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Life as an IT contractor

Ann Bednarz | Oct. 17, 2014
Independence, job variability, earning potential, skills development. But is it worth it?

Longtime independent consultant Granville finds some challenges for contractors are no different from those faced by full-time IT employees.

"Early on, the peaks and valleys of activity were disconcerting. Now I just get frustrated during those times when I am unable to respond quickly to my customers," Granville says. "Occasionally the hours can be long, but I think that is true for any job. Balancing family life and work life is probably difficult for all IT workers."

On the plus side, Granville cites a number of other things he likes about the IT contract life: being able to do what he thinks is the right thing for his customers; working with customers he likes; the chance to define his own target market; and a flexible schedule. His ideal assignments are those that allow him to architect and build new network designs.

Temp-to-perm temptations

Independent contracting isn't a lifestyle for everyone. "There's obviously risk involved in going that route as the name suggests, it's temporary, not permanent," Hayman says.

In some cases, contingent work can lead to a permanent position. A short-term assignment can be viewed as a trial period for both parties, Hayman says. Hiring managers can use the assignment time to evaluate how a temporary contractor might fit in as full-time employee, and the contractor can evaluate if a company is one he or she would like to join full-time.

Contract-to-hire has become a popular option for IT departments, says Jack Cullen, president of IT staffing and recruiting firm Modis.

"While full-time hiring of IT workers has remained strong throughout 2014, the option of evaluating talent over a longer period of time has proven beneficial for many companies," Cullen says. "Companies that take this creative hiring route benefit by maintaining their project deadlines while evaluating a potential employee over a period of time rather than taking a gamble on a person over the course of the interview process."

For IT workers, contracting is "a good route to go if you're trying to test out a new area or field of expertise," Nath agrees. "It's a good way to test the waters."

Hayman, in his role at TEKsystems, finds that a majority of folks are open to a temporary gig turning into a permanent engagement. However there are folks who prefer contingent work. His advice to new and potential contractors is to "keep yourself as fresh as possible and hone those skills."

For techies who are curious, entrepreneurial and enjoy variability, the push to acquire new skills comes naturally.

"I love difficult jobs, jobs that are really technically complex. I love a good challenge. That's just my nature," Bass says.


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