Watch: A conversation on succeeding as a virtual health consultant

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Careers during COVID: Succeeding as a virtual global health consultant.

As part of Devex’s ongoing focus on careers during COVID, Executive Vice President Kate Warren talks to Dr. Elvira Beracochea, a global health consultant, on how the coronavirus is changing the way consultants operate.

Working virtually could be the new normal for consultants, Beracochea said. Not only is it more cost-effective for clients but it puts more emphasis on knowledge sharing to build capacity and empower local teams.

There are, of course, activities that are better suited to in-person interactions, Beracochea continued, but many assignments can be carried out virtually through online research, desktop reviews of evidence, and interviews via Skype.

Beracochea is currently helping health teams on the ground prepare for the COVID-19 response and finding that working virtually also allows her to respond much quicker to the client’s needs.

She shared tips for finding remote work and succeeding as a virtual consultant.

Ensure you have a strong online presence

Finding remote assignments relies on many of the traditional networking skills, Beracochea explained, it’s just that the networking has moved online. As the saying goes, out of sight is out of mind so it is essential to have a strong online presence, she said.

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Make sure that your online profiles, such as Linkedin, are up to date and complete. Use these platforms to showcase your skills by engaging with posts by other professionals or writing articles, Beracochea suggested, adding that the ability to solve problems and make evidence-based decisions are key competencies to highlight.

Clarify the scope of work

Traditionally, most consultants charge clients a daily rate which might include a travel per diem so it can be difficult to know how to adjust rates for virtual work. One-off or retainer rates can also be used, depending on the assignment.

“The important thing is that you really have clarity ... as to what the main problem is that you are to address, who is going to oversee that and when and how,” said Beracochea. “If you can answer those questions then your scope of work will be clear.”

Be cautious of vague language, such as “promote” or “enhance,” and understand exactly what those mean in terms of deliverables, she advised.

Keep the client updated

There are already a lot of tools out there — from conference call platforms to scheduling programs — that can help consultants track decisions, visualize project progress, or streamline communication with clients.

It’s also good practice to keep a work journal, and clients appreciate updates on the week’s activities and conclusions. Beracochea said she shares notes from meetings she has conducted, conversations, and task updates with her clients. She also finds that asking for their feedback on her work helps build relationships.

Watch more from the series:
UNHCR’s HR chief Catty Bennet Sattler says the pandemic could change how the agency works.
IOM HR chief Michael Emery discusses the pandemic's impact on the workplace and careers.
RTI International's Bucky Fairfax talks about the opportunities to build in inclusivity and equalize access to leadership.

We’ve removed our paywall for this article — previously for Career Account members and Pro subscribers only — to provide access to accurate information and resources during the COVID-19 outbreak. If you are interested in more in-depth global development career coverage, visit our Career Account membership page.

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