You must first analyse whether market trends indicate if your skills are strengths or weaknesses in relation to current and emergent environmental opportunities and threats.
Look at the next few years’ likely socio-economic climate. Base your research on economic forecasts, legislative changes and imperatives, political developments and social and demographic trends. Take into account changing technology and its likely impact on the world around you.
Next, look at the business trends. In what sectors are the most popular business start-ups? What are the major current business developments? What’s the latest management thing? Which sectors seem to be enjoying robust long-term growth and which are declining?
Now consider the specific sectors where you have experience, and in which you want to work. At this point, take a broader view, and think about the consultancy sector. What are the trends here? What are people talking about, in relation to consultancy? Where’s demand rising and falling? Are the type and style of offerings changing?
There are many possible sources for this information. Your bank can provide economic forecasts. The national press and popular culture - T.V. shows, adverts, films, music, magazines, even food fashions - can help inform you of social trends. And don’t forget all the readily accessible desk research on social trends, like the Office of National Statistics’ excellent Social Trends survey, conducted on behalf of the Government.
You can also source and discover business and sector-specific trends by evaluating desk data; regularly reviewing the business and management press; looking at business book publishers’ new publications lists; and reviewing conference and seminar promotional materials, to discover popular topics. And don’t forget polling business people you know for their views on the latest issues impacting on business as a whole, and on their sector and their business.
Making a decision
Once you’ve analysed your marketplace, overlay the skills and experience you plan to offer against these trends, and assess whether there will be sufficient demand for your expertise in the business community that you can target, given a sufficiently benign competitive environment.