According to the American Staffing Association, America’s staffing companies hire nearly 15 million temporary or contract workers each year. And with contract work seen as part of the solution for dealing with the IT skills gap, an issue plaguing the IT industry, there’s no reason to think that number will decline. In fact, it’ll most likely go up! So, if you are considering a career working as a contractor – one in which there are a plethora of benefits – there are a few things that you should know. In this blog post, we’ll show you the best path for finding new opportunities, provide you with tips for staying up-to-date in your field, and list for you the best practices for negotiating the contract itself.
How to Find Opportunities
Since this blog is being written by a staffing firm it should come as no surprise that our first tip for finding and securing contract employment would be to partner with a staffing firm – preferably us! To partner with PSCI, you can either contact us or submit your resume to one of our many open positions found on our IT job search page. Beyond that, however, there are a few other ways to get approached for new opportunities. They are:
- Job Boards – Posting your resume on sites such as Careerbuilder, Monster, and Dice is a great way to learn about new opportunities. Employers will scour these sites searching for consultants whose skills match their current job openings. Consultants, themselves, can also search through job listings, posted by employers, and submit their resumes to positions they feel match their expertise.
- LinkedIn – LinkedIn is an employment-oriented service that is mainly used for professional networking. Employers also use it to post jobs and search for candidates. So, if you’re not keeping your profile on LinkedIn up-to-date you’re doing yourself a great disservice. It’s a great way to passively stay on the job market. For even more affirmation on the importance of utilizing LinkedIn, consult our previous blog post, “Optimize Your Marketability Using LinkedIn.”
- Networking – Just as staying active on LinkedIn is a great way to virtually network with employers, doing so in-person is another way to be seen. Talking to people in your industry can help you discover potential openings and advertise your availability. Search for industry events, such as tech conferences, forums, workshops, and seminars in your area to stay involved and meet employers in your local tech community.
One of the potential pitfalls to working as a contractor is employment gaps. An employment gap is a period of time when a job applicant is not employed at a job. Despite the dire need for tech workers in today’s business climate, there are times when you may be out of work. But don’t fret! This is to be expected and it comes with the territory. So, if you do find yourself in one of these employment lulls, there are ways to keep your skills up-to-date (something an employer will surely be looking for). Some of which include:
- Certifications – Professional certifications are professional credentials designed to help professionals enhance their job performance and marketability in their respective fields. For tech workers, certifications exist for just about every specialty. Becoming certified helps validate your skills and will show an employer you’re up-to-date with all the latest trends as they relate to your specialty. They’re also a great way to help you earn a pay raise or promotion (once employed).
- Online Courses – There are companies that exist, such as Khan Academy and Coursera, who offer low-cost or free courses to help professionals keep their tech skills fresh. These courses can help you not only keep current on technical topics, but even help you achieve technical and industry certifications. Employers are much more likely to excuse gaps in a candidate’s resume when they see the candidate is going out of their way to educate and better themselves.
- Professional Organizations – By joining a professional organization, such as ISACA, ISSA, or TechServe Alliance, you’ll be able to meet local mentors and experienced practitioners, gain access to training materials, and be able to learn and network with industry leaders and experts. If you stay relatively active, you may even be seen as an industry expert yourself! Then, employment opportunity should be easy to find!
Negotiating the contract itself is often the most difficult and daunting task of contract employment. Set your rate too low and you may not be seen as qualified for the position. Go too high and you may price yourself out of the role. That’s why it’s important to know your worth. For this you can use salary tools on sites like Glassdoor to receive a custom salary estimate based on your title, location, and experience.
When working with staffing firms, however, it’s important to know just how those monetary figures are calculated. For starters, companies like ours work off of bill rates provided to us by our clients – this is what they’ll pay us for the services you’ll be providing. Then, we’ll negotiate the pay rate with you (your hourly rate) based off of that pre-established bill rate. So, as you can see, we’re not the ones setting the prices. We will, however, always work with you to ensure you’re being compensated fairly – even if that means offering you more money than what you were originally seeking! It’s also important to remember that once the initial contract is completed, salaries/hourly rates can be re-negotiated. So, if the compensation being offered doesn’t necessarily match what you were looking for, but the nature of the work does, it may be worth taking the position anyway!
Follow this advice and you’ll find your journey working as a tech contractor to be an eventful and rewarding experience!