What kind of edge do you really need if you want to land a top-quality IT job? This is often the question at the back of your mind as you look to further your contractor career in IT. Are you ‘missing’ something, a vital attribute that those employers are looking for in an increasingly competitive market? There has been amazing growth in the contractor IT jobs market, but you don’t want to find yourself playing catch-up if, for some reason, you haven’t paid proper attention to a particular type of skill. Let’s look at specific attributes that employers focus on as they look for the most ideal IT contractor for the next position.
Education continues to be a very important requirement. The majority of the larger organisations require a degree and it is specified in the majority of the jobs advertised, especially by the legacy companies. We are still seeing a trend whereby those with a higher level of education progress further within IT organisations, as opposed to those who are not so equipped.
What does your portfolio look like? Have you got a lot of experience with small organisations, or do you have some key experience with large companies? This factor can be crucial. While working for a range of smaller companies on a regular basis shows that you have a certain amount of tenacity and ambition, and it is likely that you would have developed additional skills, exposure and contacts when you worked for larger companies.
One other benefit of having worked for larger corporations in your past is your likely ability to work with larger teams. Within bigger organisation at some stage of your progression, it is likely that you will need to exhibit supervisory skills as you manage a large team of people. Likewise, the larger the team that you have managed in the past, the more likely it is that you will have to draw on superior management skills to deal with such a diverse collection of individuals.
You must have superior communication skills. In short, you need to be able to educate others as you convey some of that intellectual capital you were hired for in the first place. You may well be able to point to such skills on paper, but the employer wants to know if you can communicate correctly to inspire others and ensure that the organisation benefits from this value transfer.
The Trend of Being the Interim in Contracting
Due to some specific conditions in the marketplace, it appears that there is now a considerable and increasing demand for those contractors who are willing to consider the interim positions. This is specifically the case in information technology, where interim professionals who are working as managers on a project or programme basis are able to secure premium compensation rates, particularly if they are engaged in property, retail or manufacturing.
Could this be of interest to you? Many contractors are weighing the pros and cons, especially when they hear that requests for interim project or programme managers appear to have increased by more than 50% compared to the last year.
It is important to fully understand exactly why ‘interim’ position is being created in the first place. Of course, each individual client will have his own specific reason, but often there is an element of uncertainty or two surrounding the position in question.
This element of uncertainty may concern you, or it may not. It is nevertheless important to understand what it is and what the implications may be for you. Will there be additional pressures associated with this role, versus one that could be undertaken on a purely contractual or traditional basis?
Let’s look at one potential situation. Is there an underlying problem associated with the creation of the position? Is the client facing some crisis, in other words? When this happens, don’t be surprised if the job description or brief is somewhat unclear, or tends to change as time goes by. In other words, the temporary position now exists because the client is simply unsure how the contract is going to work out, or what’s going to happen. This is of course an entirely different situation to the one where you would be simply contracted to cover the absence of an existing individual who may be on long-term leave for some reason. This is again a different position to one where you may be contracted to help an organisation bridge over from one system to another or to transition when there has been a major acquisition of some kind. Read between the lines as much as you can to make the best informed decision. You may thrive on uncertainty and find that you tend to perform your best therein. In situations such as this, you may make such an impression on the client organisation that they consider you for other or more long-term positions. Be prepared to perform and deliver results quickly in such situations, or it may be better to avoid them despite the premium payment associated. On the other hand, if you feel that this is the way forward for you, then you should amend your CV to reflect the fact that you may thrive in such unusual situations.