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To contract or not to contract...

Issued by: Recruitgroup | 8 Feb 2013 10:47
With four years experience in dealing with contractors, and over eight years dealing with permanent staff, Samantha Nel - Specialist Account Manager at RecruitRate, knows this kind of question is always at the back of the minds of many job seekers. So what makes you decide to go the one way or the other? What are the industry trends in your specific area of expertise? Are you in the type of position that you should be in and if not, why not? Says Sam: "There are all sorts of things that you will need to take into account before you can decide if one is better suited to you than the other. We might not always get the choice especially in times still haunted by the recession, but if you do your homework, you might just be in a better position to make the right decision going forward."
First of all, contracting roles can be a good or a bad thing. Good in that contractors can earn a much higher salary than a permanent staff member in the same position. Bad however, and what is often forgotten, is that what is gained in remuneration for a contractor is often lost in job security or stability, benefits offered as well as the admin associated with contracting. Most companies still suffering from the recession will often employ contractors on a short term contract to do the work that needs to be done without having to build up their workforce numbers, but can easily cancel or forgo renewing these contracts due to budgets constraints.

So, how do you know if contracting is for YOU? According to Pamela Cole in her article, "Contracting vs. Permanent Employment", you should consider some of the following before you accept that contract role:

1. Financial Responsibility - What is your current financial responsibility? Are you able to continue supporting your family or debt should you be out of a job for a few months after the contract is complete? Do you have that buffer savings that will get you to your next contract position?

2. Are you the type of person that can handle job insecurity and instability? Do you lie awake stressing about when the next role will be coming in before you have even neared the end of your current project? Can you also handle the fact that you won't really ever settle into your role or company? You probably won't really have the time to make solid friends and mentors as a contractor.

3. Are you self-motivated and self-managed? Are you the independent type that can be reliable? Or are you the type to arrive at work late and leave early and surf the internet all day as you generally won't have that manager micromanaging you and checking in with you all day? Are you able to move from one company to another with minimal waves caused?

4. Contractors also tend to be task-oriented and output driven, are you this way inclined? In most cases contractors are not offered sick or leave days, so they tend to work hard for the contract period and then take their breaks in between the projects. Most contractors are also paid on an hourly rate and therefore work long hours so they can make the most of the day. If they finish a project earlier than desired, this means they have earned more cash in their back pocket and now are also available sooner to start the next project.

4. Are you valuable and marketable? Are your skills a scarcity in the current market? Are you situated or willing to relocate to an area where the skills you possess are uncommon? Are you able to prove these skills with good references and qualifications?

5. Are you flexible? We all know that one of the world's most highly rated stressors for a person is moving jobs, however if you are a person who thrives on change then contracting may be for you as contracting roles are all about change:
    Change in position (actual job description, environment, software, hardware)
    Change in people (clients, managers, colleagues, suppliers etc.)
    Change in location (travel arrangements, routes, even homes on occasion, dress code)
6. As a contractor you need to be able to learn quickly. Most contractors will be on a short to medium term contract and therefore there is no time to train these workers on HOW to do the job, you will need to already know how to do it and do it efficiently. There is only time to get comfortable with the company's processes or software and not on how to do the job in front of you.

7. Are you a friendly person? Can you easily submerge yourself amongst a group of people and be able to get along with them? Contractors are surrounded by strangers all the time and therefore the more approachable and friendly you are the better you will be liked and more chance of you fitting into the team.

Permanent positions do have their advantages: Some people enjoy having that long-term career plan with their managers and current company. They know where they fit in the company strategy and what they need to do in order to grow up the ladder. Permanent staff enjoy the stability and security that a permanent job offers (even though we all know nothing is set in stone in this kind of market). These people also adore being part of a "family" and relish getting involved with company socials, birthdays and traditions.

Contractors on the other hand tend to be more rulers of their own universe, managing their careers as a business, and will have to find those roles that will offer the skill growth they crave or do the training seminars or certifications themselves in order to build their own career paths. They enjoy gaining a variation of skills by choosing projects across business industries or platforms. They tend to also build great networks within the various businesses they have worked in which can also offer many opportunities in the future.

Says Sam: "Technically as a contractor, you are your own business. You are the owner (looking to build your empire into a successful brand), you are the Finance Head (gaining the most money by working efficiently), you are HR (in charge of putting yourself through your own skills development programs, planning your working hours, managing your own benefits and payroll), you are the field expert (you are the best at what you do). If you are able to appreciate the constant change that contracting brings, but are strong and trusting enough of your skills and knowledge in how you "run your business" then a contracting role can be liberating and might just be what you are looking for."

Samantha Nel - Contracting Recruitment Consultant

RecruitRate part of the Recruitgroup

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