Nearly every IT contractor experiences it at least once in their career. You’re working hard on a contract for your client and suddenly you get the phone call from your recruitment agency — your contract is being terminated. You may have expected it, but other times, it comes out of the blue and knocks you down. Shocked as you are and with all of the emotions flooding, how you react speaks volumes about your character and will impact your future contract opportunities.
A sudden contract end can be a slap in the face. When you’re caught off guard, a mix of questions and emotions run through you and it’s okay to be angry. Still, as an independent contractor, you also need to remain professional and keep that solid reputation you’ve been building all of these years.
Fighting the news rarely helps, so instead, work with the client and recruiter to pass off knowledge and complete the necessary steps so you can all move on. During the process, ask questions to understand the situation and circumstances of your termination. Are there business factors beyond the control of your immediate manager and recruiter? Was the entire project cancelled? Or were you not fitting into the team? These answers will help you learn for future situations and they will also help you explain the abrupt end to future recruiters and clients.
As things settle down, take a bit of time for yourself. Time to reflect and calm down is crucial whether it’s a few hours, days, or weeks. During this period, you can evaluate your goals and skills to decide what kind of contract you’d like to work on next. Do you need to brush up on any skills? Is there an industry or project you should go after? Are you still happy with your recruiter? Is contracting still for you or is it time to switch back into a permanent position?
While it’s not necessary to jump right back into the job search hours after losing your contract, laying the groundwork recommended. Update your status on LinkedIn and, if it’s not already done, switch your job search preferences on LinkedIn to “Open to new opportunities.” Update your resume as quickly as possible while your project is still fresh in your mind (eliminate any emotions) and upload it to your favourite job boards. These steps will have recruiters looking for you before you even know of the contracts available. Finally, get in touch with a manager or fellow contractor with whom you are still on good terms to ask if they will act as a reference (note, this is not the time to discuss the politics of your termination).
Starting the Job Search
Before starting the in-depth job search, be prepared to talk about the termination. If a recruiter or client asks about the shorter contract or how it ended, have a professional, objective response prepared. That means having the humility to own up to your short comings and, if the client was completely wrong and you believe it was an unethical termination, having the professionalism to refrain from any negativity. A bad attitude can burn bridges and make you appear to be a risky contractor.
Everything else is business as usual! Start networking, applying to jobs, meeting with recruiters and doing what you do best to find that next gig!
If you were caught off guard this time, don’t let it happen again. The pure nature of independent contracting means that sometimes mandates end without notice. Always be networking with industry professionals and recruiters to know what’s happening in the market. Take interviews, learn about opportunities and be aware of competitive rates, even if you’re on what you think will be a long-term contract. It’s also prudent to plan financially and ensure there is a reserve of cash available if you suddenly find yourself without a pay cheque.
Nobody likes losing a job. It’s stressful, terrifying, and a shot to your self-esteem. That being said, it happens, especially when contracting. If the thought really concerns you, we recommend discussing your contracts with a lawyer. The investment may not prevent you from ever being terminated, but it will mitigate your risk and ensure you’re well prepared if the worst does happen.