Contract IT work can be a smart and satisfying career choice. Different flavors of work, accelerated career growth and faster pay increases (Dice reports 4.7% year over year gains) persuade a growing number of professionals to say goodbye to the office and hello to consulting jobs. Yet as the number of contractors multiply, it’s important that professionals build their career as an IT consultant on a strong foundation. By taking the following steps, your IT consultant career can flourish, enabling you to achieve bigger goals, faster.
Nothing great has ever been accomplished in anyone’s comfort zone. New knowledge is gained when the boundaries of your expertise retreat in your rearview mirror and you open yourself up to constructive failure. For IT consultants, this means embracing more contract opportunities that stretch your technical skillset and force you to adapt.
Imagine you accepted a job where you’d already mastered close to 100% of the challenges. Not only would you die from boredom, but your career momentum would grind to a halt. If instead you pursued contracts with 25% to 20% new and novel challenges, you’d learn at an accelerated rate (especially if you’re changing projects every year or so).
The trick is to convince employers you can quickly adapt and make up any knowledge gap. Since the current number of job openings exceeds unemployed people, more companies are easing the brakes on rigid job requirements, in the hopes of filling their open jobs. IT consultants who are selected for these jobs are those who stress their ability to quickly adapt to project requirements and give real examples as they write their resume or answer common interview questions.
Often, a technical consultant is depicted as a lone wolf. You work alone, you eat alone, and you don’t spend time fraternizing with the pack. However, that mentality can hold back your development and shrink your network. The good news is that IT consultants don’t have to walk that lonesome road alone.
One of the best ways to advance your knowledge and your career has always been through collaboration. Working with other people introduces new ideas and new practices that might have otherwise been outside your radar. By taking the time to make introductions (or having them made by an Engagement Manager) and build connections with full-time employees, you can bounce ideas off of them and ensure that your work synchronizes with internal processes and best practices.
Beyond that, there is a growing infrastructure bringing IT consultants together, which you can take part in. Companies like WeWork and Regus provide working spaces where you can network with a variety of professionals (and even pick their brains if you encounter a particularly tough challenge). One way or another, your career as an IT consultant depends on other people to help it grow faster, so you need to get out in the world and connect.
One of the traditional tradeoffs of IT consulting has been a lack of benefits. While you’ve received greater compensation you’ve mostly had to cover your own healthcare and retirement savings – up until now. IT consultants, who partner with the right staffing firm, are now finding they can have their cake and eat it too.
For example, tech professionals who collaborate with IDR receive greater autonomy on projects, and are covered under IDR’s Benefits Plan. This includes everything from medical, dental, and vision to basic life insurance, long-term disability, and 401k options. Consultants who work with IDR for longer periods of time (or even from contract to contract) are eligible to take part in IDR’s employee stock ownership program (ESOP). Our ESOP earns them shares in the company, allowing them to take ownership and join in our shared success. It’s a great way to supplement the rising contractor rates.