Talent Development Centre

Category Archives: IT Contracting

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to independent contracting.

Questions to Ponder for a Post-Pandemic “Office”

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Senior Vice President, Business Development at Eagle

As most of the country outside of the Maritimes are working through new stricter lockdowns to deal with a surging COVID virus in a predicted winter spike, we hold out increased hope that beyond the next few months there will be better days ahead as the vaccine gets distributed to the wider Canadian and global population. With that, it’s fair to ask what will change as workplaces begin to reopen and what lessons have we learned about remote working.

The IT/Technology industry “at large” was able to pivot relatively seamlessly, as one may have assumed, to working remotely with very few hiccups. The Federal Government impressed with the ability to get much needed fiscal programs up and running digitally in record time, at the same time as they moved the majority of their workforce home; likewise, for many in private sector.

So, what to make as we move forward and the pandemic has all but normalized remote work? Will we go to the office again, and if so, at what frequency? Is it a hybrid model of working? What changes are to come in how we communicate, connect and innovate?

But, is there any real choice? Recent polls of many knowledge workers showed that only 12% want to go back to full time office-based work and more than 70% prefer a hybrid model. What that means and where we go from here raises more questions than answers.

The shift to more remote work, or even all remote, is massive and consequential as both employers and people make new choices about where they in fact live and where they hire from. Senior Federal Government executives have talked now about truly decentralizing both FTE jobs and contracts outside of Ottawa and across to the rest of the country.

With a “virtual first” default mode, we are definitely seeing changes in the way clients hire, looking beyond geographic boundaries to search and hire nationally and indeed globally. Perhaps it was a natural change in the way we source talent, but nevertheless, that direction has been accelerated now.

There are a number of other societal impacts, and while the grind of the one hour plus commutes to downtown cores will not be missed, what’s to become of the many downtown restaurants, dry cleaning stores, cleaners, retail stores and all of the workers and support staff in those industries? The estimates are there is as much as 60% of today’s workforce that can’t work remotely who are at risk as we move forward. What of working parents with children at home and all the inherent challenges that can pose? The burden on working parents in these circumstances is real and, in many ways, unsustainable.

As social beings, we all need human interaction and as we move to a remote/ hybrid model, what of the “natural” conversations that help bind us, and in work teams, help us grow, solve problems and innovate? The pandemic has led to a loneliness epidemic for many. There are a number of indicators that this is particularly harder on younger workers, millennials and Gen Z’ers, as many friendships, and in fact social circles, are formed through office or location-based work. The inability to be face-to-face with co-workers or with clients is a challenge. We as humans communicate through more than words, but also by body language and tone, which all are more difficult to “interpret ” and process over a Zoom call. How do organizations work to establish their culture and values without the “heartbeat” of an office and coworkers and, yes Managers, who strive to demonstrate and live the company culture?

It will be incumbent on leaders to look to other ways to promote their values, goals and culture to ensure a dispersed workforce understands what that is and can participate and grow in it.

Change is good and there is much good that will come out of this dreadful year in our lives. We all we need to take the time now to help shape how we want to live, work, and play post-pandemic, such that we are living balanced, healthy and productive lives. Let’s stay tuned.

In the meanwhile, stay safe, be kind!

Contractor Quick Poll Results: How do you spend your lazy time?

Almost all of us love (and need) a lazy day here and there. A day where you turn off your mind, relax your body, and indulge. And there’s no better time to have one of those days than during the Winter (and depending where you are, while on Lockdown). While we all might plan a do-nothing day now and then, how we spend it will be different.

In last month’s contractor quick poll, before we took a break for the holidays, we asked our readers how they spend lazy days. Results were mixed, but the majority said they like reading or binge-watching a series. We also had a few write-ins which included playing music, leaning and exercising. And, naturally, there were a few go-getters who say there’s simply no such thing as a lazy day inside.

Here’s a complete look at how people answered:

Quick Poll Results: How do you spend your downtime?

Landing an IT Contract with a New Recruiter

Landing an IT Contract with a New Recruiter

You’re scrolling through your favourite job board looking for your next contract, when you come across the perfect opportunity. The requirements mirror your skillset, you have plenty of experience in that industry and it’s scheduled to start right when your current contract is ending. But, as you double-check who posted it, this job is through a staffing agency you’ve never heard of before. After confirming with the recruiters who you know at other agencies, it’s certain, this job is only available through an unknown recruitment agency. How can you still guarantee a good shot at it?

Don’t Hesitate — Apply to the Job

If there’s any chance you might want to work on this contract (and you know you’re qualified), then apply to it. The recruiting world moves quickly and jobs close within days, sometimes hours, so you want your name in front of the recruiter as soon as possible. That being said, check the date the job was posted. If it’s been up for a couple weeks, it can either mean that the job has been filled OR the recruiter is struggling to fill it and you’re going to be their saviour. Either way, it’s good intelligence for the upcoming steps.

Also look carefully through the posting to see if there’s any reference to an individual recruiter who’s working on the role or direct contract information to learn more about the job. Finally, take note of the Job ID and the exact job title. These will be important for referencing the job in your upcoming conversation with the recruiter.

Do Some Research

Make no mistake, your upcoming conversation with the recruiter is going to be a sales call for your business, so prepare as any good sales person would before making a cold call. One of the first steps a sales professional will go through is researching the prospect.

Start by looking up the staffing agency. Check out their website, online reviews (ex. Google, Indeed, Glassdoor) and LinkedIn. Does this appear to be an organization who you want to do business with? Check if they appear to be ethical, if other contractors are satisfied with them, and whether they have many similar opportunities or if this job is a one-off.

Next, look-up a few of their recruiters on LinkedIn. If you have a name related to this specific job, even better, but if not, just find two or three who might be working on this job. Look for contact information, see if you have similar contacts in your network, and learn a couple tidbits of information about them.

Finally, conduct a few informal references. Although there are hundreds of recruitment agencies, the industry is still fairly close-knit. Between other recruiters and IT contractors in your network, somebody is sure to have worked with this recruitment agency before. Find out who and ask about their experience. Even better, see if somebody can give you an introduction to a recruiter.

Make that Cold Call

Now that you’ve applied to the job and armed yourself with the right information, it’s time to make that phone call, even if you still don’t know who you’re calling. Here are a few tips for a successful cold call with a recruiter:

  • Be prepared to speak with a receptionist first. If you don’t have a contact name, have the Job ID and job title ready so they can connect you with the right person.
  • Get the recruiter’s contact info. Before the receptionist transfers you, confirm the name, extension and email address of the recruiter they’re about to send you to. If they don’t answer their phone, you can now follow-up with them directly.
  • Provide a quick introduction. Grab the recruiter’s attention by telling them a bit about yourself, and more importantly, how you will help them. Tell them quickly which job you’re interested in, that you’ve applied, and why you qualify. There’s a chance the recruiter hasn’t even looked at applications yet because they started talking with professionals in their own network. You need to make sure they know that you’re the best option.
  • Be prepared for an interview. The recruiter might want to learn more about you right away, so make sure you’re ready for a phone interview if it turns into that.
  • Or be prepared to schedule a follow-up call. In other cases, the recruiter will want to schedule a follow-up call for when they have more time to chat.
  • Remember the Job might already be filled. If the recruiter brushes you off, telling you the job is already closed, don’t end the call quite yet. Dig for information about similar jobs in the future and how you can be considered right away. Make sure the recruiter knows who you are and the skills you possess.
  • Send a follow-up email. Finally, regardless of the outcome of the call, send a follow-up email, including your resume and contact information. Especially if you have a good feeling about this recruiter and staffing agency, you’ll want to keep this relationship growing.

Everybody needs to cold call a new recruiter sometimes, whether you’re starting your career and trying to build a name for yourself in the IT contracting world or you’re an experienced professional who needs to start working with a new staffing agency. Hopefully these tips will help you get there quickly and effectively, easily landing you that job and a new relationship for future IT contract opportunities.

Contractor Quick Poll: What do you want to get from a contract?

Great IT contractors are service-oriented. You’re focused on delivering a quality solution to your client so their organization can thrive and you can leave knowing the team is in good hands. That professional attitude is great and all, but let’s be honest, you had some other, more selfish reasons for accepting that gig.

The majority of us are working because it pays the bills. Ultimately, we look for the contract that has the best rate, plus a few other outcomes that benefit you. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we’re seeking to learn what else gets you excited for a contract. When you finish, aside from having made money, how do you consider it to have been successful for you?

How to Make Sure You’re Paid on Time

How to Make Sure You're Paid on Time

Of all of the benefits of IT contracting, a steady and reliable pay cheque is not at the top of the list. Work is not guaranteed and you always have to set cash aside for the slow periods. Even when you do have a gig, all independent contractors have a story about payments arriving late which can have a ripple effect on your life.

Especially if you’re set-up as an incorporated business, you have a responsibility as the supplier of services to provide the proper requirements and paperwork to the client before they’re obligated to make payment. There is no employer/employee relationship that mandates you receive your pay cheque on time. Here are a few tips to help make sure your money gets to you when you need it:

Get Set-Up and Understand the Process as Soon as Possible

As soon as your new contract is signed, scour the documentation and ask your recruiter questions about how their payment process works. Every staffing agency has unique processes so don’t assume it will be the same as your last gig. As soon as possible, be sure to send over all of the documentation they ask for, such as EFT information and business details. Submitting this at the last-may hold-up your first payment.

Respect Deadlines

Don’t just get your EFT information submitted on time, but ensure your approved timesheets are always submitted on time throughout the entire contract. Know the deadlines for each period and set reminders in your calendar so you can complete the documentation as necessary. Since each client will have different requirements, some timesheets will need more detail and, therefore, a time commitment from you. Build that into your planning.

Follow-Up with Your Approver

This is the part of the process where you have less control but you can still take some ownership. When you notice your timesheet has not been approved and the deadlines are looming, give the approver a nudge. It may have gone to spam or there might be a discrepancy they’ve been meaning to discuss with you. Either way, when deadlines are missed and your pay doesn’t arrive, pointing blame back to the approver won’t bring your money to you any faster.

Pay Attention to the Detail on Your Invoices

Going back to point number one, understand what your staffing agency has to see on your invoice before making a payment. Perhaps its detailed timeframes or explanations of projects. If you’re charging HST, the proper HST number must be included. It would suck not to receive timely payment simply because your invoice was missing a line that would have taken you a minute to include.

Ask Around About Your Agency

Let’s back-up to before you even accept a placement. Did you reference check your new recruitment agency? Surely your network will have a few other contractors who have worked with this company in the past, so ask them those important questions, including information about their time entry process and reliability for payments.

There are plenty of ways the time-entry, invoicing and payment process can go off the rails when you’re on contract, but the five tips above are the most common preventative measures you can take. Throughout your placement, continue following-up and asking questions to ensure things are running smoothly, and hold the staffing agency accountable if they do miss payment at no fault of yours. Finally, take advantage of all the tools at your disposal. Accounting software, calendar apps, reminders, the client’s timesheet system — all of these tools combined will help you get your time submitted quickly and properly, and ultimately, paid on time.

Review of the Top 25 Job Search and Contracting Tips You Might Have Missed

2020 will go down in history as an unpredictable year, full of surprises and learning experiences that, although often stressful, will make us all better people in the end. The holidays are a great time to look back and reflect on the last year — What went well? What could have gone better? How will it be better next year?

The Talent Development Centre had 145 new posts over 2020, including job market updates, quick polls and some excellent tips and tricks from industry experts. Many of those posts were packed with valuable knowledge and were well received, so we want to make sure you saw them. Here’s a collection of the top-viewed informational posts from 2020:

COVID-19 Support

There’s no ignoring the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic defined 2020. When it hit, Eagle was quick to gather as much information as we could regarding government support to help IT contractors navigate the fast-changing updates. Over the following months, we provided some additional articles for coping, as well as uplifting success stories, all of which are still very relevant today:

IT Contracting

Even the most seasoned IT contractors continue to learn the ins and outs of the independent contracting world. It can be complex and, like everything else in today’s reality, it’s always changing. These articles were among the most popular guidance we provided to IT contractors in the past year:

Working with Recruiters

A natural part of being a successful IT contractor is building great relationships with recruiters to leverage your network and gain more access to jobs. Here are the top tips on that topic:

Job Interviews

There are many steps in a job search, but it turns out the area our readers were most interested in learning about in 2020 were job interviews. Specifically, these posts were most popular:

Other Job Search Posts

In addition to interviews-related articles, here are a few other job search tips and tricks that hundreds of contractors grabbed knowledge from this year:

Personal Development

Finally, whether it’s professional skills or soft skills, helping yourself become a better person is not only beneficial for your career, but your personal life as well. Here are a few posts we published in 2020 that help you add new lines to your resume, or just become a better individual to work with:

What was your favourite post in 2020? Is there a topic you would like to see more of? Please share your feedback with us so we can continue to provide the best resources that IT contractors need to be successful.

Quick Poll Results: Do you listen to podcasts?

Podcasts are a great source of education, entertainment and a combination of the two. People love them for keeping up with current events and trends, hearing an interview with their favourite influencer, learning more about an interesting topic or just killing time.

In last month’s contractor quick poll, we were curious about how many of our readers embrace podcasts and build them into their regular sources of information. It turns out there is a fairly equal mix among Canadian IT contractors. While the majority of respondents did say that they either have a favourite or check-in now and then, a good chunk also said they rarely or never listen to podcasts, or at least haven’t in a long time.

The full results are below. Do you listen to podcasts? If so, what’s your favourite one to check out? If not, what’s been stopping you?

Quick Poll Results - Do You Listen to Podcasts?

Contractor Quick Poll: How do you spend those Lazy Days?

It’s that time of year! Those months when it’s more comfortable to stay inside and enjoy the comfort of your home rather than be outside in the winter weather. And that’s especially more enticing over the holiday season. Even for those Canadians who love being outdoors this time of year, inevitable extreme cold, snow storms, and ice rain will force everyone to cancel plans and stay home here and there.  Throw in physical distancing measures and you’re guaranteed a few lazy days in your near future. So, what are you going to do?

Sure, there’s work to be done for clients and chores to tackle around the house, but we all need time to do absolutely nothing. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we want to know your favourite way to spend a do-nothing, lazy day when you’re stuck inside.

You’re Coming Off a Long-Term IT Contract… What Now?

You're Coming Off a Long-Term IT Contract… What Now?

Graeme Bakker By Graeme Bakker,
Director, Delivery Strategy & Development at Eagle

There’s nothing better than getting into a groove with the right client on the right project. The work is exciting, the team is fantastic and the pay isn’t so bad either. As you build relationships and get deeper into the project, your client is thrilled to extend your contract a few times, and before you know it, this has been your main gig for a few years. But alas, all good things must come to an end. The project is complete and as much as the client would love to reassign you, there just isn’t much going on right now. Suddenly, you find yourself back on the market.

Here are a few tips if you’re finding yourself job searching, or plan to be soon, and haven’t been in these shoes for a while:

  • Be proactive. If you are coming off of a lengthy contract, make sure to get ahead of your search and give yourself plenty of time before the current contract runs out.
  • If you take break, do it with caution. Many senior consultants will tell me that they are not worried about taking a couple months off if they can’t find something right away. This is not a good move as the majority of the time those couple months can add up to more time than you are comfortable with. In today’s market, it is never a bad idea to always have ‘irons in the fire.’
  • It’s going to be work, and you should be prepared for that. The market is always changing and what was in-demand and trendy might not be the way of the world since you were last looking for a role. You might have to interview more than once and the first role you interview for might not go through. Be prepared to do some work on your resume, put the ego aside and get all the information you can from your recruiter.
  • Stay connected. Speak with a recruiter (and continue to do so on all your contracts) so that you can keep your ear to the ground and are aware of what to expect since you were last interviewing. Staying up to date on the market trends throughout all your contracts is a good way to stay educated on what is expected for the next job.
  • Network! If you are not still doing this, it would be a good time to get back into networking events to put yourself out there and start to get used to selling yourself and your skills again. This will allow you to work out the interview muscles and get used to being forward about your accomplishments.
  • Be open to permanent roles. You might have been on the contract for quite a while and enjoyed the stability. In the current landscape and market we are in now, permanent roles are surfacing more and more. Be open to all opportunities, you never know.

Being back on the market after a long IT contract can be daunting and nerve-wracking. Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. Reach out to your favourite tech recruiter and I guarantee they’ll be happy to get you on your way and into your next placement before you know it.

Video Conferencing Etiquette

Video Conferencing Etiquette

If it wasn’t part of your regular job pre-COVID, surely by now, video meetings are a staple of your work life, and maybe even your social life. In the past year we’ve all had significantly fewer in-person meetings and instead we’re looking like the Brady Bunch multiple times a day.

Successful meetings have always required preparation, structure and respect. Video meetings are no different, but those basic rules look a bit different with some new etiquette. Here are some of those “extras” you need to keep in mind:

Be Prepared

Great meetings start with an agenda sent out to the participants before-hand. Then, as a participant, you do your research and prepare your notes, ensuring you can contribute valuable input.

Today, as a host, when you send that agenda you also need to send the login information, as well as let people know if video will be required. After all, your participants can’t prepare themselves for a video call if they don’t know it’s an expectation. Nobody like’s a surprise video call!

When you receive an invitation to a meeting that will have video, you should also prep a few things. At this point, you’re probably already mostly there. Hopefully you’re working in an environment with a professional-looking background and you’ve invested in a reliable mic and camera. That said, technology fails at the most inconvenient times. Log into meetings a few minutes early so you can run through a test, making sure mic works and your camera is well-aligned.

In final preparation, make sure you understanding the platform. If you always use Zoom and you get an invitation to a Zoom meeting, then great! You can be confident your computer is set-up. But what if an invitation comes in for a lesser-known platform, like BlueJeans. When you see that show-up in an invitation, it’s wise to visit their website, run any set-ups and do some tests long before the meeting starts.

Be Respectful

Hopefully you only attend meetings where everybody is respectful to their colleagues. Good manners and a smile go a long way in accomplishing the goals of a meeting and getting past conflict. In the past months, we’ve learned that there are entirely new ways to be disrespectful during a meeting.

Working from home brings background noise. Spouses might have their calls of their own, kids might (will) fight as soon as you get onto the call, and it seems like the Amazon delivery person stands outside your door and waits for you to log-on before ringing the door bell and angering your dog. That’s OK! It’s reality. But you can also minimize how much it disrupts your meeting.

Before the call starts, let those around you know you’ll be on a call and try to set yourself up in a quiet room where you won’t be interrupted. More importantly, though, use the mute button! Get in the habit of hitting mute as soon as you’re finished talking. Sure, at some point you’ll be “that person” who forgets to unmute, but at least you won’t be the unthoughtful person preventing good conversation.

And, of course, we can’t talk about respect without bringing up the annoying awkward, unavoidable “go ahead… no you go ahead… no… ok I’ll… oh….” Interruptions and talking over each other can sometimes be avoided by following a few respectful rules. Give some breathing time between speakers and letting them finish their thought before chiming in. That is simple but comes with one other requirement — don’t hog the spot light. If you ramble for minutes without coming up for air, then yes, somebody is going to interrupt you and no, they are not the one being disrespectful.

Be Structured

Finally, great meetings have structure. They follow a specific agenda, have outcomes and goals, and are led by a facilitator. Remote, video calls require even more structure. As noted in our previous point, it’s easy for somebody to run away with the meeting and talk too much. A great facilitator has to be ready to cut people off, use the “Mute All” button and call on people who are being drowned out.

Another great tool to leverage in video that helps keeps things organized (and is unavailable in face-to-face meetings) is the chat feature. Yes, sidebar conversations in private chat can be harmful to a meeting’s productivity, but an ability to PM the facilitator asking questions or requesting the floor, all without interrupting the dialogue, is game-changing!

A team who has effective meetings is guaranteed to have a better project outcome than the unprepared, disrespectful, unstructured team. And, after so many months of work-from-home, “sorry, this is all new to me” is no longer a valid excuse for your poor etiquette on a call. Are you putting in effort to make your calls amazing?