01 Jun Five Ways to Be an Invaluable Contractor
Most of us at some point have taken a contract, temporary or project role. There are so many amazing reasons to do this! Contract positions give you opportunities to learn new skills, experiencing different companies and company cultures as well as filling in the gaps while you are looking for your next great career move or while you are writing the Great American Novel.
The success or failure of your venture as a contractor is on your shoulders. In a way, you are your own company, and you have only one client. You need to make that client happy and meet their expectations. When you do, you can command higher contract rates, create great word of mouth and additional job leads as well as possibly landing a sweet full time job offer. The person you are reporting to might be the one to recommend you to a new career opportunity inside the company or externally within their personal network. So, here what you need to do to stand out as a solid professional and a consultant.
- Be Accessible. Show up on time. Let people know when you are leaving for lunch or for the day and when you’ll return from lunch. Let your supervisor know your cell phone. If you are going to be unavailable for complete “unplugged time” where you will not be checking your emails, messages or voicemails, give a heads-up to those you are working with. You are there for a reason, so you are needed. Know the official and unofficial policies of that office so you can be available when you are needed and if that’s not possible, work out a clear arrangement.
- Be Easy To Work With. Be courteous to everyone from the receptionist to the IT person. First, you never know when you will need help. Second, you don’t know who everyone is and what they do. For all you know, the receptionist you just rolled your eyes at is actually your supervisor’s boss’ assistant or the CEO’s kid. If you are demanding your expense report be processed the minute you bring it into Accounting, you’ll have the kind of reputation that will have that company searching for your replacement. People talk and they certainly remember how you treat them. What you say doesn’t matter nearly as much as how you make people feel.
- Communicate effectively. Think about the tone and context of your email from the receiver’s point of view. Avoid being sarcastic in email or using humor that may not be understood. When a misunderstanding is occurring, address it over the phone or if at all possible, in person, rather than over email. A simple call in an approachable tone saying “I want to help, but I think we are getting our lines crossed. Can you help me understand what you need?” is infinitely more effective than the frustration of days of back-and-forth emailing.
- Deliver What They Are Paying For. You might have a way of doing things that is a million times more effective. But if the company signing your check needs the project, drawing, budget, or analysis done to THESE parameters, then give them what they want. Otherwise, this company just paid you for all this work that they can use and don’t need. And now you are the person they brought in to solve their problem who refused to listen to them. Not cool.
- Think Customer Service. This company is your top client. You are there for hours every day to fix a problem and provide a service. There are other people who can do this role, so if you want to keep on doing it, you have to give this company a reason to keep you. Being conscientious of how you’re performing, how you are treating people and how your work is received is vital. Accept feedback and change if that is what’s needed. Now, if the changes being asked for would violate an ethical or safety code, then that is a separate matter.
Contract positions are one of the best ways out there to diversify your experience, tackle new challenges and broaden your career scope. By approaching them with the mindset that this company is now your client, you can create the kind of world-class working relationships that will serve your career for years to come!