Monday, March 24, 2008

Today : Buy your snake oil and medicinal compounds here...

Yesterday I charged my first job as a consultant in my chosen field. I was wary.

Who doesn't hate consultants? They are the overegotistical, self important, I'm-cleverer-that-you, smoke and mirrors merchants who are bleeding our health and education systems dry by peddling snake-oil solutions to problems that are either mythical or actually created by consultants. They are the people who charge extortionate amounts to companies to do what the company is doing anyway. Consultants are smug. They are worse than lawyers.

I've sat in meetings and training sessions where some smarm in a too-loud tie is charging £1000 a day to address a roomfuol of grandmothers on the topic of sucking eggs, or even spouting facts and information that anyone who might read a book knows is just plain wrong.

I once spent one of those eyes half closed cheap coffee sipping mornings in a training session on teaching special needs students, and listened to an 'expert' hold forth on the topics of autism and dyspraxia. Not only did the 'consultant' wrongly describe the symtpoms of both conditions but everyone left the room wondering where the 'teaching' bit of the training came in. When it came to the Q&A session she just made up answers and spouted evasive empty nonsense.

I guess a loose definition of consultancy is that you get paid for your knowledge and experience of doing rather than actually doing something. In short, it is a licence to be a charlatan. Who is to know what you know or don't know? Not being required to demonstrate actual skill is a fantastic way to effectively get paid for nothing.

For the record, my first consultancy job depended on me having experience of doing things in the past and being able to employ my skill-set to do something in the present, so it wasn't strictly consulting in the way I've stereotyped these past few paragraphs. No meetings with powerpoint presentations and catered sandwiches were involved.

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