The Contractor Society—What It Is And How To Succeed In It
The days of lifetime employment with one company are long gone. Indeed, you have probably sensed that the very concept of employment is starting to recede. And you are right to have done so. The idea of the employee society, as the management writer Peter Drucker called it, has gone the way of the dodo. Not only do companies no longer provide the security of lifetime employment, increasingly, they provide no stable employment at all.
Time-limited contracts are the way of the future. In the coming years, most of us will work as independent contractors for one or more companies. Rather than hiring persons to fill particular positions and making them employees, with the compensations and mutual expectations entailed by such a status, most companies will start offering short-term contracts which limit their commitments and responsibilities; e.g. guaranteed work, health care, and paid sick leave and vacation time.
This new way of arranging work is a response to certain economic realities. Most industries are so varied and hyper-competitive that the firms within them must continually change and restructure to stay ahead. A company may not know from one year to the next what combination of skills and expertise it needs its workforce to have in order to compete. Rather than going through the expense of training and re-training employees companies have begun using independent contractors, who are themselves responsible for maintaining the knowledge, skills, and other abilities to get the job done.
You need not fear the coming of the contractor society. In most cases, companies will provide the tools or access to the tools you need to keep up with advances in your field. They will also help offset some of the costs of getting a professional qualification. Indeed, you will likely feel as though you are working as an employee. But you should not be lured into thinking that you are actually secure.
In order to succeed in the contractor society you must be prepared. Here are some of the ways to become so:
A graduate degree is always a good thing to have. Going through a master’s program will improve your ability to write, think, and analyze clearly. Depending on the kind of work you do, having a graduate degree may be a real asset. However, you should not stop there. Getting professional qualifications such as a PMP or HRC or one of the other certifications will make you stand out as an independent contractor. In some cases, you will not be able to get a job in delivering high-end services without these credentials. In addition to obtaining certifications, you should also ensure that you are keeping up with the latest advancements in your field. Sometimes the best way to do this is to enroll in a Continuing Education course at a nearby college—which is often tax deductible. Other opportunities to learn may be offered by the company itself.
One of the consequences of the contractor society is less generous company-based insurance plans. You may find that because you have been hired as a contractor you are not entitled to the insurance provided by the company. If you see that you are in a line of work that tends to be contracted, you need to take control of your health insurance. You should look into the options available through your state’s health care exchange. You may be able to find a plan that is affordable and meets your individual health care needs.
Getting and keeping connected to your colleagues is a vital part of succeeding in the contractor society. You never know who will become a partner, a client, or a sub-contractor. You should not only attend official functions, but also cultivate relationships with persons you get on especially well with. Listen for new opportunities and investigate rumors. Do what you can to help your friends get jobs. Pass along resumes and make recommendations. By doing so, you will build up good will; and you will find that many of the people you helped will return the favor when you need it.
As a contractor, you are essentially on your own. If you want to succeed—however you define that—you have to make things happen. Give up thinking like an employee and start thinking like an entrepreneur. View yourself as someone who is running your own enterprise. Think in terms of startup costs and running costs when it comes to financial planning; think about your qualifications and network when it comes to expanding and managing your resources; evaluate the strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats when it comes to making your next move. Thinking this way will keep you sharp and ahead of the game.
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About Christopher Reid Chris was born in Washington, D.C. and lives in Britain. He works as a blogger, essayist, and novelist. His first book, Tea with Maureen, has just been published.