Talent Development Centre

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The Talent Development Centre includes advice for independent contractors in IT from one of Canada’s top staffing and recruitment agencies. See all posts about confidence.

Building Confidence, Competence and Happiness for Success as an IT Contractor

Build Confidence, Competence and Happiness for Success as an IT ContractorThe very nature of IT can be lonely, especially so for someone working independently. As an independent contractor, you generally don’t have any immediate colleagues. Often your clients want to hand over their problems for you to fix and they don’t want to be caught up in technical issues they don’t understand. They’re happy to leave you on your own. Once you start working on projects you may be surrounded by the world of bits, bytes, code and networks, with little to no human interaction.

It’s enough to make you feel like the old Maytag repairman, the loneliest guy in town. Worse than simply being lonely, your confidence, competence, and happiness can suffer if you’re working in a black box with little to no communication and feedback. You need all three of these attributes to win jobs, negotiate rates, and deal with clients. The good news is that you can take proactive steps to enhance each of these.

Keep your confidence high

Practice regular techniques to maintain a high level of confidence and provide motivation.

  • Solicit customer feedback. If you utilize a simple feedback process, most of the time you’ll get thanks and positive comments. This is not only satisfying, but will help you better understand what your clients value. At times you will get negative comments. Think of these as gifts to help you improve. After all, without feedback, no improvement is possible. Address the issues and your next clients will not have these complaints.
  • Set milestones and goals and celebrate achievement. Since you don’t have a boss to give you a pat on the back, be your own cheerleader. Rather than waiting until the end of a major project to give yourself some recognition, do it daily. Be sure to reflect back on what you have accomplished; don’t just grimace at the long to-do list remaining.

Keep your competence high

In order to be confident, you need to be competent.

  • Benchmark within the IT and greater business field not only for specific technology solutions, but also to understand characteristics and practices of the best IT people.
  • Create your own self-assessment. Using the benchmark information and customer feedback, create a self-assessment process that you can use with each project or client for honest reflection on your strengths and weaknesses, what you delivered, and how you could have done things better.
  • Reinvest in yourself by improving in any areas where you have gaps and building new skills. The world of IT changes practically overnight, meaning clients have constantly changing needs. Stay ahead of the curve by carving out some time to become knowledgeable in new technologies in advance.

Be happy

You are spending 40, 50, or more hours each week at your job. Take steps to make work fun and rewarding.

 

  • Create your own team. If you work independently, you don’t generally have the socialization opportunities that other 9-to-5 business folks have. But you can make them. Take the time and energy to partner with your customer on a personal basis. Participate in networking events. Find a mentor. Put together a team of resources that you can call on for help and reciprocate in turn.
  • Smile. Call center employees are routinely trained to smile while they’re on the phone since customers can hear the pleasantness in their tone of voice. That same effect can work for you in IT, even if you’re the only one who “hears” the smile.
  • Love your work. If you find that the work you do has become tedious, find ways to transition to something that piques your interest. New clients, new technologies, new approaches, and even working in a new setting can make the work itself more enjoyable.
  • Be assertive to meet your rights and needs. Studies have shown that assertiveness at work can help deliver happiness. Although your policy may be that the customer is always right, that doesn’t mean you should let customers walk all over you.

Have difficult clients? Fire them.

Consider this situation. You have a client who:

  • Constantly changes requirements while you are working on his or her project
  • Always demands work to be done on a rush basis, creating disruption to your schedule
  • Asks for a little bit more when you’re approaching the end of the project… and doesn’t understand that a scope change deserves more payment
  • Rarely expresses satisfaction or gratitude
  • Seems to distrust you, even after you’ve worked together multiple times
  • Pays less or takes more time than your other clients

If you do all-in unit costing for this client, including your time for extra bits of communication and changes, you might find that you’re getting a lot less in payment per hour of attention and generating a lot more personal stress compared to any of your other clients.

Of course, your first efforts will be to work with the client through communications and contracting. With tact, process skills, and plenty of patience, you might be able to groom this troublesome client to be as professional as the rest of your customers. However, sometimes this type of client just doesn’t get it… and never will. If that’s the case, you might want to cut your losses. After all, if you get rid of a “bad” client who consumes an inordinate amount of time and causes you stress, you can replace him or her with one or more “good” clients you absolutely love working with.

If you want to fire a client, you will have to be tactful. Let the customer save face to the extent you can without compromising your values or losing significant money. You don’t want to create such hard feelings that your client starts a word-of-mouth campaign to discredit you.

What’s the bottom line?

Until you become the next IT whiz with a success like Apple, Amazon, or Facebook, you’re likely to continue to work largely by yourself and rely on yourself. But that can be quite okay. As the noted author Wayne Dyer said, “You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.”

Visit Acuity Training’s guide to confidence for specific assertiveness tactics to apply throughout each step of your freelance process.

10 Ways to Become a More Confident Person

Lack of confidence can have a large impact on not only your success on IT contracts, but also on many of your daily activities. Not being confident can cause you to have negative thoughts about yourself, which can change your behaviour. When feeling down about yourself, you start to avoid certain situations that make you feel insecure. Luckily, it is possible for anyone to build and develop their self-confidence!

Having confidence is extremely important as it can increase your self-esteem and overall happiness. By improving your self-confidence you will become a more appealing individual in every way! It is completely normal to have off-days where you might not be feeling the greatest, however with these useful tips from Vegas Extreme Skydiving you will be able to learn ways to give a major power boost to your confidence.

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6 Great Ways to Conquer Your Fears [Infographic] by the team at Vegas Extreme Skydiving

How Contractors Can Deal with a Technology Crisis

How Contractors Can Deal with a Technology CrisisThe best independent contractors are the ones who clients see as experts in their field and the truly dependable, go-to person. They develop the best plans, troubleshoot the hardest problems, and come up with the best solutions to the most complex requirements. Above all, the most reputable and trusted technology contractors are the ones who navigate a crisis so smoothly that, even if the end-results are far from ideal, the client still feels they were supported by the most capable IT professional.

For the sake of this post, we’re considering “crisis” to be a situation when a technology breaks or malfunctions to the point that your client’s day-to-date operations are in jeopardy, services are drastically impaired, and/or money is being lost. The way in which you handle such a crisis to bring operations back on track impacts your reputation as an independent contractor significantly. So, when faced with such adversity, it’s in your best interest to roll up your sleeves, step up to the plate, and lead your client and the entire team through the turmoil. Great… so how do you do that?

  1. Stay in the Right Frame of Mind: Before you even talk to people or start tackling issues, the first step when entering “crisis mode” is to be in the proper frame of mind. That means taking a step back to remain calm and positive, without letting emotion get in the way.
  2. Evaluate the Situation: You still aren’t physically doing anything. Now that your head is in the right state of mind, you need to carefully evaluate everything that’s happened and is still happening. Know clearly which stakeholders are being affected, what’s needed to fix the problem, and who will need to be involved. It should be noted that these first two steps need to be completed as quickly as possible. Time is always a factor and it goes by quickly in a crisis, so you need to act quickly so things don’t spin further out of control.
  3. Take Control: People act differently in a crisis. Some will do absolutely nothing except panic. Others will do far worse — they’ll do absolutely everything (usually unhelpful things). Your job is to take control to ensure people are doing what they need to be doing to get through the crisis — nothing more and nothing less. Show your understanding of the situation, explain your plan, and exude confidence so that people want to follow you.
  4. Start Delegating: Assuming you’re in an environment where you’re the most senior person with the most knowledge of the affected technologies, doing all the work means others are sitting on their hands. You may feel like you’re not contributing, but organizing different people and coordinating outcomes is the task a leader needs to focus on.
  5. Stay Realistic: If you’ve properly evaluated the situation, then you should know what the best outcome is going to be. The crisis will end in a worst situation than when you started, so prepare for that and don’t try to fix everything perfectly quite yet. At this stage, you’re still trying to stop the bleeding, regain control, and get everything working well enough so daily tasks can resume.
  6. Evaluate the Situation: We loved Step 2 so much that we’re bringing it back. Once the problem is solved and business is back on track, it’s time to evaluate the situation. What went wrong? What’s still wrong? What was the impact? Who needs to be informed? These are all important questions to discuss with your client to ensure that the crisis is over and that it doesn’t happen again.

Sometimes, your job as an IT contractor in a crisis situation is to follow the delegated person on the client site. In these cases, follow protocol; the organizational structure of your client site will dictate if you’re the right person to lead or not. If you are required to step up, how you react in a crisis will have a direct effect on how those around you also deal with the situation. By leading calmly and rationally, people (especially those who are panicking) will want to follow you. When you maintain a level head and follow the steps above, your followers will too, resulting in a successful end to the crisis, so you can start putting pieces back together and move your project back on track.

Be Confident, Not Arrogant, in Your Next Interview

Be Confident, Not Arrogant, in Your Next InterviewLast summer, we shared stats from a survey of Eagle’s recruiters identifying “Arrogance” as one of the top traits that drive them nuts in an interview. Other surveys have also revealed that being conceited is a simple way to move onto a recruiter’s do-not-call list.

The challenge with advice like “Don’t be arrogant,” is that people rarely know they’re guilty of it. In fact, in many situations, a recruiter may be mistaking a candidate’s nervousness or confidence for egotism. How, then, can you ensure that in your next interview you appear confident and knowledgeable, but not so over-confident that you shed arrogance? Here are a few areas of focus:

It starts when you walk in the door.

Your body language and other small nuances can affect how clients and recruiters think of you from the moment you arrive. For example:

  • Arrive early — Failure to arrive on time can send the message that you think your time is more important than theirs.
  • Dress simply — Of course you need to look professional, but over-dressing can give the wrong impression.
  • Be aware of body language — Looking somebody in the eyes and smiling (not too much, that’s creepy) goes a long way compared to frowning and looking bored. Remember to pay attention to simple gestures. Pointing or crossing your arms can inadvertently give off a condescending vibe.
  • Remember names and past discussions — These small talking points show somebody that they’re more than a potential paycheck, but you value the relationship.

Have meaningful 2-way discussions

You and your skills are the topic of the interview, but, as you already know, this meeting isn’t all about you. Show the interviewer you’re not self-centred:

  • Let them speak — Interrupting an interviewer is insulting, shows little respect, and screams arrogance.
  • Ask questions — This demonstrates that you’re open to learning new things and that you’re not a “know-it-all.”
  • Keep it positive — There will be disagreements and clarifications, but disputing everything an interviewer has to say or getting offended too easily will take the interview in the wrong direction.
  • Avoid overly-technical jargon — Great recruiters understand your skills, but if they knew everything you know, they’d be taking your contracts. Speaking to them too technically can appear as belittling or as an attempt to prove their ignorance.

Sell all dimensions of your experience

You are the common denominator in all of your successes, but you weren’t the only factor. Recruiters and clients know that there’s more to your success than just you, and they want to make sure you know it too.

  • Give examples of collaboration and team work — Talk about the other people on the team and why they were important.
  • Give credit to others – It can come across as far-fetched if you were the “hero” on every
  • Admit error – It’s also unbelievable that you never made a mistake. Identifying them and explaining how you fixed them is a humbling trait.
  • Don’t be too humble — Sorry for the contradiction. If you’re too humble, an interviewer may read that as fake and forced, trying to hide your arrogance.

Perception is everything. Even the most humble people can appear to be arrogant with the wrong cues, often stemmed by nerves or trying too hard. To simplify this entire article follow this one piece of advice: Always be polite!

These tips can be used in all interviews, with clients and recruiters, as well as meetings with any team. Is there anything you would add? Are there any other clues that cause you to find somebody as arrogant? Please share them in the comments below!