When I got my first consulting job, I was referred by another consultant that was already on site and struggling. They needed claims help and my background was in professional billing claims. A few months later, I found out she had been interviewing with other consulting firms at night and quit before her current contract was up. For her this resulted in bigger pay and contract for a go live implementation in sunny California.
Unfortunately what did this mean for me? I was a brand new healthcare consultant with a go live list meant for three analysts that just got pared down to one. Hurray… Needless to say I grew very quickly in a trial by fire situation. The question is how often will this happen if you are just entering the consulting world? Consultants on a three month contract enter and leave contracts all the time, what does it matter if you leave a contract early? There are benefits and disadvantages to both and I just wanted to give that information before you hand out your phone number on LinkedIn.
Advantages of Interviewing During a Contract
The fact is interviewing constantly prepares you for the inevitable time when you are not under contract. No matter how long you are under a contract in the Epic consulting world and how much in demand you are, you will find yourself out of work again. At least in the short term. So all of this interviewing is very beneficial and increases likely a key skill.
You can command a higher salary in a shorter period of time. If you initially start with a firm that gives you a set salary, this salary is what you are stuck with until they decide to give you another raise. This could be in a year, two years, or longer. This can happen even if your hourly rate is going up. So when your hourly rate goes up, the only thing you benefit from is your bonus check. While will address bonuses in another post, the money you pull from a bonus check is really money you should be getting.
If you are in a bad contract, you can simply quit the contract. While I do not recommend this, I found that the person I was working with was very concerned with their safety. Prior to me arriving on the scene, she constantly being threatened and once felt like she had been assaulted mentally. While this was something that had happened at night and had nothing to do with the client, the neighborhood you stay in while on site is all part of the big consulting contract.
Disadvantages of Trying To Leave a Contract Early
Now we are going to go in to the cons of leaving a contract prior to the end date. This is the same type of scenario that can happen when a client wants to extend your contract for another three months but you decide to turn it down. (This second scenario is much easier to recover from than simply quitting the contract)
More than likely, if a consultant accepts a new contract while under contract with another healthcare organization, that consultant has just lost credibility with the client. Think about it this way, if you hired a contractor to fix your kitchen sink and they left while halfway done. Then the contractor decides to bill you for all of the hours they put in, even though they did not deliver anything of value to you. How many times would you actually recommend that contractor? Would you tell other healthcare organizations not to rehire this contractor, especially if they put you on a resume as a previous client?
In order to pull a stunt like this, if you are working under a firm, you will probably not be able to work for the same firm again. As an Epic consultant, no matter where you go in the US, they are keeping track of you. If you develop a track record of skipping out on your clients, it can very easily be reported to your new clients and may even result it being harder to find new clients.
On an ethical level, you are backing out of a contractual obligation. While these epic contracts are basically an agreement that either party can step away from, you agreed to work for the client for a set period of time. No matter who represents you, once you become a consultant you are essentially representing yourself as a brand. Yes, you may be a representative of a company but you are also representing yourself. The reason healthcare organizations hire epic consultants is because they need help. As an HIT consultant, you are stepping forward and offering your services at a steep price for the opportunity to help. Every deliverable you provide, every hour billed, every presentation you give is an opportunity to help the client. Leaving the contract early is basically leaving a team crippled and in my opinion, a blackhat way of gaining a higher salary.
You really need to go the route that you feel the most comfortable with. If you have a family and only plan to consult for a small time horizon, jumping between clients may not have the financial impact of staying in Epic consulting for a fifteen year career. If you plan on sticking it out for the long haul then, you really need to consider more than the monetary benefits before making that leap.