Maybe it’s Time to Consider Contracting…
From an employer’s perspective, the advantages of using contract engineers and engineering support staff have been widely discussed and acknowledged. By using contingent workers firms can save money, remain flexible with an ability to quickly adapt to rapidly changing business conditions, and quickly secure specific technical expertise. With each passing year, more firms are realizing these benefits and are partnering with contract staffing firms to facilitate the sourcing and engagement of contract technical staff.
What might be less commonly understood are the many reasons that engineering professionals choose to contract. We hear a wide range of motivations from our network of engineering contractors – here are a few:
- Transition to a “permanent” role. While contract opportunities are generally intended to last for s specific period of time – from several weeks to many months – they can open doors for direct employment. Whether you are a contractor or a direct employee, hard work and great results get noticed. If you are successful in your contract role, hiring managers will take notice and will remember you when a direct position opens up. The managers will already have reached a comfort zone with you and your skill set, effectively placing you ahead of others who may apply for the position. Even if there is no opportunity for a direct role with that firm, the hiring managers are often very willing to use their connections to help you network within the industry.
- Strengthen your resume. In the engineering industry, firms that engage contractors are often working with cutting edge technology on exciting R&D projects. As a contractor, you have the opportunity to contribute and gain experience that will be valuable as you seek your next role. Contracts usually involve interesting, fast-paced projects where you lend your technical expertise to the project team and gain new skills / experience in return. Contracting also enables you to maintain a continuous employment history when between permanent positions. Gaps in employment on your resume can be challenging to explain to prospective employers. Securing a contract position within your area of technical expertise during this period keeps you professionally connected within your field and also allows you to take more time evaluating your options for permanent employment.
- Earn more money. Contract work can be a great way to enhance your paycheck. Contractors are typically paid more than those with direct positions, mainly because contracts usually do not come with paid benefits. As you may not be receiving paid holidays or vacation time, you can negotiate a higher hourly pay rate. Firms are willing to pay higher rates for contractors because, among other reasons, they urgently need the specific skill and/or experience the contractor brings. They also know the cost is for a finite period of time and they are not establishing salary precedents that may wreak havoc with their pay scales for direct employees. Also, as you change projects and firms more often as a contractor than as a direct employee, you have more opportunities to raise your pay rate. You don’t have to wait until your annual review to receive a pay raise; rather, every new project brings the possibility of increasing your income.
- Gain more control of your work life. We see this rationale for contracting cited more and more among our network of engineering professionals. As all of us struggle to maintain a fulfilling balance between our professional lives and our home lives, the autonomy that comes hand-in-hand with contracting is appealing to many. As a contractor, you can choose to take time off between projects – perhaps to spend time with your family or simply to enjoy some downtime. You decide which projects – companies, products, technology – are interesting to you and determine which opportunities to pursue. You don’t ever feel tied to one company or particular career path. For many, maintaining this level of control over their work life is invigorating and calming at the same time.