Rebecca Apel

Took on a contract role to explore her next steps, and now in Retail Strategy.
Ex-Expert360 independent consultant

How did you get here?

Whilst my current role is Senior Strategy Associate at Endeavour Group, my first exit role was as a contractor for Expert360 - a freelancing network for management consultants.

Prior to this, I was an Associate Consultant at L.E.K. Consulting. During my two and half years in Management Consulting I gained experience in strategy development and support, operational improvement and M&A transaction support across more than half a dozen industries.

What options were you considering?

Like many Consultants, the long hours and high pressure environment led me to become extremely burnt out. I really wasn't sure on what I wanted to do next, including whether or not I wanted to continue in Strategy, go back to university or something else.

I was fortunate to have gained exposure to a number of industries and different types of work while consulting. However, I hadn't found an area I was extremely passionate about. It did confirm I loved working in a team environment, solving tough problems and learning.

After several weeks off, recovering and reflecting on what I wanted to do, I decided I would return to university to explore my interest in Performance Psychology. At the same time, I knew I needed to "pay the bills", so to speak, and wanted maximum flexibility, so I decided to join the Expert360 network to see what was out there

How did you make the decision to take your current role?

Honestly, my motivation to move to freelancing (my previous role) was the ability to choose where and when I worked, try something new and earn some money. This enabled me to re-establish my priorities and gave me the control to focus my energy on what was important to me.

When I joined the network, I was unsure if I was going to find consistent work, true flexibility or an environment where I felt part of a team. As someone who loves a challenge, I think I was also a little worried I wouldn't learn at the same pace I was used to.

I was surprised that someone from Expert360 reached out immediately after I created my profile and I secured a contract within 48 hours. It was very clear that there was a massive demand for my background and tenure.

What are you doing now?

In my freelancing role, I initially commenced a two month digital/eCommerce project with a major retail group, but ended up staying with the Client for 11 months.

I gained experience developing customer and go-to-market strategies, driving CX research and design and supporting product development in an agile environment for an early-stage B2B SaaS start-up, funded by an ASX-100 company.

What does your day to day look like?

My freelancing role wasn't too dissimilar to a consulting day. It started with a morning stand up during which everyone shared their priorities and any potential hurdles etc., and then the rest could be filled with cross-functional product meetings, sharing insights, interviewing potential customers, refining our go-to-market strategy or working with stakeholders across the broader business to ensure we were leveraging their experiences.

What do you love about your job?

I was brought right into the team and became a founding member of the business we were building. It was awesome to help start a business from scratch - with approval to explore a business case only provided a few weeks before I joined - to product testing and onboarding customers. At the same time, I gained experience working in a large corporate.

I was able to have open conversations with the Client about my working arrangements and often flexed my hours and days. In the last 6 months, I dropped back to working three days a week to focus on my studies and often changed these days depending on what worked best for both of us.

Contracting enabled me to recover from burnout, focus my studies, earn some money (my day rate increased to between $1,100 and $1,500) and act as a bridge between consulting and an internal strategy role.

It allowed me time to think strategically about my next move, gain exposure to roles I didn't know existed and find my interest in the consumer sector.

One of the things that really surprised me about Expert360, was how committed they were to establishing a community. I never felt like I was on my own and often spoke with the Strategy team at Expert360 about what was happening across the network.

What do you not love about your job?

One thing Consulting provides that I haven't yet found elsewhere, is a very active social calendar. Whether it was Friday night drinks turning into a big group dinner or a Saturday afternoon on the harbour, there was always something going on.

When I started freelancing, I did miss the social engagements with colleagues. Over time, I built things around work - including mid-week sporting games and trivia.

What advice would you give someone deciding what they should do?

Exiting consulting is daunting if you aren’t completely sure what you're interested in or what you want to give your energy to, let alone what your ideal permanent role looks like.

It sounds cheesy, but don't let the fear of not knowing what's next keep you in consulting if you're not loving it. You have a great skillset that can be used in so many areas, and spending some time freelancing can help you experiment to find one you enjoy. The best thing is you can join a network like Expert360 and monitor the demand, types of projects and day rates, before you take the leap.

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