Talent Development Centre

All posts by Frances McCart

Career Advancement as a Contractor — Is it Possible?


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Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Career Advancement as a Contractor -- Is it Possible?Contractors often ask me how they can “move up” or pick up new skills while being on contract.  Independent contractors do not always have the same opportunities as an employee for career progression or new skills training while on the job. They are most often hired for their current skill set and subject matter expertise so getting new skills on a contract is often limited.

This article from FastCompany lists ways a permanent employee can get new opportunities for career progression and new skill development without changing “titles” or jobs.  Here are some of the tips that are also applicable to contractors.

#1 – Always be on the lookout for opportunities to widen your skill level on your current contract.  If an opportunity to help out in another area arises and there is no current talent to take on the role, ask for the role.  Clients often will give current project team members an opportunity for a new role over bringing in new talent (if the position does not require deep expertise in a technology area).  Be your own advocate!

#2 – If you would like to pick up new skills or move into a new role but don’t know what this entails, talk to people who are currently doing what you aspire to do.  Be curious!  People love to speak about what they currently do.  These resources are an excellent source of what it takes to get into a role or pick up new technologies and how to do it.  Network, network, network!  I have seen many times that simply showing an interest in a new area leads to being chosen for new roles… even for contractors.  Attitude is key!!  As the article states, don’t underestimate the power of “Lets get a coffee.

#3 – Take an inventory of your current skills profile and compare those skills to what your ideal role needs.  Where there are gaps, ask for the opportunity to shadow someone on parts of their job.  When an opportunity arises, volunteer to help out.  As noted in the article, it’s helpful to start taking on some aspects of a role before doing the whole role.  This is an easy way to try out a new job function and build your skill set before taking on a new role without any insight.

#4 – Develop a vision of what you want to do and share it with others.  This includes current team members as well as colleagues and mentors from past projects.

#5- Pay it forward.  If you are on a project and see an opportunity to help out fellow team members by transferring skills… do it!  Leadership by example is a key for team members to pick up new skills, whether they are hard or soft skills.  By giving someone else the opportunity to grow, others will see this and in turn invest in your growth.

The key messages from the article is to be the master of your own identity and career path.  Don’t be shy to ask to learn and take every opportunity to put yourself in front of learning moments.

Preparing for a Successful Client Interview


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Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Preparing for a Successful Client InterviewGot an interview coming up with a client?  It should be a piece of cake, especially if you are a professional contractor.  Most contractors go on 5-6 interviews a year, so it should be a breeze and just a little prep should be needed, right?  Think again!!!   Preparing for a contract interview should be taken with as much care as preparing for a full-time interview.  Although the client will often ask similar questions, the contract interview tends to happen at a much quicker pace and as such, it is important for a contractor to relay their skills and value proposition to the prospective client in the first interview (often…the only interview).  A complaint I am hearing from clients recently is that contractors are showing up to interviews unprepared and sometimes even uninterested.

If a contractor is working with an agency to secure their next contract, the agency should be able to provide you with details about the role, why it is open and who the interviewers are.

Preparing for an interview for a contract role goes beyond knowing about the project and the client.  It is being able to clearly demonstrate your value proposition to the client and why you would be the best person for the role.  In order to do this, candidates must really know what they have put down on their resume and what value past experience will have to the potential client and the project.

Clients tend to focus on the following when interviewing contract candidates:

  • Provide examples of where your past project experience is similar to the upcoming project – What value can you bring to the project? Any lessons learned?
  • Describe the project in detail. A common complaint from clients is that contractors often skim project details. This gives the client the impression that the contractor does not know the work they had done and also gives the impression that some the details found on the resume were fabricated (i.e. you did not actually do the work and added in key words into your resume in order to be selected for an interview). Project details that clients are most interested in are:  role in the project, size of the project team, stakeholders who were involved, technologies used, value of the project, what stage you entered the project and was the project implemented on time/budget.
  • What type of style do you have in relaying the information. It is critical that when recapping projects to a client that you know all the details and can relay them with ease (and not struggling to remember).  Not being able to recall past projects is a potential sign that the project was not important or again, the project was embellished on the resume.
  • Be professional when speaking about past projects. We have all worked on a project that has not gone well.  When speaking about the project, focus on your role and the skills you brought to the project.  Clients will select a candidate who is more positive about past experience, rather than dwelling on the negative sides of a project.
  • Ask questions about the current project. Go prepared with a copy of the role description and show interest in the role.  Clients have sometimes chosen a less qualified candidate as they showed more interest in the project than someone who came across as less “excited” – ie. “been there, done that”.

Just like past employment/projects follow a candidate, especially in a small market, so do bad interviews.  Clients will pass along information to other potential hiring managers within their organization about contractors who have come in for an interview along with their biases.  It is really important to keep in mind that when interviewing with any organization, especially large ones that hire many contractors such as the Banks and Telcos, to always be prepared and to leave a positive experience with the interviews.

What to Do When You Have Multiple Job Offers


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Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

What was once rare is now common within the IT community — the dilemma of what to do when you have multiple job offers coming in.

What To Do When You Have Multiple Job Offers

Being in demand is great!  As the saying goes, “when it rains, it pours”.  Candidates often ask me what they should do when they are in the midst of interviewing for several positions with multiple firms and what they should do if they receive offers at the same time.  My number one rule: honesty is the best policy.  Keep everyone informed about where you are in your job search process.  If you have several interviews on the go, and you have just met with another new potential company, let them know where you are in process with other firms (ie. just had a second interview, an offer is coming, etc…)  Being professional is very important, especially in a community as small at the IT sector.  Some people think it is none of anyone’s business where you are in your search but being upfront and honest is never a bad thing.  The agencies and companies that you are working with will 100% appreciate the candor and will often see you as a better candidate than others due to your honesty and approach.

Here are some steps that will make decisions process a little easier…

1- Verbal offers – are they as good as a written offer?

Short answer is NO.  Until you have all the details, a verbal offer is not binding.  It does not happen often, but I have seen clients renege on a verbal offer as they lose funding during the approval process.  If you do receive a verbal offer first, express enthusiasm and that you are looking forward to seeing all the details before committing.

2- Written offers – what is really being offered?

Once you have your written offers, take the time to thoroughly go over all the details.  If you are missing information, don’t hesitate to ask for the extra details.  Offer letters often refer to policies that all employees must adhere to but they are often missing from the offer package.  Ask to see these policies as they may impact your decision.  Offers should contain more than just the start date and the compensation package.  Packages should include role description, job title, who you report to, total compensation package including bonus payouts, share options (if applicable), vacation entitlement, benefits package, expense policy, technology policies (i.e. cell phone plan, laptops, etc..).  Important policies to review are intellectual property and non-compete agreement, especially if you are working with new technologies and start-ups.

3 – Take the time to make the right decision.

The interview process is typically a long process, usually due to the client’s hiring hurdles that all candidates must go through.  It is a lot of hurry up and wait and then the offer comes.  Typically, once a verbal offer has been extended (and clients often ask for a verbal confirmation over the phone accepting the offer), they do not give candidates enough time to thoroughly review the details.  It is important to set an expectation with the client that you do need time to review and when you will have a firm answer back them.

If you need extra time, let the hiring managers know.  Be upfront with them they reason why.  Let them know you have a competing offer and want to ensure you are considering all factors in your decision  process.  Clients 100% prefer to know if a candidate has a competing offer rather than be surprised down the road when you start… and then soon after quit.

4 – Develop a pros and cons list for each offer.

Having multiple offers at once is exciting and flattering and sometimes overwhelming.  The best way to review offers is to create a decision matrix listing what each offer has and assigning value to each point.  Factors outside of compensation that have impact on the decision may be benefits, stress level, reporting structure, projects under way, advancement opportunity, work life balance, commuting time, flexibility, etc.  It is often the “soft” factors that sway your decision to take one over the other.

5 – Be professional.

Far too often, candidates that are in demand become arrogant when they receive multiple requests for interviews and then receive multiple offers.  Candidates sometimes exhibit negative behaviour such as dishonesty and game playing.  I agree that people must look out for themselves but there is a fine line between this point and being self-centered.  Candidates should take into consideration the repercussions their actions will have on the potential employer they “game” and their career.  Even though they may not end up with that firm, a client will remember how a candidate treated them and stories of unprofessional behaviour tend to get passed around, especially in a small community such as IT.  Like candidates, hiring managers move from company to company, and they have a long memory, especially of those people who were high handed and unprofessional in a hiring process.  Please be professional and keep all parties informed of where you are in the decision process.  Honesty goes along way.  So does professionalism.

6 – Once an offer has been accepted

Once an offer has been accepted, remove yourself from consideration.  Notify the other would-be employers of your final decision immediately .  Be professional.  Don’t be that candidate who takes the first offer they receive, knowing they have other offers coming, only to start one day and quit the next week.  Send a round of sincere thank yous to all involved, from the agency, to the HR team to the hiring manager.

Depending on your industry and skillset, as your skills continue to increase and the looming skills gap in the IT sector grows, multiple job offers may be more frequent for you in the future. While this is exciting and also tends to lead to higher pay rates, it’s equally important to think of the long-term effects of your actions. Remember to continue to act ethically and be aware of the many stakeholders involved in your hiring process. The more respectful you are to them now, the more respectful they will be to you down the road.

Why a Poor Offboarding Program Hurts Future IT Projects


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Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Why a Poor Offboarding Program Hurts Future IT ProjectsIn my last blog post, I spoke about the importance of companies on-boarding contractors properly and what contractors can do to ensure they are part of the process.  Along with a great on-boarding program, companies must invest time in off-boarding contractors.  As mentioned before, independent contractors, like employees, can have a significant impact on a company’s culture and brand.  They can either be a great advocate for the company or be a negative voice out in the marketplace.  With social media sites such as Glassdoor growing in popularity as a reference point on whether to join a company, it is vital that companies take the chance to fully understand what the contractors work experience was like during their contract.

As a staffing agency, we have the opportunity to work with many clients and contractors.  After recruiters speak with contractors about a new job opening, the contractor often checks their LinkedIn network to see if anyone they know has worked with the client, and even more precise, with the hiring manager.  They might also check Glassdoor to see how happy people are with the company.  We have had the unfortunate experience of having more than one contractor turn down a potentially great role due to a poor review.  Yes, a lot of times the poor feedback is warranted due to difficult projects.  But, a number of independent contractors have mentioned that they felt even though their contract was coming to a natural end, they were poorly exited.  Often times, contractors sight that the hiring managers were not even around on their last day and they did not know who to pass their technology/pass cards or project notes to!  It left many of the contractors feeling they had done bad job even though they met all the deliverables.

Here are some pointers for both client and contractors on how best to off-board a resource/project and maintain a great brand image:

  1. The independent contractor and client should work closely to capture all of the work that has been done during the contract and document important items for future reference.
  2. Communicate to the team that the contract has come to an end and a team member will be leaving.  The contractor should pass along contact details if the client needs to reach you for clarification questions.
  3. If the contractor has stakeholder relationships beyond the key team, ensure that the whole team knows of the upcoming departure.  Often, business clients are left out of the communication chain.
  4. Conduct an exit interview with the contractor to ensure feedback is received.  This exit interview should be done by the hiring manager or by a resource manager/HR.  Key questions to ask the contractor (or for the contractor to share) is did you like the work you were involved with and would you come back to work with the manager or the company.

A successful off-boarding program will add value to the company’s brand as well as help control any potential negative feelings being left unsaid and put out into the marketplace. Maintaining a great brand will help clients attract new contractors and more importantly entice past contractors to return.

Is Your Contractor Onboarding Process Hurting Your Projects’ Success?


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Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Is Your Contractor Onboarding Process Hurting Your Projects' Success?One of the biggest complaints I hear from contractors starting a new contract with a client is the poor onboarding process.  Far too often, a contractor’s first day of work, and even sometimes their entire first work week, is spent chasing down access to technology, security passes, and access to critical documents that enable them to understand the project and their role.

Onboarding processes in many organizations are geared towards full-time hires and many of those components are transferable to contract hires.  Like a full-time hire, contract hires want to feel that the organization they are working with are happy to have them on board, are organized with their internal processes to make the transition into the organization quick and smooth, and most importantly, welcomed into the work and team environment.

Onboarding goes beyond just passing along security cards, access to technology and showing a person where they sit.  Key components of a contractor onboarding program should include:

  • An overview of company culture;
  • A review of corporate policies (security, HR policies, etc…);
  • A personal introduction to members of the team;
  • The project’s goals and the current state of the project;
  • A review of the contractor’s role on the team – setting expectations of deliverables; and,
  • Who they can go to ask questions/support.

Starting any new role, whether you are a full-time employee or a contractor, can be daunting.  The easiest way to set a new person up for success is to spend the time doing a proper, thorough onboarding.

This article from HRPS shows that people make a decision to stay with a company rather quickly and often, the onboarding process is the basis for part of their decision.

  • 4 percent of employees quit after a bad first day (Bersin by Deloitte)
  • 22 percent of turnover occurs in the first 45 days (The Wynhurst Group)
  • 90 percent of employees decide to stay at a company within the first six months (Aberdeen Group)
  • 31 percent of people have quit a job within the first six months, with half of those coming in the first 3 months. (BambooHR)

Technology talent is becoming harder to find every day.  It is critical that clients spend the time up front with hires to ensure they are properly onboarded and see how they fit into the team and the organization.  The cost of replacing talent is huge – whether contract or full time.  Resources that depart an organization months or even weeks after starting have a devastating negative impact on the team – financially and emotionally.

It is important that companies take the time to develop a solid on-boarding process for employees as well as contractors.  Of course, coupled with a great on-boarding process, is a thorough off-boarding process, which I will expand on in a future post.

NAFTA Revisions and Technology Workers in the US


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Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

How could trade policy impact Canada’s technology sector?  (A silver lining perhaps?)

NAFTA Revisions and Technology Workers in the USSince Trump’s announcement he will be changing the NAFTA terms, I have had many technology professionals ask my 2 cents about getting or keeping their TN work permit status under NAFTA.  It is too early to tell what changes will be made to NAFTA and the issuance of work permits under various professional categories but one thing is for sure, technology resources are concerned.

The US has had the benefit of NAFTA to hire many of Canada’s top technology talent, especially in Silicon Valley. Many corporations such as Microsoft, Facebook and Google heavily use the TN1 and L1 work permit categories to hire Canadian talent.  Under NAFTA, this was once a fairly straight forward process for technology professionals possessing the right qualifications, but it may become more onerous, highly restrictive and less attractive.

This is bad news for the US technology sector.  In a time of great growth and change, the last thing the sector needs is a government imposing restrictions on hiring technology professionals that are desperately needed.  The tech sector relies heavily on a global talent marketplace to staff projects.  Recently, the U.S. Department of Labor forecast that the US will create some 1.4 million IT jobs by 2020, but US schools will barely be able to fill a third of them.  Technology recruiters turn to Canada as the first place to recruit potential resources due to our common language, culture and schooling.  The recruiters also rely heavily on countries where having a degree in math/computer science is highly valued and youth are heavily encouraged to get into technology.

Is there a silver lining with potential changes to NAFTA and US immigration laws for Canada?  Yes, with uncertainty comes confusion and interest levels working in a country where your worker status is unknown and could change at a moment’s notice, people will rethink the US as a go to for technology jobs.  Canada definitely has the need to take on tens of thousands of new technology professionals.   In a recent Huffington post article, it was noted “Out of 527,000 students who graduated in Canada in 2015, only 6 per cent — 29,000 — graduated from an IT field, the report found. Canada would have to graduate around 43,000 IT students per year to keep up with job growth.”  So, let the hiring begin!!

Over the past decade and a half, Canada’s technology sector has been heavily impacted by the brain drain to the south.  According to a recent CBC post, between 30,000 – 40,000 professionals are working in the US under NAFTA’s TN work permit status.  A large percentage of these professionals are technology professionals.   This number does not also include those who are in the US under other work permit categories. So, needless to say, a lot of top Canadian technology talent is working in the US.

Canada’s technology industry has matured significantly over the past 5 years and many US Tier 1 technology firms have expanded their Canadian footprint.  Canadians working in the US now have more opportunities to find similar work to those located in Silicon Valley.  Canada’s technology sector would more than welcome these resources back to Canada as well as those on the global technology marketplace who no longer see the US a viable place to have a technology career.

Canadian technology CEOs and recruiters should take this opportunity to entice Canadian workers back to Canada.  Time to seize the moment!

Sources & Additional Reading 

Does a Great LinkedIn Profile Really Matter?


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Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Does a Great LinkedIn Profile Really Matter?100% YES!  I wrote a post several months back about the importance of a good LinkedIn profile and how to get noticed.

Recently, I was at a client meeting to discuss some upcoming needs and potential candidates we had sourced for a role.  We brought copies of the resumes for reference.  Much to our surprise, the client looked at the candidates’ resumes and immediately went on to LinkedIn.  He pulled up the first candidate’s profile and started to read the candidate’s credentials on LinkedIn, rather than the resume!

I asked the client how often he did this when reviewing potential candidates for an opening and he said he always checked LinkedIn first, prior to even considering the resume.

We walked through the candidate’s Linkedin profile and I asked him what he thought of the candidate.  The first thing he said he looked for was to see if they had a picture.  He felt that candidates who did not have a picture had something to hide.  We further discussed that determining a candidate’s skills and trustworthiness was linked to not only having an updated picture but also to the following

  1. Picture quality and professionalism of the picture
  2. How much information they had on their profile, including dates
  3. Who endorsed them
  4. If there were any common connections

The client also looked to see if the data on the resume was consistent with the data on LinkedIn.  I asked the client if the LinkedIn profile had a lot of impact on whether or not they would interview the candidate, and they said that it absolutely had an impact.  If the online profile does not match what is on the resume, the candidate is quickly discounted.

As mentioned in my previous post, it’s essential to invest the time to create a professional profile and ensure that it is kept up to date.

Graciousness in the Workplace… Where Did it Go?


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Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

Graciousness in the Workplace... Where Did it Go?In today’s fast paced world full of never-ending negative social media blitzes, over-hyped reality television, shock-jocks/journalist rants, and larger than life politicians, it appears that the concept of being gracious to one another has been lost.  People are too focused on trying to get our attention with outrageous and unkind behaviour.  They fail to see that the simple act of being gracious can have a more positive and lasting outcome and, yes, get our attention too!

In speaking with contractors, I always ask them why they left their last place of work.  Did the contract end? What were the people like? What was the work environment like? I often hear how negative workplaces have become, how managers and executives don’t seem to care, and that everyone is too stressed out to focus on basic human decency.  This is one of the main reasons contractors do not take an extension with a current client or want to leave a project early. On the other side of the coin, “Was a candidate gracious?” is not the top reference question a client asks, but they do ask if that person was a team player and were they easy to get along with. Therefore, there’s an argument for everyone, clients and independent contractors, to bring graciousness back into the workplace. So how do we do that?

The simple act of saying THANK YOU goes a really long way.  Often, people will stay in a busy work environment if they know they are working with great people in a team who recognize their effort.

Another easy way is by being in the moment — giving someone your full attention and time. When you are in a meeting, or even more importantly, speaking with someone directly, put away your device.   It shows the person you respect them and value what they have to say.

Give positive feedback along with the negative.  People want to hear the good and the bad but want to hear it in a constructive manner.  Graciousness goes along way when working with others on how to improve their work.  You can still get the same message across without being overly negative.

Be open to helping others.  How?  Some simple ways:

  1. If a new person joins the team, introduce them to others.
  2. Say HI to your co-workers
  3. Recognize people’s achievements – privately and publicly
  4. Be genuine
  5. Share your project knowledge capital and help them get set up for success
  6. Be responsive

I know graciousness is sometimes hard to embrace because it demands our time and it can seem counter intuitive to business strategies that promote looking out for #1. However, graciousness does lead to a better workplace.  A better workplace leads to happier people, and happier people lead to better project outcomes, which lead to better references and more work in the future.  WIN-WIN-WIN for all!

Gaps Between IT Gigs on Your Resume


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Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

How to Overcome Them and Land Your Next Contract or Job

Gaps in Employment - How to Overcome Them and Land Your Next Contract or JobOne of the most common questions I get asked by contractors is how to explain gaps in employment?  My first response is to tell them to be honest with the information on their resume.  I often find both contract and permanent candidates tend to hide the fact they have had gaps in employment, thinking it is often better to gloss over the gaps with vague dates of employment.  In speaking with candidates, I tell them that one of the first red flags a recruiter sees in a resume is either a lack of dates tied to work, grouping of work under one title (ie Consulting) or a resume that is functional skilled base with no reference back to dates.

When a recruiter receives a resume, the first thing they do is look for a continuous stream of employment.  If there are gaps, and there is no explanation on the resume as to what occurred during that time period, it is left up to the recruiter to fill in the story — and this is not a good thing.  People often say they do not want to state what the reason is for the gap and rather explain the gaps in their employment history in an interview.  This strategy often does not work as gaps in a resume can prevent candidates from even making it through to the first interview.

The best way to handle gaps on one’s resume is to fill in the story and not to hide the facts.  Be upfront and honest about why there are gaps:

  1. Explain the reason for the gap. Don’t hide the reason why but own your story. In today’s workplace, clients understand more than ever that there are many reasons for non-continuous work.  From the economy, to personal growth to ailing parents — all of these factors impact ones’ work life.
  2. Keep the explanation brief.
  3. If you left a job voluntarily, don’t be afraid to explain why (i.e. pursue higher education, change of career, etc.)
  4. Match the story on one your resume with the one on social media. Any inconsistencies will lead to not being considered for opportunities.  Recruiters often compare information, especially employment dates, from a resume vs linkedin.
  5. Be accurate with the date between contracts/employment. Often, candidates find it tempting to add months onto the start of employment and to the termination of employment, trying to lessen the time off.  Many clients ask agencies for verification of employment dates.  If the dates confirmed do not match those on the resume or the social media profile, a candidate’s offer can be withdrawn.
  6. Emphasize the positives of a break in employment (i.e. new certifications, volunteer experience, etc…)
  7. If you were let go from a previous employment, be prepared to explain it during an interview and to be positive about the past situation. Being negative about a previous employer is often a turnoff to a potential new employer.

Honesty is always the best policy.

The New Gig Economy for Baby Boomers


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Frances McCart By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle

The New Gig Economy for Baby BoomersThe Globe and Mail recently published an article about all the buzz around the new “gig” economy, and how it is not just for millennials.

A ‘gig economy’ is defined as “an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent work for short-term engagements.”

This article highlights the fact that senior level resources and recently retired executives are now realizing the opportunities that are now present due to the “gig” economy and how they may benefit from them.

Eagle began to see the need to provide clients with access to senior resources (on either an interim or consulting basis) who have left their traditional roles in industry.  Over the past 5 years, since launching the Executive and Management Consulting (EMC) division, we have seen the talent pool of industry experts and former management consultants virtually explode.

Clients are realizing that they can now access these subject matter experts and strategic resources without going the traditional route of engaging a consulting firm.  The resources that we work with bring a depth of expertise and professionalism to a client that often exceeds what they can access through other consulting and sourcing channels – and at a fraction of the cost.  These resources typically bring at least 15-20 years of hands on experience managing large business transformation related projects, or have deep subject matter advisory expertise.

Clients have started to understand the large untapped talent pool of resources who are keen to work and have discovered what an asset they are to their organization.  These resources not only bring in-depth expertise to the client, but an incredible work ethic.  The baby boomer “gig” economy is a fast growing demographic with thousands of people entering the economy every year.  Most candidates that we have spoken to are excited about the opportunities in the market, often not limiting their work to their home city or country.  The key to anyone entering the next stage of their career is to take the time to plan what is most important to you and how to market your new brand into the marketplace.