Great people. Great projects. Great jobs.
This article originally appeared
in Computer Opportunities in New England, and has also appeared
in the Boston Broadside and STC InterCom, which are published
by the Society for Technical Communication.
CONTRACTING AS A CAREER ALTERNATIVE
by Brett W.
The technical contracting industry provides a unique career opportunity for experienced professionals in most technical disciplines.
Companies in almost every field hire temporary professional personnel (also referred to as contract personnel or consultants) for special projects, during peak workload periods, and to supplement their permanent staff. An entire team of contract personnel may be hired to meet an important deadline or to take project responsibility for a development program. Or, just as likely, a single individual may be hired for a highly specialized job to fulfill a one-time need.
Contract service firms (also called contract agencies) often assist contractors in marketing their skills. While the contract employee is paid by the contract service firm, the actual work is usually performed on-site at the client company. Contractors might also do some or all of their work at home. Although a client's temporary job requirement can range from one day to several years in duration, an average contract assignment lasts approximately four to six months. Most contract agencies and their clients can predict the expected duration of a contract assignment fairly accurately, but it is not unusual for a three-month job to be extended to six months, or even a year or more, if the client remains busy and is happy with the contractor's performance.
Fringe benefits for contract personnel vary from one contract service firm to another, but are usually more limited than the benefits available to permanent employees of most companies. To compensate, contract personnel are often paid at higher rates than their permanent counterparts. A technical writer, for example, might earn 30 to 50 percent more as a contractor than as a permanent employee. This increased income, along with greater job flexibility and challenge, are important factors in attracting qualified personnel to the contracting profession.
Contract agencies come in all types and sizes. Some specialize in a particular field, such as documentation, software development, or even thermodynamics consulting. Others provide a spectrum of temporary personnel, ranging from writers and engineers to designers and technicians. Geographical service areas vary, too. Some firms are nationwide -- even international, while others provide services in one region or even to a single, local market.
Today, contract opportunities exist in almost every industry and job area. There is usually a strong demand for technical communications and engineering personnel. The range of technical communications jobs covers such disciplines as technical writing, editing, corporate communications, marketing, course development, training, graphic design, illustrating, proofreading, desktop publishing and publications production.
The demand for contractors with certain types of skills varies from one region to another. The contract personnel who are in most demand in the New England area often work in the publishing, computer, electronics, financial, insurance, banking, machine tool, and process equipment industries. Other parts of the country have more temporary positions available in the petrochemical, automotive, marine, and aircraft industries. Generally speaking, a career in contracting will be especially viable in any skill area where there are shortages of qualified people, and in geographic areas experiencing rapid business growth.
Representatives of contract service firms talk regularly with both the personnel they represent and their client companies in order to best match the skills of available personnel with client needs. Job candidates should provide the contract service firm with an up-to-date resume, advising the firm about their availability for assignments and any new skills acquired from recent jobs. Regular contact with the contract service firm ensures that an applicant will be considered for the most desirable assignments available.
Contractors realize increased income potential, job flexibility, and exposure to the latest in changing technologies. The principal disadvantages include potential "downtime" between assignments and limited benefits in such areas as vacations, holiday pay, insurance coverage, and tuition reimbursement.
However, career contractors
feel the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Changing on-the-job experience
keeps their skills current as they move from one assignment to another.
These acquired skills and the ongoing work by the contract service firm's
staff in seeking new job assignments allow contract personnel to choose
among the best opportunities in any job market
Brett Randolph is a
partner in RANDOLPH ASSOCIATES, INC. in Cambridge, Mass. He has placed
documentation and training professionals in contract and permanent positions
Great people. Great projects. Great jobs.
Tel: 617.441.8777 Ext. 6 firstname.lastname@example.org