I'm just a consultant.
Here I am, a few weeks post-website launch and few months into my new venture as a *consultant.* It's a job title that's taking some getting used to - for me, for my family, and for many of my non-nonprofit friends. You see, I found myself here a bit by surprise when I earned my "museum professional badge of honor" by being laid off in a round of budget cuts. Because the museum world is small, and the visitor studies world is smaller, and there are few job postings, I still get asked: "Are you still looking for work? What are you doing now?" pretty regularly. In reply, I take a deep breath and say: "I'm just a consultant."
In my response, I make sure to put a joyful emphasis on that word "just." It means so much more than those four little letters imply. Becoming an evaluation consultant for museums and nonprofits was actually my dream job. Saying "I'm just a consultant" means I get to live out that dream - only a bit earlier than I had originally planned for (and I'm a big planner).
As I nervously stepped into this world four months ago, I constantly questioned if this was the smart, financially secure response to being laid off. That the whole transition has been smooth and welcoming assures me it was (and is!). In such a short time, this new job title of mine has already allowed me to work with organizations I've long respected and admired, with peers who are doing work that is truly exciting, and to take risks while developing new professional skills. And I'm doing it all with a welcoming and supportive network of peer external researchers and evaluators! (You can check some of those brilliant people out here.)
I don't know that I'll always feel this way (like next month, when I have to navigate quarterly taxes for the first time), and that's okay. I'm still figuring it out, and I'm up for the challenge.
Now, I look forward to those questions of what I'm doing these days. Because, when I respond with "I'm just a consultant" I'm also saying "I'm happy," and that's pretty freaking awesome.
Just a consultant.