When moving from one IT position to another, engagement and on-the-job satisfaction should never be overlooked. However, some tech professionals find that full time work no longer energizes them the same way. In fact, it’s encouraging many job seekers to consider the benefits of becoming an IT contractor.
Each year, opportunities expand as industry demand for temporary workers increases. Organizations seek out contract subject matter experts for scarce technical roles, using their talent to deliver an ROI across sophisticated niche projects. But just like every career choice, the decision to transition into contract tech work deserves careful consideration. Finding out whether you should start IT contracting is just as important as learning how to do it best.
5 Signs Working as an IT Contractor Is Right for You
The profile for the perfect IT contractor isn’t set in stone, but there are certain traits that suggest someone might find some satisfaction in flexible, provisional work.
1.) Your Job Turnover is High – Are your full-time jobs revolving doors? The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the full-time IT workers spend about 4.4 years per employer. Though that length of time is lower for people early in their careers, the odds are good that any job turnover less than 1.5 years implies more temporary work is ideal.
2.) Your Tech Skills Feel Stale – Exposure to new experiences spurs on technical development. Workers who access professional development or cross-training opportunities are 10% more likely to stay with a job. If your technical skills are wasted on repetitive projects, making you feel Bill Murray’s “Groundhog Day” pain, becoming an IT contractor might be the right choice. Even when contracts share a similar technical skillset, enough variation from one role to the next deepen and expand your tech aptitudes.
3.) You Want to Be in Charge of Your Career – Though full time work is regularly stable, some IT professionals prefer the control and freedom of IT contracting. They can be selective about the contracts they take as they build their resume – they just don’t have the chance to fall into complacency with a stagnant role.
Additionally, IT contractors know when their next role will end. Some IT contractors have voiced their contentment from this knowledge, especially based on previous experience. In permanent roles, they assumed roles would be ongoing until they decided to leave. Yet surprise layoffs have brought some of their jobs to an abrupt close – often for reasons outside of that person’s control. It’s part of the reason why tech contractors feel in command of their own careers.
4.) You Want Better Compensation – On average, tech salaries have grown a moderate 3% over the last year. IT professionals who want to boost their earning power beyond that should consider taking more contract roles. Because the extra costs of a full time employee (payroll taxes, benefits plans, ongoing training, etc.) are not associated with contractors, companies have more latitude with compensation. For that reason (and to attract rare talent), it’s no surprise contractor bill rates are higher.
In the past, a lack of medical insurance and other health benefits held candidates back. Now, there are ways to get insurance without being a permanent employee – especially since a growing number of IT staffing firms provide benefits as part of the advantage of contracting through them.
5.) Your Dream Job Doesn’t Have Full Time Openings (Yet) – Taking a contract in the hopes of going full time might seem like an oxymoron, but companies often use IT contracts as a paid audition. Making someone full time is a serious commitment. Having measured proof of a candidate’s technical skills and work ethic simplifies the choice. So, whether your dream job has a hiring freeze on full timers or is only hiring temporary workers until it hits a growth benchmark, IT contractors make a lasting impression.
4 Tips for First Time IT Contractors
If you resonated with the above list, becoming an IT contractor is more than flipping a switch. Long-term contract IT workers foster a different mentality and employ a set of distinct strategies to remain a regular fixture of local IT contracts.
1.) Know How to Sell Your Transferrable Skills – Companies hiring contract tech workers maintain very precise standards. Project scopes are well defined in advance and cause hiring managers to elevate and expand their minimum job requirements. Successful IT contractors sell the value of their skillset in ways that address and overcome job requirements that may be desirable but not mandatory.
Is a certain in-demand programming language analogous with another in practice? Are there certain secondary technologies which you compensate for with a different vendor? Communicate those complementary skills during the initial messages and interviews. Moreover, carefully repeating the ways in which those skills can enhance a project help contractors better overcome a hiring manager’s objections.
2.) Get Active in the Local Community – Contractors always need to be arranging their next gig. Effective IT contractors are good networkers who proactively seek roles that engage their passions and wield their strongest technical skills. Rather than settling for the first position that opens up after their contract ends, they maintain a strong pipeline of opportunities.
For starters, they take building their professional network seriously. Involvement in local Meetup events, hackathons, or non-profit volunteer opportunities establishes IT contractors’ presence. By regularly building bonds in social and civic ways, more opportunities come to contract tech workers without long hours of searching.
3.) Be Proactive about Avoiding Burnout – Burnout is a serious concern for first time IT contractors. Many fail to adjust their working mentality from full time to contract and do not factor in time off between projects.
Everyone needs to recharge their batteries. IT contractors just need to be more conscious about how they do it. Scheduling a few weeks buffer as a sort of vacation time between roles helps to rejuvenate themselves to approach problems with a fresh mind.
4.) Work with a Recruiter – Juggling a job search while working is stressful (especially when it’s regular). Rather than going the search alone, contract tech workers benefit from making connections with the right recruiters. By establishing a strong partnership, hands-on recruiters will track opportunities that align with the end of your next role, enabling you to keep your focus on your professional and personal life.
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