensive network.

Kara and Lars assert that who they know will be vital to their success. “Our community is incredibly supportive, even to those of us who ‘change sides’,” said Kara. “I have a large number of connections that have given me advice, sent me leads, reviewed my marketing materials and challenged my business model.  I will be forever grateful for all of the advice and counsel.”

Lars agrees that “If you’ve worked hard to cultivate a network, they will be there for you.” For him, launching the business “really reinforced to me how important relationships are - a core learning for any new entrepreneur.”

3. Determination and know-how to drive wholesale change.

Whether you work in Talent Acquisition or any other function, change management is not for the faint-hearted. But apparently it’s something that both Kara and Lars run towards, not flee from. Before launching her firm, Kara did explore other more mainstream careers, “to be sure that other corporate opportunities weren’t going to meet my need for regular change and disruption.”  When they didn’t, Meritage Talent Solutions was born. Having heard her speak with authority on the power of pilots and working on ‘small, manageable chunks’ to make change stick, I know she embraces that challenge.

Similarly, Lars notes how “most recruiting teams today are so heads-down with their requisition loads that they have a hard time thinking differently about how to engage and attract talent.” If your recruiting organization is ‘bogged down in transaction mode’ and needs help thinking differently, Lars says he’s your man.

4. A thirst for teaching – and continued learning.

I was struck by the fact that while they already have so much to offer their peers, Kara and Lars seem to be in permanent learning mode.  What I gain is rapid exposure to new industries, teams, and organizations with their own unique challenges and opportunities,” enthused Lars. “That’s really exciting to me.” As a former consultant, albeit from generalist management consulting, I can testify that such a sponge-like attitude will come in handy.

5. Willingness to forego mentorship opportunities – for the time being.

Perhaps this is not surprising for two leaders in the people business, but both consultants proactively mentioned the loss of opportunity to nurture a team as one major downside to their new line of work. Kara admitted that “Some of my best experiences in a corporate setting revolved around helping others excel and seeing my teams achieve their goals.”  Only one thing for it: she’s determined to scale her business to the point where “I get to employ a team of consultants and analysts and have those experiences once again.” I have no doubt that day will come.

So, in summary: if you’re facing a change in your current work situation, blessed with an incredible network, ready to help your clients improve while simultaneously learning from them, and if you’re comfortable giving up the chance to mentor a team in the early days, then perhaps a consulting gig is for you. It’s a different world from corporate recruiting and it’s not for the faint-hearted – but if you really are a change agent, perhaps the different vantage point will be exactly what you need.

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