Today’s job market is hot. Really hot. For technical jobs in IT or engineering, this is especially true. Unemployment is the lowest it has been in years, and demand for technical professionals is at an all-time high. This includes both direct hire (full time) positions as well as contractors. As a recruiter, I am often asked if a full-time role is better versus a contractor role. While there are benefits to being in a full-time, permanent position, I believe there are several advantages to working in a contractor role. In my 20+ years of working as a technical recruiter, I think there has been a negative stigma associated with working “contract jobs,” but all of that has changed as companies’ hiring strategies have evolved. Here are some of my thoughts you should take into consideration if you’re considering a contractor position or looking to make a career change.
Get Your Foot in the Door with Great Companies
Have you always wanted to work for one of those “Best Places” companies, the ones where it’s always rumored to be “tough to get into?” Working as a contractor allows you to get your foot in the door with some high-profile companies. When you are working a contract, you can get in and see the company at face value. It also enables you to work with the internal teams and gain exposure to hiring managers who might be considering adding additional full-time staff. For large corporations, it is often difficult to get a permanent job immediately. Not everyone is able to accurately demonstrate their skill set and personality in one or two interviews, so contract work gives you the opportunity to show them what you’ve got and that you’re a great fit to bring on as a full-time employee.
Expand Your Professional Network
When you are going through the interview process for a contract position, you are interviewing with many different people and it’s likely you’re getting in front of multiple hiring managers, HR managers, and other key influencers along the way. This is a great way to expand your professional network. As you meet these new contacts, be sure to connect with them on your professional social networks and express your interest in staying in touch. This enables you to continue conversations that could lead to other job opportunities down the road. It is always smart to get your name and face out there as much as you can because you never know where one conversation could lead.
Partner with Great Recruiters
One of the most valuable resources for technical professionals who work as contractors is maintaining a network of great recruiters. When I mention recruiters, I mean not just “any” recruiter – but a technical recruiting firm that specializes in placing IT or engineering professionals. These highly specialized technical recruiting firms work with companies across all industries to help recruit and hire technical professionals day in and day out. These are the companies you want to build strong relationships with as they often have a direct line to the hiring managers who are seeking a specific skill set.
Open New Career Doors
Along with getting your foot in the door at great companies, working a contract job often leads to full time opportunities or even a new (and welcomed) turn in your career. While not all contract roles lead to full-time employment, there’s always a possibility the company you’re working a contract for approaches you to come on as a full-time employee. Or, there may be new opportunities to pursue a different type of job. Many times companies see the work ethic a resource has and approaches them to either train for a new role or shadow other team members to learn new skills. This is a great way to gain new experience and build onto your resume.
Keep Your Skills Sharp and Current
With contract work comes a great deal of variety. This allows you to keep your soft skills and your technical skills sharp and current. With the technology and engineering sectors changing faster than ever, there are innovations, new software, and new methodologies being introduced. As a contractor, you have an opportunity to be involved with special technology projects just as they hit the market. Having this experience gives you an advantage over other candidates as you have exposure to the new technology or skill set that a hiring manager may be seeking.
Demonstrate Cross-Industry Experience
No matter the industry, technical contractor positions are available in many different capacities throughout an organization. If you’ve been in a certain industry for a while and feel like you’re spinning your wheels and not gaining the experience and knowledge you desire, perhaps it’s time to expand your horizons and find opportunities in a different industry. Remember – technical skills and knowledge can be transferable across industries. Accepting a contractor role in a different industry helps you gain valuable experience and demonstrates your ability to adapt and showcases your efforts to step out of your comfort zone to learn about a new industry. Working in a contractor role in an entirely different industry can help you add depth and breadth of experience to your resume that you wouldn’t get working in the same job year after year.
Mindsets are changing, and the negative stigma associated with being a “contractor” in our very diverse and global workforce has become passé. Working as a contractor can be lucrative in terms of compensation and the amount of experience and access to new technologies offered through these types of roles. The key to making it work for you is to be confident and clear in what your skills and abilities are and do your research to know the requirements of the role you’ll be working. Documenting your work experience and exposure to new technologies or special corporate initiatives is valuable as companies today want to hire technology and engineering talent that can learn quickly and adapt to the current processes and infrastructure to on-board quickly. As the new year approaches, if you’re looking to make a change and want to explore other industries or different roles, don’t rule out working in a contractor position. There are far more advantages than disadvantages when it comes to gaining deeper and broader work experience.
If you are considering taking a contractor job as your next career step, our co-founder, Chris Yarrow, wrote an e-book with some key questions to ask before you accept a new role. Get the e-book here.