Working as a tech contractor can be quite different from working as a permanent employee. While the same basic rules apply, contractors are engaged in a very different way, and the same skills are often applied in a different context. While demand for technical skills will change with the times, there are also a few other skills you need as a contractor, no matter the role you find yourself in.
You’re making a living out of working in different environments and will likely change jobs regularly. With your professional setting changing as often as it does, the ability to hit the ground running in new places is critical. Contractors don’t often have the luxury of long-term stability in a workplace or co-workers who understand the way they perform, thus as a non-permanent fixture, it’s important to adapt to the way in which different organisations function.
The chances are you’re walking into an environment where nobody knows who you are and very few are familiar with your skills and experience. Communication (both written and verbal) can determine success in many ways, as it’s important to interact smoothly with new teammates as well as clients, most of whom you won’t have long-standing relationships with. For those contractors that are tasked with managing a team, it’s important to communicate the ways you operate, too.
While it’s likely there will still be someone to report to, as a contractor you’ll rarely have your hand held by management. The reason that contractors tend to be paid more is that generally, they are specialist professionals performing specialist roles. This can be a great thing as it prevents micromanagement, however, if you’re not sufficiently self-motivated, it can also create the risk of underperformance.
Working to tight deadlines and the ability to self-manage are essential in a technical contracting role. As a contractor, you often have to self-regulate and work without set instructions. This is why staying organised is imperative to working efficiently and managing your time. Also, to keep up with an ever-advancing workforce, it’s essential to be constantly assessing your efforts from an objective perspective and looking at what can be done better.
The other side of being a contractor is what it can be like during down time. We’re in a buoyant market at the moment, but we all know how quickly that can change. Industries will always ebb and flow, and when work begins to slow down, it’s crucial that you’re prepared financially and mentally for the lulls. There may be periods where you don’t find work, and naturally, you’ll want to sustain your lifestyle despite any lack of income. Remain resilient in these scenarios and understand that this is merely a part of the type of work.
The ability to remain resilient through the challenges of contracting is crucial to success and will make for a significantly less stressful experience. Often, contractors are brought on when a company is having difficulty solving issues on a project, and because of this common circumstance, problem-solving and analytical thinking will become a regular necessity.
In-Demand Technical Skills
Although soft skills are the focus of this article, we think that it’s also important to touch on the technical skills that are in-demand at the moment. As data and web systems continue to grow at an alarming rate, more extensive cyber security measures are in demand. Cyber security is one of the top concerns for Kiwi companies, and something organisations also feel least prepared to face. With this in mind, having the ability to address cyber security concerns is a highly desirable skill to highlight on a CV.
As businesses begin to adopt a cloud-first strategy, Cloud development is quickly advancing to the forefront of tech projects. Closely related to this is mobile technology. Businesses are swiftly moving to adapt to a mobile-focused approach, so having the skills to build and maintain these applications will be highly valuable.
For years, there has been significant demand in New Zealand for Software Developers, and as our world becomes even more globally connected, the need for specific languages in relation to these jobs is growing with it. Virtual and augmented reality products are on the rise along with computer-driven automobiles and machine learning. With this, comes the demand for people who can support these endeavours and those with the skills to do so will be very sought after.
While on assignment, completing quality work is not the only aspect of performing as a contractor. Not only are soft skills vital to your success, equally important is the ability to stay up-to-date with new skill sets and emerging technologies. If you’re a contractor looking for new IT jobs, or considering a move into the contract space, get in touch with us.