Managing Your Career For IT Contractors Who Want To Stand Out In A Crowded Market
By Donovan Grant
IT Contractors do the job for more than the money! Even though most permanent employees see IT contractors as the rich and lucky ones with two houses, a Mercedes and a bulging share portfolio. This is often not the case.
In this season of tightened government tax rules, last minute contract renewals and lower contract rates it’s tough being a contractor. In fact it makes us wonder how you manage to keep going.
One thing for sure, is that most contractors never pause to do a career sanity check. Whereas employees are fortunate (or unfortunate in some cases) to have a career appraisal with their line manager every 6-months, how many contractors out there do the same? Not many. According to the ones I’ve been running power boost sessions with, the last time they had a review was “ages ago!”
I’m not sure if it’s the same for you. But, whether the reason is lack of time, lack of support or you don’t know how to, a career sanity check is essential in the life of all IT professionals. And especially a contractor.
Take a look at these categories below and if you fit into one or more, then it’s time for you to boost your contractor career:
- You are performing the same basic contractor tasks for over 12 months
- You’ve been at the same client for over two years
- You haven't got defined career goals and are not sure what the most critical thing to do next is
- Head-hunters and agencies are calling you less frequently
- Practically any contractor with your skills and experience could fill your contract role
- The work and tasks you do are monotonous and lack real challenge for you
- Your CV (resumé) and LinkedIn profile could fit for many other contractors.
If some of these challenges resonate with you, that’s good! Take it as a warning for you to get your career in shape and plan for the future that you desire.
"Normality is to be different. Every person is a different person. And one day you need to be aware of your difference. Aware that you are not the same as the others. That is to be normal"
~ Alejandro Jodorowsky
Here are some practical things you can do now to take your career from drifting to successful:
Be Clear – Assess where you are and get clear on what you want. The simplest thing you can do is create a vision and create a goal. Give your career a positive cause and a specific direction. If you keep a journal or a notebook, write them down and review and refine regularly.
Be “You Focused” – Look at your whole life and ask yourself “what is my winning formula?” By looking at your personal strengths, weaknesses, successes, failures, life values and other personal qualities you’ll be able to get a sense of what makes you great. It may be how you do things rather than what you do. But by taking a look, you’ll get a better understanding of what your winning formula is. Once you have this, use these to your advantage into everything you do.
Be Receptive – Feedback and recommendation are the backbone of most of us getting contractor work today. With this in mind, it’s important for you to connect with your colleagues and solicit open and honest feedback. The typical thing is to find out what you do well, what you could do better and where do you need to develop. By being brave and receptive to trusted partners, your career could easily improve big time. Just imagine if you were to become aware of one blind spot that you consistently struggle with.
Be Unique – With new comers joining the contractor ranks every day, it is becoming harder to secure the best roles. It is important to get clear as to what you bring to clients which is beyond the formal job spec. Rather than being one of a crowd of contractors, you have to discover your unique thing that will make your name come to the top of the recruiting manager’s pile. Dare to be unique.
Be Visible – There is a growing trend of having virtual meetings and spending most of your day behind the computer screen. While this is good for business efficiency, it is not good for you getting know and networking with people inside and outside your client organisation. Visibility is key with your team, your peers, your manager and those throughout the company. Be the person who is able to turn strangers into friends.
Be Professional – A contractor career is just important to manage as a permanent employee does. It’s no longer turn up at the office, do the job and just go home. It’s more than that. Set yourself and goal and take consistent steps towards that every day. Don’t simply focus on having a great CV and LinkedIn profile, focus on being the professional contractor that clients want to employ. Always be investing in yourself and be open to constructive feedback that can help you to grow and succeed as a contractor.
If you are an IT contractor, look yourself in the mirror and ask am I managing my career like a professional? If you are great. And whether you are or not, remember to arrange your next 6-month appraisal with a trusted partner.
Bringing It All Together
A lot of IT Contractors make the mistake of thinking that they can keep getting contract renewals and the best rates every time, but the reality is that it’s usually not that easy.
Have you seen IT Contractors struggling in their careers? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below, as I think we can all share and grow together.
Can I help you get the highest contract rates possible, secure consistent contract renewals and make yourself un-fireable? CLICK HERE to register for one of the April IT Contractor power boost sessions.
Donovan helps Business Professionals in IT and Payments to get to the core of critical issues so they achieve great results in business and life. Clients make changes to help position them as leaders so they can over-deliver and stand out in a crowd.