DiceTV: Contracting for the Reluctant

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_reNdDt4lI?rel=0&hd=1&w=560&h=346]

The Script

Are you looking for work, but your experience is all in full-time jobs? Especially in this economy, there are good reasons to consider a contracting position. I’m Cat Miller, and this is DiceTV.

Contracting can keep your skills sharp, maybe lead to a full-time job, and will certainly give you a chance to network within a company.

Most important: You’ll have cash coming in, which means you’ll be in a better position to wait for the staff position you really want.

To go after contract work, you’ll need to alter your resume. It will have to show you have the exact skills needed for the job, as well as the expertise to get in, get it done, and move on.

Start by re-ordering. Don’t list your jobs in the order you’ve done them. List them in the order they apply to the job you want.

So, if the company is looking for a Java programmer, put that in your summary: “10 years Java programming at Acme Inc. and Beta LLC.”

Bear in mind: If you don’t have the skills listed in the job posting, you probably won’t get the contract. And agencies won’t want to recommend you if they’ve got other candidates with the exact experience the client company needs.

You’ll do best if you stick to skills and tools you’ve used recently. Say a manager needs an XML coder. You’ve got five years of that under your belt, but more recently you’ve been doing other things. Don’t be surprised if the manager passes on you to take someone who’s got less experience, but is coding with XML now.

If you’re offered an interview, think about the job from the employer’s perspective. Hiring managers aren’t looking for a perfect cultural fit. They want knowledge about the work, and the ability to complete the project. During the interview, explain how your specific, unique skill set will provide immediate value.

To be a successful contractor, you need to be an expert in something – a tool, an industry, a programming language or a certified project manager. Package and pitch yourself as an expert who can hit the ground running, and you’ll likely be given a chance to do just that.

I’m Cat Miller, this has been DiceTV, and we now return you to your regular desktop.

21 Responses to “DiceTV: Contracting for the Reluctant”

  1. Catharsis

    man, when are they going to stop beating around the bush and just have cat miller read the article in a bikini or something,

    i mean , come on, we all know she’s here as geek eye-candy. let’s stop pretending, and fantasizing.

  2. Gullible

    hmm is this article/video basically an advert for dice job boards?

    many people are probably like me and dont look at dice job boards anymore since these days it is loaded with multiple agencies for the same jobs all claiming some position and company as their “client”.

    yeah my aunt tilly they are. therefore, traffic must e down.

    i shouldve gotten a snack during this commercial.

  3. Wow Catharsis, date much? Stop thinking with that little brain of yours.

    Another reason why NOT to take contract jobs: If you take on too many small assignments future employers look at your resume and wonder why you have so many jobs on you resume. Stupid, but true. You’d think dumb managers would know what the concept of contract employment means.

  4. MattyMat

    The “hit-ground-running” part of your discussion IS THE MOST IMPORTANT aspect of contract work. And sometimes, the contractor is brought in to clean up someone elses mess— so you better know your stuff.

  5. I have tailored my resume toward the few contract job presented to me and YES fellow IT pros, just like the notable shoe company slogan says JUST DO IT.

    I have signed to both with staggering timeframes back to back gigs. Also, be candid and let them know up front your working something and can be available soon after your project is up. If not refer someone you know in your absent, they’ll love that as well and keep you both in mind because professionalism is paramount.

  6. Excellent information to share and you what? I blogged about something similar yesterday and updated my blog but now having a link to this video would be great – if you don’t mind-:)

    I’m in the same boat, I worked for a large telecommunications company in IT for 15 years, was laid off last summer, out of work for 6 months and I found another IT for a large pharm company – but as a contractor, no benefits, much lower salary but for now, it’s a steady paycheck and it’s helping pay the bills and that’s the bottom line.

    I appreciate you sharing this video, by spreading it, maybe it can help others.

  7. I worked for the Patent & Trademark office in Virginia for 18 months, and then “Bang”… was laid off without warning. I think in this economy, contracting would actually be a wonderful way to keep your head above water while keeping your skills at an optimal level, until the company you’re contracting with makes a job offer, or the economy turns for the better and you can get a job that compliments your skills. Go contracting!!!!

  8. IThis only makes sense if there truly aren’t any permanent positions available in your field.

    As an IT professional, I was laid off for 4 months (March-July, 2009). What happens when that contract ends, there are no more contracts, and it’s now the time of year when most companies aren’t hiring? And in the interim, your COBRA benefits run out? In addition, you’r now paying the full cost of the benefits, not the rate that is offered while you are unemployed.

    I ended up simultaneously interviewing for 5 different positions in 5 different companies. Each position required 2, 3, or even 4 separate interviews. Some interviews were 2-4 hours long. If I had been contracting, I would not have had the time to respond to emails, make phone calls, do the research required to answer all of the technical questions, and attend the interviews.

  9. Darren Richards

    After getting laid off in May, contracting hadn’t even crossed my mind. But when approached with a contract job, I reluctantly accepted. I’m glad I did! It was a 4 month contract, which turned out to be exactly the amount of time it took for me to land the full-time job I really wanted. Not only did I get a steady paycheck, but I eliminated a 4 month gap on my resume.

  10. Edward Caruana

    would like to find someone who can help me revise my resume from a regular job seeking resume to an promotional advertising type resume can will aid me in creating a business

  11. Anony Mous

    Out of work for 2 months – as a 57 year old job-seeker, I was offered a year contract position (no extension, no perm) 60 miles from my house. I turned it down, because in a year, when the contract was up I would be in exactly the same position as today, but I would be a year older in a market that doesnt favor older workers. As added disincentives, my COBRA would be that much more close to exhausted and I would have spent hours and hours behind the wheel of the car…..

    It was a personal decision. Do you think I did the wrong thing?

  12. Tony Markos

    Reasons Not to Consider Contracting:

    * Today, a short-term contract assignment can cost you alot of money: In todays unemployment insurance environment, if you are not using up your unemployment benefits by a certain date, you can lose out on the benefit extension programs. I know of someone who just took a 6-8 week assignment, not realizing that if she does not get followon work (a real iffy proposition in a tough economy) she will loose out on the amount of 40-50 weeks of UI extension benefits!

    * Often a strong message that “you are and will remain a stranger” is drilled into your head. This can really mess with your ability to establish proper work relationships in the future.

    * Your achievments will often be crashly stolen from you and claimed by someone else

    * You often have no protections from insecure “regular” employees who attack you out of fear of your abilities

  13. Mark Framness

    Work with agents such as Addeco, TekSystems, Westaff, and local ones.

    Get a feel for appropriate bill rates — from both your and potential clients perspectives.

    If your spouse has benefits great you can give up bennies in favor of higher bill rates.

    Remember between gigs you are not getting paid save the extra income from the higher rates and use it to live between gigs.

    Choose a preferred agent (local is probably best) and help them out as well.

    Your indie status provides another benefit — more flexible vacation time.

  14. Mark Framness

    Also, suck it up on the travel thing — when discussing travel for a contract gig condition bill rates based on expenses. Some firms will set up an explicit per diem payment, use actual and reasonable, or will increase your bill rate. If I am talking about a gig 15 miles from my residence I will accept a lower rate than one half-way across the country.

  15. Michael

    As a contractor with 8 years of successful engineering / project management gigs, I am told many times by interviewers that my resume reflects too many jobs of rather short duration, even though I make it clear that I have been contracting for a few years.

    They also question whether I would be comfortable in a permanent position based on my contracting history. As a senior in both age and experience, I question whether they are possibly intimidated by my extensive experience, or just the fact that I have not succumbed to difficult economic times like many a permanent employee has done – I believe the facts speak for themselves with regard to my accomplishments, be it as employee or contractor!

  16. Winston on Truth

    Since the corporate downsizing/resizing/restructuring mode hit workers back in the late 1980’s I’ve been performing a combination of employee and contractor status as the occasion and best fit occurred. One word of caution about contracting is, be very leary or cautious about signing that “contract-to-hire” agreement if you really just want to be a contract consultant. In my last contract-to-hire agreement the client wanted to hire me after the six month contract and the choice to become an employee wasn’t what I preferred, but since I had no ready opportunity for another engagement/contract I reluctantly accepted the offer. I lost at least $40k/year and gained only a viable health care benefit and bonuses that required a lengthy wait. If you don’t NEED to work full-time, then by all means seek only contract work.

  17. To those worried about your benefits while taking a temporary job: It’s a temporary job. Don’t stop looking for a perm position while you’re contracting. I know it sounds disloyal to the company you’re contracting to, but short circuit your contract if their need for you went away. It’s OK for you to do the same.