Five contractor rules that are made to be broken

Virginia Williams,

When it comes to our career, we all want to put our best foot forward. If a new role seems like a fit we research the organisation, power dress and go over our CV with a fine-tooth comb.

Conventions around work-life can be helpful. But some ‘rules’ were made to be broken.

Embedded Expertise General Manager, Virginia Williams, has years of experience in the contingent technical market and she knows the industry well. Here she shares her insights on the rules contractors get hung up on, and which contractor rules should be broken!

rule breaking

Rule 1: Don’t leave any gaps between jobs in your CV

 

Why you should break it:

There are many reasons people take time out from work and contractors are no different. Time taken out for maternity leave, caring for a loved one, focusing on health or passion projects often leaves ‘gaps’ in a career timeline.

One of the benefits of contingency work is the ability to take time out to focus on family or other pursuits and managers are open to this reasoning.

Contingency work can be planned to provide regular breaks between contracts to allow for rest periods that tenured employees would use leave to take advantage of. A company that specialises in technical contingency work, like Embedded Expertise, can work with contractors to support them in transitioning in and out of these breaks as it aligns with their lifestyle.

When it comes to gaps in your CV, the important thing is to be honest. Fudging the dates in a career history to gloss over these life events can damage your credibility, as reference checks usually uncover inconsistencies. The best approach is to write a brief and honest description of the reason for a gap in your work timeline. Managers will appreciate the transparency and focus on your current ability to perform the role you have applied for.

 

Rule 2: You shouldn’t take on contract work fresh out of university

 

Why you should break it:

Why wait until study is complete to find out what working life will look like? Contract work provides an opportunity to get hands-on experience in your chosen field while completing qualifications. This arrangement has benefits on both sides.

It enables contractors to kick-start their career and enter the workforce with practical experience and a working knowledge of information their peers are yet to gain. Employers receive a cost-effective solution to skills gaps in their teams and a fresh perspective from a young team member that can contribute to innovation within the organisation.

Contract work isn’t a ‘back-up plan’ for those who haven’t secured full time work. A number of roles in succession on your CV can demonstrate your ability to adapt to different ways of working and highlights the valuable insights you have gained through the operations of multiple organisations. Managers are often keen to tap into your experience and will be eager to leverage this knowledge to enhance their own processes.

 

Rule 3: Keep communication at work professional, and watch out for ‘office politics’

 

Why you should break it:

In a previous blog, we’ve discussed the importance of social connections at work and how valuable it can be to build your internal network. Good relationships create a foundation for business success. A team that connects at a social level will often have more successful meetings, share information more freely and have higher levels of enjoyment at work. For an expert, this connection is an important resource for getting up to speed on projects quickly.

Although you don’t want to let the ‘how was your weekend?’ chat to roll on for hours, getting to know what makes your team tick is highly valuable. Connecting socially can create a supportive environment that boosts the productivity of the entire team.

Assume from day one that you are invited to social occasions such as Christmas parties or Friday drinks. If you do find yourself out of the loop, speak up to find out the reasoning. A friendly request to join the team will generally be met with enthusiasm and your teammates should be happy for you to pull up a chair at the next function.

 

Rule 4: Take every opportunity to earn your keep, even if it means overcommitting yourself!

 

Why you should break it:

As a contractor, the pressure to perform can feel intense. Many contingency workers feel the need to prove their value by working long hours, skipping breaks and avoiding saying ‘no’ at all costs. This approach is not sustainable and eventually, it leads to impacts on overall enjoyment at work, or on your mental health and wellbeing. It’s important to be clear on your boundaries and communicate expectations early to avoid getting caught up in a pace that can’t be sustained.

 

This is one of the reasons why Embedded Expertise established a wellness program - to encourage and support contractors, enabling them to develop a healthy work-life balance and navigate the challenges of temporary work arrangements. The program is designed to give experts the kind of support typically reserved for tenured employees, to minimise the risk of falling into a cycle of overcommitting that can lead to burnout.

 

Rule 5: Wait until a project is complete to discuss a contract extension

 

Why you should break it:

If you are enjoying your role and would like to continue the work it’s important to start planning and having discussions around a contract extension early. In the final stages of a project, it can be easy to focus solely on completion and have your final weeks slip past quickly. Taking some time for you and your manager to plan for the end of your contract means you know where you’ll be once the project is complete.

 

If you would like to continue in your role, this needs to be discussed weeks ahead to allow for the extension to be prepared. Approvals can take quite some time, and onboarding processes can also be lengthy. Where your skills are needed, it’s in the best interests of the organisation to keep your role current to avoid a lapse in induction currency, and to ensure you don’t have to go through a whole new process that takes additional time.  

 

As the business world evolves to cater for new ways of working, the rules around contract work are being rewritten. The flexibility and experience that short-term roles offer are being sought out at every stage of the career life-cycle and ‘gaps’ in CVs are no longer taboo. As workers both young and experienced opt for the benefits of contingency work, managers are seeking out their experience and finding new ways to include them in a blended team alongside permanent staff.

 

Embedded Expertise was created to support managers and experts in making contract work a success for both parties.

 

For tailored advice on navigating contract work arrangements book a phone chat with the team at Embedded Expertise today.