Get Off The Bench And Into The Game!
I spend my days talking with people; a lot of people. Many are consultants with ITB Partners. They are seeking my advice to become more successful as an independent contractor. Mostly, I talk with people who need help with their job search. It is a significant part of my day. These folks want to reconnect with another employer in a similar role. Some are ready to make a break from traditional employment to become their own boss. They are intrigued by the opportunity and want to better understand the risks and rewards. Every now and then I talk with someone who has been on her own but seeks greater stability as an employee. Of course, becoming an employee offers little stability as companies are in a constant state of change. One of our consultants took employment situation last year. It didn’t work out. After a short tenure in that job, he returned to ITB Partners to pursue a freelance career. This is a common phenomenon as job tenures become shorter and shorter.
My conversation with these folks begins with their goals and objectives. I want to understand their perspective on the market and the motivation for their intended course of action. I want to learn how I can be helpful, even if it is limited to free advice. Naturally, they want to know if I have a search assignment that fits their needs. If I don’t have an appropriate assignment they want to begin a relationship for future opportunities. When they have completed their overview it is my turn to validate their strategy and to present alternatives they may not have considered.
As most of my work is with senior-level executives, my feedback is usually the same. However, there are variations appropriate to the candidate’s functional discipline and industry segment. Some job functions are experiencing great demand, like Chief Financial Officers. Some are experiencing rapid turn over, like Chief Marketing Officers. Some industry sectors are growing more rapidly than others. Some are consolidating and even liquidating.
To a large extent, all industry segments are experiencing similar circumstances. They are trying to adapt to rapid change. Competition is fierce. There is a manic effort to stay relevant to the customer. The constant search to become better, faster and cheaper creates pressure to innovate. The push for cost reduction usually means ways to shrink the workforce. Finding outsourced solutions has become commonplace. The message to job seekers is to expect more job changes with shorter tenures. This reality leads many to strike out on their own, to become a freelancer.
The fundamentals of finding full-time employment or a contract engagement are basically the same. One must talk with people, network. They must research the target company. They must get their resumes in front of hiring managers. Ultimately, they must get interviews. The big difference is to advise the hiring manager or recruiter that you will consider a 1099 situation. With no additional work, the job-seeker increases her employment opportunities, while reducing her time “in the market.”
I find that a willingness to engage in project work is an effective way to find a new job. I call it a bridge strategy. Employers are risk-averse, especially with regard to hiring decisions. The cost of a bad hire is significant. If given the alternative they would prefer a lower risk option, like a short-term contract. A short-term contract allows the employer time to evaluate the candidate’s viability without making a commitment. If the candidate is a good fit an offer of full-time employment is likely. If not, terminating the contract carries little risk.
If you are serious about finding work you must be open to alternatives that present a win-win solution. Contract work that leads to a full-time situation is a proven job search strategy. I believe that freelancing will continue to grow in importance as the economy transitions into the Digital Age. So, get with the program! It is better to be on the playing field as an independent contractor than to warm the bench.
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Jim Weber, President
Jim Weber, President
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