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with Dan Dieterich & Mike Thomas
Hosted by Paula Foster


Paula Foster
Dan Dieterich
Mike Thomas

What is Consulting?

Setting Fees & Getting the First Job

Scenario 1 - Policy Analysis
Scenario 2 - Churches / Non - Profit
Scenario 3 - Turning a Ph.D. in Chinese Literature into Business Expertise
Scenario 4 - Fine Arts Ph.D & Consulting

Book Recommendations

The following conversation originally took place on an email discussion list called WRK4US, which was founded by Paula Foster in 1999 as a place for people with graduate education in the Humanities to discuss nonacademic careers.

Because WRK4US has a confidentiality policy, all subscriber email addresses have been removed, and all names (except for Paula Foster's and the Guest Speakers') have been either removed or reduced to two initials which are different from the person's real initials.

If you like this discussion and would like to subscribe to WRK4US, send an email message to saying subscribe WRK4US Your Name, or email Paula at

Edited by Wendy Waters


Paula Foster
Dan Dieterich
Mike Thomas

From: Paula Foster
Hello All,

We are about to begin our Guest Speaker discussion on the topic of Consulting. Our two guest speakers, Mike Thomas and Dan Dieterich, will post their first messages sometime today. Response may or may not be slow at first because it's Memorial Day, but we shall see.

Anyway, I will now give some basic info on who they are and we will look forward to more detailed info about their consulting practices. MIKE THOMAS, Ph.D., was a Philosophy major as an undergraduate and earned a Ph.D. in Sociology and Social Psychology (UNC-Chapel Hill). In former lives he was a tenured professor and Department Chair; later he was an executive in NC State Government. For over 20 years he has been a management consultant (applied behavioral science) to private, public, and nonprofit organizations in the USA, UK, Canada, and South Africa. He coaches executives, technical specialists and academic writers (MA, ABD & Ph.D). He conducts telephone classes of scholars from a large variety of academic and professional fields in 'how to start and develop a part-time consulting practice'.

DAN DIETERICH, Ph.D., is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and for 20 years now has had a thriving writing consulting practice, Word One Writing Consulting. Dan is a co-founder of the Association of Professional Communication Consultants (APCC), and a board member of the Association for Business Communication. He has conducted dozens of programs on getting started in consulting and enjoys encouraging new consultants. Thanks in advance to Mike and Dan for spending time with us. We look forward to learning from you.

Paula Foster
WRK4US list manager

Date: Mon, 29 May 2000 18:41:17 -0500
From: "Dieterich, Dan"
Subject: A writing consultant's perspective

Greetings and salutations. I'm one of the two "guest speakers" on work4us this week.

Since 1976 I have taught writing, "Business Writing," "Advanced Business Writing," and "Editing and Publishing" (among other things) full time at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (UWSP). I hold the rank of professor here, and I also work in our Tutoring-Learning Center, which includes our writing lab.

But, that's not why I'm on this list. I'm here because I've also been a writing consultant since 1978. I got started as a consultant when an executive at Wausau Insurance Companies came to the English Department at UWSP and asked if anyone was interested in training Wausau's executives in effective business writing. I had not yet taught business writing at UWSP (though I now teach it every semester), but I had done a lot of it, so I decided I'd give it a shot. A colleague, Hank Sparapani, also said he was interested in conducting the writing training program, even though he had never taught business writing either. We team taught the first program . . . for eight vice presidents of Wausau Insurance.

Amazingly enough, we lived through the experience, as did the eight vice presidents.They also thought enough of the program to recommend that we continue to conduct it for other Wausau employees. We did so for the next 20+ years.

I also taught writing to employees of other insurance companies, banks, hospitals, municipalities, county governments, associations of various kinds, accounting firms, manufacturing companies, and paper companies . . . as well as to my students and to the administrators and staff members at my universities and others.

Some years, I've been able to almost double my income from UWSP by consulting on a very part-time basis. I find it a tremendously rewarding thing to do--rewarding for me, for my consulting clients, for my university, and for my university students. As a result, I have conducted dozens of programs for people interested in getting started in consulting . . . consulting about business writing and also about other topics. (Did you know that there are people who consult about turf? I helped one get started.) I'd be glad to answer your questions about consulting.

Let me know how I can help you.
- Dan
"stay together, learn the flowers, go light." - Gary Snyder

Date: Mon, 29 May 2000 19:51:23 -0400
From: "Michael C. Thomas"

My name is Mike Thomas and I am a part-time management consultant and part-time telephone MentorCoach. Until a year ago I was also a part-time University Professor. Paula has asked me to tell you the story of my professional metamorphosis from full-time professor to full-time independent consultant. The first thing that came to my mind as I read her request is that this process has taken a very long time, it has taken many twists and it is characterized by a few important themes. One theme is the intimate connections that exist among what is really important to me, the kinds of work that I do and my perception of my current situation. Since it is unlikely that I will become even a part-time Professor again, it is safe to say that THIS change process is complete.

After having lost my position as an Assistant Minister of a local congregation in Virginia because of my involvement in the civil rights movement in the early '60s, I decided to do two things, viz.,to go to graduate school (the only full-time job I knew how to do and wanted to do) in order to understand better what was happening and to prepare myself better to carry out my personal mission of helping people and improving society. My metamorphosis began in 1967 when I started as an Instructor (ABD) in Sociology and Anthropology at Washington and Lee University . It ended when I turned in the final grades for the students in an MBA level course in Human Resource Management at Raleigh regional regional campus of Pfeiffer University last year. Since it is unlikely that I will become a part-time Professor again, it is safe to say that THIS change process is complete.

I started part-time consulting in 1970 when I contracted to do a program evaluation research project for a start-up theological seminary in down-town DC that had as it's aim to reform Theological Education in the United States. It was inter-faith (Protestant, Catholic and Jewish), inter-racial (black, white and Hispanic), inter-gender (male & female) and , unappreciated at the time, inter-age (the seminarians were in their 20s and the faculty and administration were in their 40s). So much time and energy was invested by them in dealing with all of the various internal organizational conflicts the creators had unintentionally created, that my evaluation research project was rightly regarded as trivial.

However, in that context I met my first Organization Development Consultant who was hired to help them better manage their conflicts. I could not have imagined it at the time, but in 1976, while a tenured professor and department Chair at Salem College in Winston-Salem, I did my first part-time OD (Organizational Development) consulting. I was now doing both program evaluation research and management consulting. In February 1978 I became a full-time Management Development and OD consultant and an employee of NC State Government (and my salary doubled).

Six months later I was teaching a graduate level course at NC State University and I was a full-time consultant and part-time professor.

This story covers 30 years and many transitions. I believe that the best position to be in is a tenured professor and a part-time consultant. I'm eager to learn from Dan Dieterich. Since most professors know how to do research, write about it, publish it, give presentations about it; many professors can become part-time consultants fairly quickly and easily. Part of my consulting/coaching practice is to help college professors and other professionals start and grow a part-time consulting practice.

Since many tenured positions and a few colleges are disappearing, part-time consulting is for lots of academics a great transition to either full-time consulting or full-time employment in some bureaucracy or full-time ownership of a business. Regardless, many among us are still 'free agents', like professional athletes, their manager/coaches, college presidents and college professors.

What is Consulting?

Subject: Re: Making a living wage from writing consulting

. . .

What constitutes a consultant as an expert?
How much knowledge and experience does one need?

I feel as if I have enough to get out there now but I'm holding back because I think I need something more to be REALLY QUALIFIED.

. . .

Date: Tue, 30 May 2000 09:47:54 -0500
From: "Dieterich, Dan"
Subject: Making a living wage from writing consulting

Perhaps one way to begin this discussion is by saying that "writing consulting" means many things. For some people (me, for one) it usually means that I design and then conduct writing training programs for employees at their workplace (factory, office, school, university, government agency). For others, it means-
* Conducting public training programs they design on a charge per person basis,
* Conducting writing training (that others design) as an employee of a consulting company,
* Editing computer manuals for software manufacturers,
* Helping people to write successful resumes,
* Writing newsletters for corporate clients,
* Ghostwriting books, articles, or speeches for people,
* Doing technical writing of every imaginable variety,
* Providing writing tutorial help to people via e-mail,
* Advising companies about how to improve their written communications,
* Helping companies design forms and entire communication systems,
* Writing writing manuals for organizations,
* Training ministers/priests/rabbis on how to write effective sermons,
* Teaching spelling workshops for shorthand court reporters,
* Teaching programs in grammar/mechanics/usage to employees,
* Conducting training programs targeted to specific kinds of workplace writing (e.g., proposals, personnel evaluations, reports, rejections letters)
* Teaching programs about the ethical implications of what employees write/do,
* Making keynote presentations at meetings, conferences, and conventions about specific aspects of writing,
* Helping employers to communicate effectively with a culturally diverse workforce or with culturally diverse clients/customers.

I'm sure I've left out several dozen other activities that people who call themselves writing consultants undertake. (I've also omitted all the activities that communication consultants undertake regarding listening, speaking, nonverbal communication, reading.) The fact is, consulting means various things to various people Is there a niche in there somewhere for you. I suspect that there is.

How do you get started doing it?

1. Start thinking of yourself as a writing consultant. Decide what sort of consulting you'd like to get involved in doing, but be open to other opportunities as well. In doing this, look more at what you enjoy than at what you know a lot about. Develop your knowledge and skills at whatever it is that you decide to do. Then decide whether you have what it takes to consult on your own or whether you ought to work for someone else who handles the marketing, billing, etc. (As you do this, realize that the benefits of independent consulting are substantial and the risks relatively minor.)

2. Tell everyone you know that you're a writing consultant. (Note: Not that you're thinking of becoming one, but that you are one.)

3. Give all of those good people the opportunity to begin work as a writing consultant. Ask them who could use the sorts of services you're willing and able to provide.

4. Talk with prospective customers about the writing problems they are facing with their employees and how you can help them solve those problems.Does that help? If you'd like to talk more about marketing your services or establishing a professional image as a consultant, I'd be happy to get into that as well. But, don't think that you have to be able to leap tall buildings at a single bound in order to become a writing consultant. At the start, it's okay if you have to take a running start before you leap, and it's even okay if you only leap over short or medium buildings.

- Dan
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
- Mahatma Gandhi

Date: Tue, 30 May 2000 08:29:49 -0400 (EDT)
From: Paula Foster
Subject: helping people

Dan and Mike struck a chord with me when they both mentioned "helping people and improving society." This is one thing that I care about, too, having left two careers because they didn't make enough of a social impact. Now I am headed for a career in consulting and am delighted to discover that I might actually feel satisfied, for once, that my work makes a difference.
A lot of consultants feel this way. Not all, but a significant number. Geoff Bellman, for example, and Peter Block (two eminent consulting gurus), both mention this in their books. Both were involved (I think) in the civil rights and/or anti-war movements in the 60s and both now view themselves (and many other consultants) as "pinstripe radicals," in the best sense of the term. It makes sense if you think about it: as a consultant, your job is to go into an institution and change something. I love that about consulting. After my first consulting job (completed last month), I felt like I had made a difference.

Paula Foster
Future full-time consultant

Date: Tue, 30 May 2000 13:25:59 -0400 (EDT)
From: Paula Foster
Subject: what "consulting" is

Hello All,
T wrote that she would appreciate some very basic info about consulting. As a grad student who has recently had to figure out what "consulting" is, I would like to add some very basic info to Dan's extremely helpful response. People on this list may or may not know that...

1) "Consulting" is exchanging your opinion and/or expertise for money.
Speaking very broadly, any time anyone asks your opinion about anything, you are being "consulted." To be a professional consultant is to charge money for your opinion and/or services as a knowledgeable expert.

2) "Consulting" as I understand it encompasses two basic functions (for communication consultants, anyway): production and intervention. "Production" is writing (which sounds like what Tiffany wants to do). If you are hired to write something, like a company newsletter or a technical manual, you are doing the "production" part of consulting: you are producing documents. "Intervention" is different: here you are being asked to examine a problem the company is having and come up with one or more possible solutions. (This is what I want to do.) Many (but not all) interventions involve the creation of a new training program to address a skill gap that the consultant has identified. However, other interventions are possible, and training isn't always the best solution. The word "intervention," which I learned from Mike Thomas, is appropriate because by proposing a solution, you are changing something--you are *intervening* in the way things have previously been done. (Remember, all I know about is communication consulting, so this paragraph may or may not apply to other types of consulting.)

3) Almost ANY type of expertise can be parlayed into a consulting practice, at least a part-time practice. To give this a Humanities slant, anthropologists can consult on (for example) organizational culture; historians can consult on, say, archival research; philosophers can consult on, say, ethics; English scholars can consult on, among other things, writing. There is probably a market out there, somewhere, for almost any kind of expertise. The woman next door who collects civil war rifles could conceivably consult on civil war rifles--if she finds her market and approaches it correctly.4) Consultants do not have to be freelancers. They can work full-time for consulting companies, for example (such as McKinsey, Anderson Consulting, A.T. Kearney), or they can work full- or part-time for training companies (such as Fred Pryor Seminars, CareerTrack, SkillPath, Franklin Covey). They can even work for regular companies: the trend now is for people who work at an organization to call themselves "internal consultants" and call others, such as freelancers, "external consultants." This confuses the matter somewhat, but it does make company employees feel empowered.

Mike--Dan--have I got all that approximately right?

Paula Foster

Date: Tue, 30 May 2000 22:37:32 -0400
From: "Michael C. Thomas"
Subject: Comments on Paula' s 1:26 PM Post

To Paula:
Thank you very much for your well written statements on the basics. I will ask some friendly questions and make some comments to some of them.

(1) 'Consulting': If Michael, and others, work pro bono, are they not professionals?

(2) 'Production' and 'intervention': In my view all consulting is 'intervention' if learning takes place. If learning does not take place, then I'm inclined to refer to it as 'entertainment' or 'enrichment' (which can pay handsomely)rather than 'consulting'. I guess I have somewhat of an elitist view.

(3) Regarding: 'Giving your opinion' and 'coming up with solutions': Most of my OD consulting consists of being a 'process consultant' or problem-solving group/team meeting facilitator. When I'm in this role, I work very hard at the extremely difficult task for me of NOT giving my opinion and NOT coming up with my solutions. In this role, I'm paid to 'facilitate the problem-solving process' to increase the probability that the client with improve the quality of THEIR opinions and solutions. No one has to be persuaded of the value of their own opinions. Even if their 'solutions' are not nearly as good as mine (I jest!), the client team will make them work.

"Almost ANY type of expertise can be parlayed into a consulting practice." I totally agree with you. Two major challenges that scholars face are believing this and 'transforming' their expertise into a marketable product/service. The first challenge is the greater of the two.

(4) I agree again. A big problem that the 'internal consultants' face is continuously increasing their credibility with the organization's executives. Since the executives are rarely in the class room with the hourly employees and supervisors, the executives seldom get to experience how really good the 'internals' ('locals') are and ascribe more credibility to the expert Ph.D. professors from 'the University'.

Paula, you are doing great!

From: Paula Foster
Subject: pro bono/listening

Thanks, Mike, for complicating my earlier statements.
>1. 'Consulting': If Michael, and others, work pro bono, are
>they not professionals?

Great question! My personal feeling is that pro-bono work can occupy an important place in one's full-time consulting practice. I certainly intend to do it myself. But somebody told me once when I was a child that the word "professional" means you get paid for it, whatever "it" is. I guess I have been happy with that definition ever since (unlike a few others I was given) and have seen it abundantly replicated in public discourse--e.g. the difference between amateur and professional athletes, etc. That being said, however, your point is well-taken: of course a professional can do pro bono work. Moreover, just because a person does *only* pro bono work does not mean that they do not have all of the *qualities* of a professional: knowledge, expertise, quality work, reliability, a community of professional colleagues, etc. (All the qualities, in fact, except the paying contract!)

>I work very hard at the extremely difficult task for
>me of NOT giving my opinion and NOT coming up with my solutions.
>In this role, I'm paid to 'facilitate the problem-solving process'
>to increase the probability that the client with improve the
>quality of THEIR opinions and solutions.

You are, of course, absolutely right about this; I should have complicated that idea myself in my posting. Consultants do facilitate and draw out other people's ideas rather than simply give their own. That's what the consulting literature says, and that is what I have done in the two consulting projects I have completed (one pro bono and the other for pay).
You are so right.
However, allow me to complicate this issue still further by introducing the notion of "ethos" in consulting. As many of you may know, "ethos" is a rhetorical term that sort of combines "persona" with "credibility". In consulting, ethos is very, very central--yet consulting ethos is, in a way, the opposite of the academic ethos we are accustomed to. At the risk of oversimplifying (again), I would say that academic ethos is about knowing and explaining, whereas consulting ethos is about asking and facilitating. In consulting, when you listen to the clients and validate their ideas, they perceive you as a highly credible expert. When you barge in with your own ideas and impose them on the client, they perceive you as a horse's ass. In practice, speaking and facilitating are not always mutually exclusive, so the speaking/facilitating binary does break down. I have discovered (in my two jobs) that it's really more of a continuum. As I interact with clients, especially on-site, I must continually monitor my desire to speak and be noticed, holding that desire in check and sliding myself to different spots on the continuum between listening and speaking, depending on what's happening in the moment. In some moments it is best to say nothing and wait for the client to speak again; in other moments, the client really does need me to step in and offer a question or an idea. There is a balance to be struck between facilitating and speaking, and like Mike, I find this balance a challenge to maintain, because as anyone who knows me will tell you, I am definitely a talker. But I find it wonderfully humbling, and educational, to shut up and listen for a change.I could go on about this for hours. The consultant-client relationship is absolutely fascinating to me and I look forward to more interesting wrinkles in the next job.

Paula Foster
ABD in English
WRK4US list manager
and aspiring full-time consultant

Date: Wed, 31 May 2000 11:51:13 -0500
From: "Dieterich, Dan"

I love word origins. It turns out that "professional" comes from the Latin "professus," meaning to affirm openly, while "amateur" comes from the Latin "amare," meaning to love. So, while professional consultants are openly proclaiming about their consulting topics, amateur consultants do their work for love, not money. By the way, "consult" comes from the Latin "consultare," meaning to take counsel. Strictly speaking, therefore, our clients are the consultants; we're the consultees!

I also love the double entendre of the name of your work listserv. It can either mean "Do you have work for us?" or "Would you like to work for us?" I suspect that the second of the two might be the more appropriate definition because I sincerely believe that you who subscribe to this listserv have a substantial advantage over most others in today's workforce.

I'm reading by William Bridges. (Reading, Mass.: Addison-Wesley Publishing Company, 1994, 257 pp., $13.00 in paperback). It's a fascinating book. Even though I suspect it's based on some faulty assumptions about the economy, it draws some conclusions that I think are "right on the money."

Here's a passage from pp. 50-51, a list of the new rules for organizations. Consider how it relates to what we've been saying about consulting:
"* Everyone is a worker, not just the part-time and contract workers. Everyone's employment, that is, in contingent on the results that the organization can achieve.

* Recognizing the turbulence in the business environment, workers need to regard themselves as people whose value to the organization must be demonstrated in each successive situation they find themselves in.

In the light of their 'contingency,' workers need to develop a mindset, an approach to their work, and a way of managing their own careers that is more like that of an external vendor than that of a traditional employee. Workers will be wise to think that they are 'in business for themselves' and that their tasks have, in effect, been outsourced to them by the organization."

On page 31, Bridges discusses the origin of the word "job," saying it may have originated as a variant of "gob," meaning a lump or mouthful and that both "job" and "gob" may have come from the Celtic word for "mouth." "Job" moved from meaning a small piece of stuff to large piles of stuff . . . which someone had to move around. Then it came to mean the act of transporting the pile of stuff in a cart. After that it became any task which was a single piece of work. And recently, it has come to mean a role or position in an organization. Bridges' point in this book is that the modern concept of the "job" is obsolete. Future workers will do a variety of kinds of work, but they won't hold a "job" in an organization. In effect, he's telling his readers to become independent consultants. Sounds like good advice to me.

- Dan
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
- Mahatma Gandhi

Setting Fees & Getting the First Job

Scenario 1 - Policy Analysis
Scenario 2 - Consulting for Churches / Non - Profit
Scenario 3 - Turning a Ph.D. in Chinese Literature into Business Consulting Expertise
Scenario 4 - Fine Arts Ph.D & Consulting

Date: Mon, 29 May 2000 18:43:13 -0700
Subject: RE: Mike Thomas' First Post

Hello to both contributors...

I have just started a consulting experiment (I am NOT generally a good business person) for policy analysis, implementation, organization, and other public administration topics. I am not sure how to price my fees or how to ensure getting some initial jobs. Any suggestions?


Reply #1
Date: Mon, 29 May 2000 22:31:12 -0400
From: "Michael C. Thomas"
Subject: RE: Mike Thomas' First Post

This is a very important question and thank you for posting it. Suggestions:

First, close your eyes and imagine which public administrators and elected officials, specifically, are in an audience listening intently to you speak from your passion and expertise?

Second, imagine that managers in a public bureaucracy are passing around an article written by you. What is the title of the article?

What is the name of the publication in which the article is published? I'll be interested in reading your answers.

Mike Thomas, Ph.D.

Reply # 2:

Date: Mon, 29 May 2000 21:48:49 -0500
From: "Dieterich, Dan"

Hello backatcha
I'm not good at the money end of consulting myself. Someone once said that your professional goal should be to find a job that, even if you didn't get paid to do it, you'd do it anyway. I've found that job, and I can tell you that there are two sides to that coin. I charge a lot less than some people charge for doing what I do . . . some of whom (I suspect) don't do it as well as I do. Sometimes, I don't charge anything at all . . . for conducting workshops on inclusive/nonsexist language or on writing ethical wills, for example, or for workshops for students or local nonprofit organizations, for another example.

Despite all that, several years ago I learned that the going rate for conducting a one-day writing workshop was about $1,900 . . . and I sometimes charge that amount. If you can, find out what others in your vicinity charge for doing the same sort of thing that you're doing. Then do your best to avoid undercharging. As an academic, I know from personal experience that we generally undervalue what we do. I also recall someone saying that if you undercharge, it's because you're worthless.

Now, "how to ensure getting some initial jobs." The best thing to do is have someone come to you and ask you to do what you do best. [Hey, it worked for me!] If that doesn't happen, use your network. Let the people whom you know the best and who respect you the most in on the fact that you're now a consultant. Give them the opportunity to help you by suggesting names of people who might use your services. I know of no better way to establish and build a consulting business than through your network.

If you're interested in the subject of networking, I recommend Harvey McKay's book, . It's subtitled "The only networking book you'll ever need."

Once you get that first consultancy, by the way, make sure you do a superb job for your client. Not a good job . . . not even a very good job . . . but a superb job. Then make sure that you get evaluations in writing and also ask whoever hired you to suggest other people who could use your services.

That's all I can think of at the moment. Best of luck to you!

Mike, you spoke of going back to school to "prepare myself better to carry out my personal mission of helping people and improving society." I like that! I wasn't in the ministry, but I did spend five years in the seminary. I too believe in helping people and improving society. And, surprisingly enough, I find a great many ways of ccomplishing that through my business writing consulting. A lot of what I end up teaching people in my workshops has to do with ways of showing their respect, empathy, love to others. It turns out that a business writing seminar is a wonderful forum for doing that.
- Dan
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
- Mahatma Gandhi

Date: Tue, 30 May 2000 15:43:26 -0700 (PDT)
From: MH
Subject: Re: Making a living wage from writing consulting

Hello folks,

I'm a doctoral candidate in religion at ___ University already working part-time as a consultant with a large grant funding organization that wants formative evaluations of its grantee's work. I was intrigued to learn that both of our official consultants have a back ground in theology and ministry and wondered if they had any experience of and ideas about consulting with churches and religious institutions.

To be more specific, should one hold off approaching churches unless one is ordained? Should one hold off consulting until one is finished the PhD?

Should one advertise or just go with word of mouth?

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading these postings and it has also been a source of hope as I survey both the limited quality and quantity of academic teaching positions, not to mention the stress involved in holding one...

Reply #1
Date: Tue, 30 May 2000 21:34:23 -0400
From: "Michael C. Thomas"

Good evening.

I have not been on strike. I have been tending to my day job. Since I'm behind, I'll start with MH very interesting post and work my way back to the earlier ones. M: I believe that consultants should start with the client, even if the client is really a 'prospect'.

If you are employed by the funding organization, who is your client? Is it your employer or the grantee? Do you have a client?

'Prospects' decide to become 'clients' and you become their 'consultant' when y'all negotiate an 'agreement' or 'contract'. If a particular 'prospect' (Church A) has been your 'client' before, then they already ascribe a level of credibility to you because you have already demonstrated your 'qualifications'. This is one among many reasons to work hard at keeping a 'client' forever.

However, if Church A has never been your client, then they must make their decision to 'contract' with you on symbols of your credibility. These symbols can be such things as ordination, kinds of degrees, levels of degrees, previous experience doing this kind of work, letters of recommendation, referrals, attractiveness of your brochure, etc., etc.,

The point is that THEY, not you, decide if you are REALLY QUALIFIED. If you believe you are qualified, then you are. If you believe you are not qualified, then you are not. If you want to consult with churches, then I suggest that you conduct some 'information interviews' with the people in churches who decide whom to employ. My experience with non-profits generally and churches specifically is that they are not willing to pay very much for consultants and if you have too many symbols of credibility, they figure you must be expensive and you may not receive an RFP.

If you can, work pro bono for churches. You'll get lots of work, lots of experience from which to learn, and build the 'experienced' part of your credibility. After that, practice negotiating contracts with your students for your consulting services.

Best wishes
Mike Thomas

Date: Tue, 30 May 2000 20:35:23 -0500
From: "Dieterich, Dan"
Subject: RE: Making a living wage: response to MH

Thanks for joining the discussion, and best of luck to you on your studies at ____.

I've done no paid consulting with churches. I've done some unpaid consulting as Moderator of our Board of Deacons for a few years now. I've also done some unpaid consulting in helping ministers with their resumes and other aspects of their job search strategies. But again . . . no experience as a paid consultant. I've been asked to conduct a training session or two about sermon writing, but I didn't feel that I was the right person for that job.

"Should one hold off approaching churches unless one is ordained?

Should one hold off consulting until one has finished the Ph.D.?" I can't imagine why. If a church/minister has a problem, and you have the knowledge and expertise to solve it . . . no one is going to care whether you're ordained or doctoratized.

"Should one advertise or just go with word of mouth?"

Advertising is expensive. Word of mouth is free. I suspect that word of mouth (networking) is more effective than advertising too. But then again, I'm biased because I've never paid for an ad in my life.

"What makes a consultant an expert? How much knowledge and experience does one need?"

There's no answer to either of these questions. No one ever knows all there is to know about any subject. ["Knowledge is of two kinds. Either we know the thing itself or we know where we may find information about it." - Samuel Johnson] However, some of us concentrate on one or more areas of knowledge and develop skills in those areas. In some cases, we study in academic institutions, while in others we study on our own outside the institutions. Either way, we sometimes reach the conclusion that we know something that we know/suspect many others would benefit from. At that point, we have the opportunity to become consultants. We may not have any experience at this point since the only way to gain consulting experience is by consulting. However, we do have enough knowledge and self-confidence to decide to help others.

> I feel as if I have enough to get out there now but I'm holding back
> because I think I need something more to be REALLY QUALIFIED.

Stop holding back. No one else is ever going to tell you you're good enough to do this. That has to be your decision. I realize it's a tough one to make, but you're the only one who can make it. As you may have noticed, some people with Ph.D.s are incompetent. Some people without them are extremely competent. Academe's dirty little secret is that getting the doctorate doesn't prove a thing . . . though (fortunately or un-) a lot of people mistakenly think it does.

> I have thoroughly enjoyed reading these postings and
> it has also been a source of hope as I survey both the
> limited quality and quantity of academic teaching
> positions, not to mention the stress involved in
> holding one...

There's stress involved in doing anything that's worth doing. You can't duck that by becoming a consultant . . . or at least I haven't found a way to do it. Nonetheless, I find consulting work tremendously rewarding, and I encourage you to give it a shot.

"Jobs" as past generations have known them are undergoing a metamorphosis before our very eyes. Those who are willing to adapt to meet the needs of the changing nature of work are those most likely to thrive in tomorrow's workplace. Unless I'm mistaken, those best able to make those adaptations are consultants.

- Dan
"You must be the change you wish to see in the world."
- Mahatma Gandhi

Date: Wed, 31 May 2000 18:36:42 -0700 (PDT)
From: MH
Subject: Re: Mike Thomas' responses

Thanks to both Dan and Mike for their responses. I feel genuinely encouraged. My field is really in
spirituality and culture so I'm interested in doing work with organizations and businesses interested in
the relationship between spirituality in the workplace. I know this is a "growth" industry in more than one
sense of the word. Any concrete suggestions about getting started?


Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2000 11:12:16 -0400
From: "Michael C. Thomas"
Subject: For MH


Since your interest is in spirituality and work, you are probably already aware of Matthew Fox's
book, THE REINVENTION OF WORK. If not, I suggest that you take a peak at it.

I'll be happy to exchange information with you about
this topic later.

Mike Thomas

Date: Wed, 31 May 2000 11:21:14 -0400 (EDT)
From: SP
Subject: question about consulting

Hi all!

I am enjoying and learning a lot with the discussion so far but I still have lots of questions, especially about how to use my background in consulting. I am a Ph.D. student on Modern Chinese literature. I also studied Modern Chinese history, and history and literature of Tibet. I am fluent in Chinese and Spanish, and I know some Italian and Tibetan. I have lived in China for many years and traveled extensively around China and Tibet (as well as other countries). How can use all this in a consulting job? What companies/clients could I target besides non-profits? I am afraid that an Asia-related specialization may not be very useful for the consulting job market.

I would thank you very much for any advice!


Date: Wed, 31 May 2000 12:16:54 -0500
From: "Dieterich, Dan"
Subject: Consulting about Chinese culture/language

You're wrong about your knowledge of and experience with Chinese culture not being useful to you as a consultant! Please 0understand that I don't mean you're a little bit mistaken. I mean you're flat out, absolutely, completely dead wrong! I can't imagine an area of consulting today that's any more promising than Chinese language and culture. Within this past week the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill granting permanent "Most Favored Nation" trade status for China; the U. S. Senate in expected to also support that; and President Clinton is anxious to sign it into law. Since China's the planet's most populous nation, organizations throughout the U.S. will now be establishing trade relations with China. To do that effectively, they will need to know VASTLY more about the Chinese language, culture, and people than they currently do.

If you're able to help U.S. organizations to overcome the cultural/language barriers that will confront them in trade with China, you have an expertise of ENORMOUS economic value to a great many U.S. organizations of all kinds. That, in turn, means that your consulting opportunities are boundless and that your consulting income could be . . . substantial.

The questions you might ask yourself at this point are "What would I most enjoy doing in this area? What organizations would I most like to help to improve their understanding of Chinese culture? What aspect of this enormous field would I like to concentrate on?" Then you might set about making yourself the world's expert on one or more aspects of this large topic.

Best of luck to you, SP! And, when you're rich and famous . . . remember the one who steered you onto the path to your consulting success.

- Dan

"No matter what road I travel, I'm going home." - Shinsho

Date: Wed, 31 May 2000 15:45:31 -0400
From: "Michael C. Thomas"
Subject: RE: question about consulting

I'll be back tonight with more, but having read Dan's post, I want to say 'yes, me too'. I don't know where you live, and I don't know if you want to work for a firm or be an independent consultant. I'm curious. When you discussed your interest with your dissertation committee, what did they tell you? When you discussed your interest with
your many Chinese friends, what did they tell you? When you discussed your interest with your local US Congressperson and US Senator, what did they tell you?

If you haven't talked with these people, I encourage you to do so. While you are waiting to get appointments with these people, look in your telephone directory for the number of Anderson Consulting LLP and call for an information interview appointment with the Managing Partner.

I wish I had your skills and experience.

Mike Thomas

Date: Wed, 31 May 2000 16:57:51 -0500 (EST)
From: ML
Subject: RE: question about consulting

Mike, SP, and others:
I have been lurking the past day and a half or so enjoying the discussion about consulting. My interest peaked earlier this morning with SP's post. My situation is similar. I am a doctoral student in Chinese religions and feel that I too have some cultural and language skills that could be put to good use...only I need to find where! I was interested in Mike's suggestion of contacting Andersen for an information interview. I wasn't under the impression that their type of consulting would be interested in the skills I have to offer. Who, do you think, would be most interested in my Chinese skills: consulting firms, independent (albeit huge) businesses, non profits, or govt...or does it depend on what exactly

I would like to do with my Chinese cultural/language skills?I am been trying to find companies that have links or business in China and could profit by employee "training" in Chinese culture and/or language before being sent over there on trips or for residence. So far I have been fairly unsuccessful in discovering these companies with this need. Would it be appropriate for me to do cold resume/cover letters (as opposed to cold calling) in order to let companies become aware of my particular skills? Would this be more or less effective than any other means? Would the same hold true for non-profit organizations as opposed to businesses?

And about the graduate degrees, so far I have found them a hindrance in the "real" world, but in consulting they seem to be admired. Is this indeed the case? Should I downplay my academic ties or emphasize them?

As for Mike's suggestions about talking to one's dissertation committee, Chinese friends, etc., can I ask why? Would my local Senator really care if I wanted to be an independent consultant on Chinese culture? What should I expect to gain from these chats?

Thanks so much for your comments! I've enjoyed the discussion so far. It gives me hope.


From: "Michael C. Thomas"
To: "wrk4us"
Subject: to SP & ML

Good morning,
Why Anderson Consulting?
They are international and their clients are large international firms. VERY MANY of their clients will expand their marketing to China. Many of their clients may need the knowledge and skill you can already provide almost effortlessly. I picked Anderson as a place to start. You may also go to any of the international professional service
firms --- Law, Accounting, Architecture, Advertising, etc. You also try banks, insurance companies, Coke, McDonald's etc. Go to the Web and look for Hoover's.
Contact the offices of your local US Senators and US Congresspersons --- they can give you the email addresses and phone numbers of the exact people you need to talk with in the State Department.

Why? Elected officials get and stay in office by doing favors for those people called VOTERS and CONSTITUENTS. In addition, Federal Agencies like 'State' and 'Commerce' fall all over themselves doing favors for Senators and Reps --- the people who vote on the agency appropriations.

Example: Several years ago I accepted the opportunity to go to South Africa and do some generic undergraduate level classroom teaching, in Strategic Planning, for a group of country managers (RSA, Australia, New Zealand, France, Germany, UK, etc.)of an International Wool Company headquartered near Raleigh. My passport was out of date and I needed a new one in a hurry.

Of all things, I went for help to Jesse Helms' office in downtown Raleigh. Now, I would not vote for Jessie in a light-year, he does not know me, he has no love for South Africa, but my client is only 60 miles away (and may be a contributor to his campaigns) and he is Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the State Department can't do enough for him --- And, perhaps most important, I am a constituent!

I got my passport in warp speed.If you 'know' that none of these people are interested in you, then you may not test the low risk chance that y'all have similar or related interests.


Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2000 11:11:54 EDT
From: NE
Subject: Re: China-related work

SP & ML also might try sending their resume to any of the big technology companies who already do business in Asia and/or who are planning to expand their operations there. The business sections of the NY times, Wall Street Journal, etc., as well as most business magazines highlight these companies and their Asian business efforts almost daily. This is especially true in light of the recent congressional vote in Washington granting trade status to China.

In addition, it is helpful to pay attention to the individuals representing companies who accompany politicians on diplomatic/commerce trips abroad. For instance, the city of Dallas, where I currently am based, has a group of about 40 over in China right now that consists of the mayor, various city officials and business men and women (mostly from technology companies).

What jobs might be available with these companies? Of course, engineers are in extreme demand but these firms have many jobs that are related to supporting the business efforts abroad: business development and communications, PR, intercultural development and training, HR-related issues, etc.

Hope this helps!

NE, Ph.D.
Independent Consultant

Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2000 11:35:12 -0500
From: AM
Subject: Re: To SP & ML

As yet another former academic in Chinese language and literture on this list--I decided to leave the academic market after a series of temporary faculty positions--I wonder if you might mean AndersEn Consulting as opposed to AndersOn Consulting (which also exists)? It seems that there are enough Chinese scholars on the list to form a small consulting group of our own.

Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2000 12:21:08 -0500
From: BL
Subject: chinese culture / language


I receive digests, so I'm only as far as yesterday's discussion so far. My comments on intercultural communications consulting:A way to get started doing culture / language consulting for a consulting company is with Berlitz, which offers cultural training packages for companies sending employees oversees. They hire free-lance intercultural training facilitators (consultants), content experts (like SP) for sessions, and "natives" of the target country to serve as informants, participants in role-plays, and the like. They're not perfect, but they've got their system down, such as it is, and you can learn a lot from it and also from contact with the clients. Another company which does similar programs is Prudential International.As I recall, you sign a waiver that says that you will not try to work directly with (steal) the clients for future trainings. But that doesn't mean that you can't give out your business cards and let people know that you would be available to provide their company with their other needs for your expertise that arise in the future.

Another potential avenue to find clients is by informing your network of Western contacts you know from your time in China that you're interested in doing this -- especially USIS, State Dept., Peace Corps, (and their equivalents from other countries) and corporate folks. You could prepare a little song and dance on "business culture in China" "working effectively with Chinese counterparts," etc., and practice it on friends and colleagues to get feedback. Stress cultural "do-s and don't-s" that can make a person better equipped to do business, deal with clients, work with counterparts. Convey essential concepts by means of "lists" or "figures" embellished with anecdotes, and always stress practical results.

Then write up a little description of your presentation and a bullet list of other possible "services" (language/cultural training, translation, research, background reports, etc.) that you could offer a company dealing with China. You can put that in a letter or a simple brochure to send to companies with interests in China (to HR departments, international marketing, international operations??).

You should also make a "consulting resume." Yanna Parker's Damn Good Resume Guide or can help you convert your cv to a resume targeting the education and experience that makes you desirable as a consultant.

If you know a mainland Chinese person that would like to be a partner in "[Brand X] Associates," that would be neat.

Cheers, BL

Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2000 17:40:50 -0400
From: "Michael C. Thomas"
Subject: RE: To SP & ML

Hi AM,

Thanks for your comment and feedback on AndersEn Consulting. After you left the academic market, where did you find satisfying employment?

Suggestion: Offer to become the managing partner of Chinese Scholars Consulting, Ltd and see how many interested folk volunteer to be on the ground floor of a fantastic growth market.


Date: Thu, 1 Jun 2000 22:38:56 -0500
From: AM
Subject: Chinese Consulting (WAS: To P & ALM)

Just fresh out of an academic position, I'm between jobs, with a couple of good offers in public service pending--this for another time, another thread. I briefly considered consulting, but, for a reason similar to those mentioned by the other Chinese language & literature scholars here, I put the notion aside: I didn't know where to start. It seems reasonable to think that, especially now with passage of PNTR with China becoming apparent, our first-hand knowledge of the country might be parlayed into some sort of interesting consulting work. Conceptually I can see how the skills and knowledge I've worked so long to acquire might be appreciated outside of academe (though while a grad student such notions were far from my mind), yet I have found it difficult to visualize how to put them to work practically.

Your suggestions have been helpful. Thanks--

Date: Fri, 2 Jun 2000 11:33:20 -0600
Subject: transitioning from fine arts to consulting

Dear Dan and Michael,

Many thanks for your postings--and to everyone else; I'm learning a lot. I'm wondering what you and/or others would advise about places to start (companies) as well as resources (books, etc.) to read w/regard to creativity consulting. I received an M.F.A. from (poetry) following which I enrolled in the doctoral program in English here, specializing in Renaissance English lyric and the material book. (Because of health problems I've been slow in moving through this second degree.) Having finished all the course work, I've decided to take the M.A. en passant in August, and regroup before writing a dissertation.

In part this is because I'm seeing that a Ph.D. doesn't necessarily lead to a job, plus I'm not willing to move just anywhere or from teaching gig to teaching gig every year or two, etc. And, I'd want to do the dissertation in a way that's not inherently tied to a Renaissance literature job (i.e. I love the material w/which I work, and I want to enjoy writing it; it seems to me that the gloom over the current academic job market would make this less enjoyable for me.) I am marketing myself in creative writing, but w/out a book out, it's slim pickings in that field too.

I have excellent skills as a creative writer, and teacher, but no training in technical writing, business writing, etc. Do you think, realistically, there's a niche for someone with a poetry degree? And where would you advise me to begin researching possibilities? In part, I'm not quite sure how to translate and market my skills since they're more involved w/ figurative and abstract language (indirection) than direct communication.

Many thanks, EJ

Date: Fri, 2 Jun 2000 14:29:53 -0500
From: "Dieterich, Dan"
Subject: RE: transitioning from fine arts to consulting

I hope you'll get as well as . Both are books by Roger von Oech, Ph.D., Founder and President of Creative Think, who bills himself as "The Creativity Consultant of Silicon Valley." Both came out in the 1980s in paperback from Warner Books. I think Roger von Oech completed an independently planned Ph.D. at UC-Berkeley in "Creative Thinking". Is there a place for someone with a poetry degree? Well, there's a place for me, and I (almost) completed a doctorate on the writing of the Puritan poet Edward Taylor. More business writing consultants have Ph.D.s in poetry than have them in business writing. Prospective clients often seem impressed by the fact that a consultant has a doctorate . . . but don't seem to care much about what it's in.

Few organizations seem anxious to to learn about how to write poetry. (This doesn't mean business people are cretins, by the way. From my experience, many are quite cultured.) However, many are anxious to learn about creative problem solving. They confront problems every day and know that they'll be more successful if they can learn to "think outside the box." If you can teach them how to do that, you could make a good living at it. I think, however, that you may be asking the wrong question. It's not "What in the world can I do to make a buck with a poetry degree?"

The question is, "What do I really enjoy doing that I also happen to be good at . . . and wouldn't mind at all working to become even better at?" "Follow your bliss," is a cliche, but it's also good advice. You say you're an excellent teacher. If you'd like to get involved in training, what would you really enjoy teaching business people that they wouldn't mind at all paying you to teach them?

If the only thing you feel you'd enjoy teaching is creative writing, then contact a cruise line and ask if they'd like to have you teach poetry to the passengers and perhaps read some poetry to passengers as well . . . or found the "Meatloaf School" of creative writing and let people pay you handsomely for your teaching and writing expertise.

I thought that you might enjoy this quotation from James Michener. To me it is a beautiful description of the result when, as it says in the Shaker hymn, you "come down where you ought to be."

"The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his life and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him, he's always doing both."
- Dan
"We do not go to work only to earn an income, but to find meaning in our
lives." - Alan Ryan

Date: Fri, 2 Jun 2000 17:15:31 -0400
From: "Michael C. Thomas"
Subject: RE: transitioning from fine arts to consulting

I hope it is acceptable with this list. I'm going to respond inside your message.
Also, I decided to respond before I read Dan's post --- he is a hard act to follow.
In case you have any interest, there are MBA programs in managing fine arts organizations.

-----Original Message-----
From: []On Behalf Of EJ
ubject: transitioning from fine arts to consulting

Dear Dan and Michael,

Many thanks for your postings--and to everyone else; I'm learning a lot.

[[[[[You are welcome]]]]]

I'm wondering what you and/or others would advise about places to start (companies) as well as resources (books, etc.) to read w/regard to creativity consulting.

[[[[[ With respect to books, I went to my own library and discovered, much to my horror that some were no longer there. They were victims of my 'Five Year Rule'. However, I did find some and rather than give you a complete bibliography, I'd send you to either your computer/web or to your library and look for books by John Kao, Michael Ray, William C. Miller, Michael Michalko, James M. Higgins and Roger von Oech. Looking at my purchase dates on these, I see
that I did not ruthlessly employ my five year rule.]]]]]

I received an M.F.A. (poetry) following which I enrolled in the doctoral program in English here, specializing in Renaissance English lyric and the material book. (Because of health problems I've been slow in moving through this second degree.) Having finished all the course work, I've decided to take the M.A. en passant in August, and regroup before writing a dissertation.

In part this is because I'm seeing that a Ph.D. doesn't necessarily lead to a job, plus I'm not willing to move just anywhere or from teaching gig to teaching gig every year or two, etc. And, I'd want to do the dissertation in a way that's not inherently tied to a Renaissance literature job (i.e. I love the material w/which I work, and I want to enjoy writing it; it seems to me that the gloom over the current academic job market would make this less enjoyable for me.) I am marketing myself in creative writing, but w/out a book out, it's slim pickings in that field too.

I have excellent skills as a creative writer, and teacher, but no training in technical writing, business writing, etc. Do you think, realistically, there's a niche for someone with a poetry degree?

[[[[[First, I don't know. When you are not a Poet, what are you?]]]]]
And where would you advise me to begin researching possibilities?

[[[[[ The web ]]]]]

In part, I'm not quite sure how to translate and market my skills since they're more involved w/ figurative and abstract language (indirection) than direct communication.
[[[[[ Here's another place for you to start: Answer the following open-ended questions, over and over again:
1. What specifically do you want?
2. How will you know when you have it? What would be a demonstration that you have it?
3. When do you want it?
4. What else will happen when you get it?
5. How will others be affected by your having it?
6. What stops you from having it now?
7. What else stops you from having it now?
8. Return to #1.
When you have run out of answers, send me an email and let's try some more.
Now I get to read Dan's.
Mike ]]]]]

From: EJ
Subject: RE: transitioning from fine arts to consulting

Dear Dan,
Many thanks for all the suggestions, and I will investigate the von Oech.
Since the majority of my questions are about "how to" and specifics, these
references sound like a good place to start. And I appreciate the larger,
meditative advise (Michener) as well as knowing that there are, indeed,
others out there interested in obscure poetry (!) Thanks again for your
assistance. --EJ


Date: Sat, 3 Jun 2000 09:14:09 -0500
From: "Dieterich, Dan"
Subject: RE: The Consultant Library

Here are four books you'd probably find valuable:

How to Succeed As an Independent Consultant> by Herman Holtz (Wiley). It deals with establishing a consulting practice, marketing your services, writing proposals, setting fees, ethics, etc.

The Consultant's Calling> by Geoffrey M. Bellman (Jossey-Bass, 1990). It's subtitled "Bringing Who You Are to What you Do" and deals with seeing consulting as a valuable component of your life.

<Working from Home> by Paul and Sarah Edwards (Tarcher, 1990). It deals with how to establish and run a (consulting or other) business from your home.

Resources for Writing Consultants> (Association of Professional Communication Consultants). It contains everything from sample consulting
business cards and stationery to sample handouts, evaluation forms, and even entire training curricula.

Since I mentioned APCC (formerly the Association of Professional Writing Consultants), I should also mention that it's the most generous and helpful professional association I've ever belonged to. If you'd like to join, contact APCC's membership chair:

Judi Gaitens
1618 Kilarney Drive
Cary, North Carolina 27511
Phone: (919) 469-3895

It costs only $50/year; they may also offer a lower student membership rate.

- Dan
"We do not go to work only to earn an income, but to find meaning in our
lives." - Alan Ryan

Date: Sun, 4 Jun 2000 09:52:23 -0400 (EDT)
From: Paula Foster
Subject: Re: The Consultant Library

Oooh--I have to jump in here with some suggestions of my own. As a grad student who has been seriously looking into consulting for three years now, here are the three books that have been mos helpful to me (in descending order):

_The Consultant's Calling: Bringing Who You Are to What You Do_ by Geoff Bellman

_Flawless Consulting_ by Peter Block

_Consulting for Dummies_ (I forget the author but it's part of that
black-and-yellow "Dummies" series)

All are available through any major bookstore and also on Amazon. Geoff Bellman is at the top of the list (for me) because I found his advice the most thoughtful and inspiring on a personal level--I care a lot about bringing who I am to what I do, so I found Bellman's thoughts highly relevant to planning my *life*, not just my career.


Date: Fri, 9 Jun 2000 14:22:47 -0400
From: "Michael C. Thomas"
Subject: Poetry In Corporate America

When I was researching my library for books on consulting, I could not find one. It was on loan.

David Whyte,
THE HEART AROUSED: Poetry And The Preservation of the Soul in Corporate America

Mike Thomas, PhD