Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: contracting

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

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.

The Key Differences Between Contract and Permanent Resumes

Alison Turnbull By Alison Turnbull,
Delivery Manager at Eagle

The Key Differences Between Contract and Permanent ResumesYour resume is one of your best marketing tools.  In addition to a great social media profile, your resume is the primary tool used to get you through the door for an interview, affording you valuable face-to-face time to ultimately sell yourself to a potential employer.

Candidates often ask how their resumes should differ if they are targeting permanent vs contract employment.  In many cases there would be significant differences, and we strongly recommend having more than one CV if candidates are genuinely interested in both permanent and contract work.

For consulting opportunities, clients are generally focused on a candidate’s ability to come in, hit the ground running and successfully deliver on a very specific mandate.  Consulting resumes are often longer and more detailed, particularly when consultants are bidding on public sector work.  In these cases, clients require very detailed information to clearly show that a consultant’s experience fits their mandatory requirements.  Clients are typically seeking someone who has ‘been there, done that’ as there is little ramp up and training time afforded in the contract world.

For permanent employment opportunities, clients are trying to gauge a candidate’s overall fit for not only the role, but the organization as well.  It is, therefore, not only essential to focus on past achievements and quantifying details on how you have benefited your previous employers and added value to the organization, but also to provide some insight into your work ethic, leadership style and ultimately your personality.

To offer an example, a Project Manager’s consulting resume should always have details provided for key projects including budget, team size, initiative and the outcome (was the project completed on time, under budget).  It’s also important to list specific dates as clients are particularly interested in frequency and duration of contracts.  For a Project Manager’s permanent resume, it would be more important to keep the resume concise and to capture the reader’s interest — but also to show how you can provide value to the organization beyond just leading projects.  It might make sense to provide more of an overall synopsis of achievements but offer an addendum of projects that can be provided on request.

There are many free tools and templates available today, so be sure to do ample research and ensure that your resume is keeping ‘up with the times’.   Is it time for you to revamp your resume(s)?

10 Important Things to Remember Before Becoming a Travelling Freelancer

Eagle typically recruits independent contractors who work on technology projects at a client site, or at least in the same city as their home. Occasionally IT professionals will take a gig in another city and do some travel, and while this trend has picked up in the current economy, it’s still less frequent for us. As such, most of the posts in the Talent Development Centre are directed to IT contractors who work in their hometown.

There is another side of contracting and freelancing that we don’t touc10 Important Things to Remember Before Becoming a Travelling Freelancerh on much, but may pique the interest of technology professionals, depending on where they are in life. We brag about the freedoms that come with working for yourself, including the ability to take time off and travel, but what about the ability to travel while working? This is a common practice and, if you’ve been meaning to see the world, may be something for you to try for a year or two. Before quitting your job or deciding not to renew your current contract, consider some of these tips for working while travelling the world:

  1. Have a plan! This is common sense, but please do not pick up and leave with no plan. Know where you’re going to start, and more importantly, have a client or two lined up at your first stop.
  2. Know your worth. Understand how much you can charge in the city you’re working. Remember, markets are different so what you make in one place may not equate.
  3. Have an office. Doing contract work on a sidewalk or a coffee shop is going to get old. Do some research to share an office or workspace while you’re stationed in a city.
  4. You may not always want cash. Prepare to barter. Perhaps you can work for a place to stay, a workspace, or even food.
  5. Stay disciplined. Exploring new places and meeting new people makes it easy to get distracted from your work. Remember that your clients are the reason you’re affording to travel, so you must keep them satisfied and serve them first.
  6. Organization is key. With such little consistency in your life, you need some form of organization and routine if you want to ensure you’ll get things done.
  7. Pack light. Not just clothes, but you can’t be a technology diva either. It’s difficult to lug around a desktop computer and even some laptops may be excessive. Also keep in mind that everything you pack can be lost. Consider cloud storage and renting equipment with your office space.
  8. Research the legal side. How long are you allowed to stay in a specific country? What are the accounting implications of working abroad? Discuss your plans with an immigration lawyer and have a thorough understanding of what you can and can’t do in every location you visit.
  9. Find the right project and location is irrelevant. It goes without saying, but technology contractors especially rarely need to be in the same office as their client. If you plan right, you may be able to work on a single project from multiple cities.
  10. Don’t forget to take in the experience. We’re stressing the importance of working hard and serving your clients, but you’re also experiencing something few people will ever do. Remember to take a few days and enjoy savour the experience in every place you visit.

Countless people dream of travelling the world in their lifetime and never do it. If you share that dream, possess the skills, and are in a position in life to do it, then get out there and enjoy the experience. Before you do though, know exactly what you’re getting yourself into and how you’ll deal with all of the challenges. Have fun!

Applying for a Contract Job vs a Permanent Position

How to Adjust the Way You Search for Jobs When Looking for IT Contract Work

Applying for a Contract Job vs a Permanent PositionSwitching from being a full-time employee to an independent contractor comes with many changes. Everything from your lifestyle to how you get paid to where you go to work will suddenly be different. One change often overlooked by new IT contractors is the way they search for new work.

The first step in understanding how to look for work as a contractor is to know how and why hiring managers are seeking contractors. When dealing with permanent employees, HR departments search for long-term team members who will be a fit with the organization. They want a professional who will be there long-term to grow with the company. When contractors are the preferred choice, it’s often for a specific project and the hiring process is often managed through a separate department such as Procurement. The manager is primarily seeking somebody who has the skills to complete the job at the right price — personality and cultural fit is important, but rarely the top priority. Essentially, it becomes a business-to-business relationship.

Where Should You Look for IT Contracts?

Like any other job search, job boards and social networks are a good start for finding IT contracts. As well, there are websites such as Upwork and Freelancer that are designed specifically for connecting freelancers with companies looking for projects.

Don’t ignore the power a recruitment agency can have in finding you contract work. Staffing agencies will have multiple contracts available for you and the great ones will help you throughout your career. Building valuable relationships with the right recruiters could mean you’ll never have to search for work again. Instead, work will find you.

Finally, keep networking. Not just with Recruiters, but every professional you meet. As your network and reputation as a quality IT contractor grows, the effort you need to put into finding work will shrink.

Change the Way You Communicate

We can’t say it enough — being a contractor is completely different than being an employee and companies want to know that you understand that difference to protect them from certain risks. Demonstrate that you are in the correct mindset by adjusting your communication in resumes, interviews and on the job.

  • Ditch the cover letter. This traditional standard is in the process of phasing out for full-time jobs, but in contracting, it’s nearly useless. If anything, a summary in an introductory email will suffice.
  • Within your resume, eliminate any personal hobbies or career goals that employers typically look at to understand if you’re a fit in their organization and make sure you include a Profile Summary which outlines your key skills and experience.
  • Your interview will be more skills-based with questions targeted at learning how you will complete a specific project. While preparing for it, focus at answering questions related to the environment rather than where you see yourself in five years.
  • Keep in mind specific vocabulary that needs to change. For example as a contractor, you should talk about “rate” and rather than “salary”.

Before You Start Applying to IT Contracts

Prepare yourself before you start applying to these contract roles by understanding everything that comes with being a contractor. This includes a thorough comprehension of the business risks, knowing how accounting and taxes will be managed, finding a suitable insurance package and properly budgeting for the fact that paid vacation days and benefits are a thing of the past. We also strongly recommend incorporating your independent contracting business, as it will come with long-term tax benefits and make you more attractive to future clients. Finally, conduct extensive research to understand your rate as an independent contractor. Without this, you will either get stuck working for much less than you’re worth or not working at all due to a rate demand that’s out-of-sync with the current market.

Switching to independent contracting is an exciting. By understanding the application process and leveraging the tools available, you can cross “finding work” off of your list of stressors.

Permanent Employment vs. Contracting: A Fine Line with No Clear “Right” Answer

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

As a tech professional, whether you prefer being an employee or an independent contractor, it’s best to take a focused approach.

Contractor Making a DecisionContractors (or rather those considering becoming a contractor) frequently ask me whether being a permanent employee or a contractor is the best way to go.  There’s no correct answer to this question.

Certainly, the world is heading towards what many are calling the “Gig Economy” and this means that not only will contingent workers be more in demand, people will begin differentiating themselves from their industry peers by marketing themselves as professional contractors.  Eagle has witnessed fantastically talented people who, having been an employee for many years with the same company, struggle to find work as their “loyalty” is actually viewed as a detriment to their resume – how different the world is from that in the ‘70s and ‘80s when longevity at a single company was a filter companies used to identify good “company” men and women.

That said, companies often do show more loyalty and will make greater investments into the skills of their employees.  Contract professionals are expected to keep themselves up on the latest technologies, approaches, etc. and it is expected that they come to a new position ready to go and able to deliver.  Even so, job security for employees is not what it once was and, when times are tough, they can see themselves between jobs just as easily as contactors.

Many people are trying to sell themselves as interested in both – employee positions and temporary contracts.  But there is a drawback to this as well.  Prospective employers may be concerned that a person’s interest in one or the other is only temporary and they may fear that you will not be as committed to this course as others might be.  We have seen over the past 5+ years that specialization, especially within the IT industry, has trumped generalization.  Eagle used to track which people were specialists in a certain area or areas and which people had more of a generalist capability.  The companies that Eagle works with have almost exclusively moved to a “specialist-only” mentality when it comes to hiring contract workers; and there has been a noticeable trend toward this for full-time permanent employment positions as well.  We now focus only on what applicants are best at and we market this to our clients.  Hiring managers want to know what people stand for, where their interests lie and what they are good at. So, saying you are interested in both contract and permanent opportunities in equal measure no longer makes you a match for either.

The key to making the right choice (for you!) in this matter is to “Know Thyself”.  Know what you really want from work and your career; and design your education and your work experience to reflect your goals.  That way your personal branding can be clear and on-point. If you are clear on what you want and build your resume accordingly, companies will see that you know where you are heading and you will set yourself apart from these other “lost souls” that try to sell themselves as a jack of all trades. Whichever direction you choose to go, do so with a plan and arm yourself with the knowledge and expectations needed to fit in and be successful.

Here are some links to articles on the web that can help inform you so that you may chart your course…

Independent Contractor Rate Negotiation Mistakes

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Branch Manager at Eagle

5 Errors IT Professionals Sometimes Make

5 Negotiation Mistakes Independent Contractors Sometimes MakeAs an independent contractor, you have the opportunity to interact with any number of recruiters in your local market or, if your skills are in demand, agents from all over the world. You probably find that it is not uncommon to have conversations with recruiters that you’ve never spoken to before, never mind worked with on a contract together. And more often than not, the initial conversation you are having with a complete stranger, involves a career decision with financial implications. Negotiations are difficult enough without having to enter into a rate discussion with a total stranger. Money is personal and the questions that are sometimes asked to establish parameters around rate can be uncomfortable. But rate is key to any contract discussion and you need to be prepared to enter into these discussions with Recruiters in an open and forthright manner.

Part of being prepared for these discussions is to understand myths surrounding staffing agencies and how to negotiate with them. The following are some common mistakes I’ve seen independent contractors make when negotiating with recruiters.

  1. More is better: Wrong! Trying to always increase your rate can affect your career negatively. I’ve seen candidates who play hard ball on rate and ignore the advice of the Recruiter end up pricing themselves out of the running due strictly to price. Professional recruiters will have client and market knowledge and apply that knowledge to price their candidates competitively. Every position is unique and market conditions can change rapidly (Hello Calgary!). Don’t forget as well that rate is a reflection of your seniority and professional standing. If you do manage to hit a home run and boost your rate, don’t forget that the client’s expectations can and most likely will be tied to the rate you negotiated. If you can’t deliver to those expectations, the results can be serious.
  2. I’m getting ripped off: There is no denying that contractors have developed a level of caution when dealing with Recruiters. Some recruiters in an effort to pad their commissions have unscrupulously negotiated with candidates with no concern for building mutual trust or delivering a quality service to the contractor community. I can say confidently that the staffing industry has matured and the level of professionalism has grown. But if you do find yourself with concerns about the Recruiter you are talking to, remember, you are not obligated to work with that person. If you want to perform a quick test, ask the recruiter what their philosophy around margin looks like and see if they are able to give you a satisfactory response. If the Recruiter is not comfortable disclosing this or mumbles their way through an explanation, maybe it’s time to end the conversation.
  3. They don’t need that information: If you are dealing with a Recruiter for the first time, they may be interested in what you have earned in previous contracts. The simple reason for this is to try and establish at what level you have been working and what your skillset has been paying in the market. Remember that if you exaggerate your numbers, you may be creating a set of perceptions around who and what you are and the Recruiter may make a decision that you aren’t a fit for the role they are working on. Again, a good recruiter will be able to offer you insight on the rate you have been earning and how it fits their client’s present needs. And a really good recruiter will identify when a market is ready to offer you a higher rate or conversely, when it is time to bring your number down to remain competitive.
  4. I’ll agree now but will secretly wait for a better offer: Once you’ve negotiated a rate and you have agreed to be represented by a particular recruiter that you feel comfortable with, DO NOT attempt to renegotiate days later after another Recruiter calls and offers $5/hr more. You’ve already entered into an agreement with one Recruiter who has likely submitted your resume to the client. Any Recruiter who tries to convince you to go with them for a bit more money is putting your candidacy for that role in jeopardy. Professional staffing firms and their clients want to work with contractors who exhibit honesty and integrity. Demonstrating that you are unable to commit to an agreement is a direct reflection on your business practices.
  5. Every situation is the same: Finally, as already mentioned, every situation is not the same. What one client is willing to pay for a specific skillset is not the same as another. And market conditions can change from one day to the next and impact rates. Listen carefully to the Recruiter and gauge what they are saying. Do they have a lot of knowledge of the position, the client, the market in which the contract exists and your skillset? Ask questions and if you don’t like the approach or the answers, it’s simple. Nothing is forcing you to work with that individual.

Have you made any mistakes while negotiating that you later regretted? Please share your experiences with our readers so we can all learn from each other.

Applying for IT Contracts in a Fast-Paced World

Brendhan Malone By Brendhan Malone,
Vice-President, Central Canada at Eagle

Fast-Moving Independent ContractorIn today’s economy, as technology continues to improve efficiencies and speed up every company’s day-to-day business, the speed at which these organizations procure IT contract resources has never been faster.  This makes it critical for staffing agencies and independent contractors to adjust in order to survive the new pace of hiring. Here are 3 secrets for contractors that will help you get in front of more clients:

Understand the Deadlines

Most large organizations have deadlines for submittal in all of their programs.  This timeframe is usually 24-48 hours.  While we may want to debate how effective or ultimately valuable these deadlines are, they are here and likely here to stay.  What does this mean? When you are looking for your next assignment, it is imperative that you are available either by email or phone.  Often times the job closes early as the client has had enough submissions, and only the first qualified submissions through the door are considered — those that followed are not.  This means that the contractors who are responsive and ready are the ONLY ones considered for the job.

Build Relationships

When you have an existing relationship and strategy with a recruiter, these deadlines are much easier to meet. Make sure that the recruiters you work with know who you are.  The relationship and background work that has already been done is invaluable in decreasing the time it takes to submit you to a client. When working with recruiters that know you, make sure you know them as well.  By this I mean their clients and the roles they usually get.

Never Stop Updating Your Resume

Have your resume up-to-date at all times. As new skills or experience are gained, take the time to update your resume. If you are qualified for and apply to different positions, (example a Project Manager or a Business Analyst role) make sure you are ready to submit to both in a moment’s notice. It is also very important to highlight your skills and experience as it relates to the position.  The “must haves” in any job description must be highlighted regardless of time constraints. Finally save your resume to the cloud so you can access it an ANY time.

What have your experiences taught you about dealing with contracts that close quickly? Can you provide any advice? Do you have any other thoughts on the topic? Please share your opinions and questions below.

How to Get on a Recruiter’s Bad Side

How to Get on a Recruiter's Bad SideOver the past month, we’ve shared some posts about why you should want to become one of your recruiter’s top-of-mind candidates and some tips to earn you that status, as per responses from Eagle’s recruiters in a recent survey. As hinted to in those posts, if it’s possible to become a favourite candidate, it’s also possible to become a not-so-favourite candidate.

In the same survey that asked recruiters how to become one of their favourite contractors, we also asked them the easiest way to be disliked. The results didn’t present any surprises or one particular outstanding characteristic, but there were four characteristics that stood out among the rest:

  • Bad behaviour at a client’s site;
  • Bad work ethic;
  • Rude during the recruiting process; and,
  • Lying about your skills.

In the previous post, we discovered that the best way to be remembered is to be personable, so it’s only logical that the first three traits are all related to the opposite of that. We also noted that great performance while on contract could make you top-of-mind, so again, it’s understandable that bad behaviour and bad work ethic leads a recruiter to have a negative impression of you.

The final one — lying about skills — is worth further discussion. The temptation to fluff up your skills in your resume or on LinkedIn can be strong, especially if you’ve been out of work for some time, but the consequences can be detrimental. The client will recognize quickly that you’re not qualified, at which point it will be surprising if you last more than a few weeks. The impact is more than just losing a contract, though. The client will lose faith in you and it will harm the relationship the recruiter has with the client. In return, the recruiter will not trust you, will think of you as a last resort for any future calls, and will probably speak of their experience with you within their recruiting network.

The good news in all of this is that redemption is possible! In our survey, we also asked recruiters if once in their bad books, a contractor has a chance of moving up to top of mind. More than a third of Eagle’s recruiters said yes, you do, and more than half responded maybe, depending on the situation. If it was a one-time first impression, your odds are better and most recruiters will be open to learning more about you in future interviews and experiences. That said, ethical issues such as lying or bad behaviour with a client decreases your chances significantly.

Being remembered by a recruiter as somebody they dislike hurts your chances of winning a contract even more than not being remembered at all. If you don’t see value in putting in effort to become a top-of-mind candidate, we recommend, at a minimum, making sure you don’t become a bottom candidate.

Contracting in Good Times and Not-So-Good Times

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle

Ahhhh… contracting!  What could be better? Set your own rates, set your own hours, be your own boss…  right?  Just like running any business, there will be good times but there will also be times that are — let’s say — more challenging.  Typically as a contractor you are offered more flexibility regarding hours.  And, typically, clients will pay a premium for your services.  Unfortunately, as many in Alberta are currently experiencing, “typically” does not equate to “always”.

There are a number of reasons why companies use contractors as part of their staffing strategy: accessing difficult-to-find skill sets, providing the ability to scale up quickly to support their growth, and bringing in people with key/unique experience are all fine examples.  However, a much overlooked reason includes the ability to reduce costs quickly when the business requires it.  Maintaining a portion of a company’s staff as contractors means that companies are able to release headcount and associated costs without incurring severance costs and broader market ill-will.

We’ve seen this many times in Calgary in the past weeks, where the news mentions that XYZ Co is releasing 500 people “but they are primarily contractors”, almost implying that these “contractors” are somehow less integral to a company’s business success.  Anyone in the industry, including clients, knows that contractors hold key positions and have knowledge capital vital to a company, they contribute to the economy by paying taxes, and they have mortgages to pay and families to feed, just as “employees” do.

As much as no client wants to leave a contractor without work, the reality is, their ability to easily cut costs is one of the fundamental reasons that contracting opportunities exist.  It is why companies will justify paying a premium to contractors.  The premium is there to offset risk because it can end very quickly — as quickly as oil prices can fall by 50%.  This is the “risk of loss” that the CRA uses as one of its tests to validate a business-to-business relationship.  It’s an unfortunate down-side to contracting.

Professionals networkingWhen one finds themselves on the wrong side of a market down turn, there can be many challenges in store that make it difficult to find a soft landing.  In addition to keeping in contact with your agency partners, I recommend networking every chance you get, upgrading education and/or certifications and taking some time to re-visit your business plans/strategy to see what adjustments might need to be made.  These ideas, and many others, have been shared in blog posts written here, in Eagle’s Talent Development Centre.  There is a lot of great advice to job seekers and to contractors who are about to enter the interview process and may be a bit rusty. The following are some links to past postings that may be of particular interest:

…and there are many, many other posts/articles that you can explore.

Have you had an experience (positive/negative) in the industry lately that you are willing to share?  Do you have any advice for other job hunters?  I encourage you to leave your comment(s) below.

In the words of the immortal Red Green, “We’re all in this together!”

How You Can Work in the US as an Independent Contractor

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

Over the past 4 months, many contractors have asked me if they should consider US contract positions, given the Canadian market.  My advice is always to go where the opportunities are and Eagle has begun to see an uptick in US firms being interested in Canadian IT contractors.  Naturally, the next question I’m usually asked is how difficult it is to secure a work permit for the US.  As long as you qualify under the TN-1 status for which you’re applying, it isn’t too much of a challenge.

The TN-1 status is given to Canadian “professionals” seeking a U.S. work visa and whose Canadian and American flags shaking handsoccupation is on the List of Professional Occupations under NAFTA. Canadian professionals involved in the IT field, engineering, and consulting, frequently use the TN-1 status . Generally, in order to qualify for a TN-1 work visa, you’ll need either one of the following:

  • A bachelor’s degree from a U.S. or Canadian college or University; or a foreign degree professionally determined to be the equivalent to a U.S. bachelor’s degree;
  • A 3-year Post Secondary School diploma; or,
  • A 2-year Post Secondary School diploma plus at least 3 years experience.

The most common categories that IT professionals enter the US under are either Computer Systems Analyst or Management Consultant.  You can find the full list here and this link from the Canadian government provides additional information about temporary entry into the US under NAFTA.

Once you understand the process, it is important to work closely with your petitioning firm in ensuring you have all the proper documentation to enter the US and petition with the INS for TN Status.  The most common issues I have seen over the years is a lack of supporting documentation.  When petitioning for TN status, it is critical to have the following documentation in hand PRIOR to going to a port of entry (border crossing or at a Canadian airport that has a US immigration office onsite).

  1. Original copy of your degree/diploma plus any relevant certifications, such as PMP.
  2. If the degree/diploma is not from a recognized post-secondary institution in North America, the INS official will ask that the credentials be accredited by a North American institution.  An example of a comparative education accrediting body is the University of Toronto’s Comparative Education Services Group
  3. Current passport (make sure it does not expire within 6 months of your application)
  4. Updated resume with information reflecting on your resume as to why you are qualified for the role in the US
  5. Reference letters from previous firms (especially for the Management Consulting category)
  6. Petition letter from the firm requesting your services in the US
  7. Copy of your work contract/letter of employment that states your compensation and work that is being done in the US

The TN petition process is a serious process and should not be taken it lightly.  In fact, many Canadians have been turned away for not being prepared. There is a lot of information on the Internet about the TN application process — some good but some bad! We recommend using the links above to start gathering information but, more importantly, consulting with a lawyer whose expertise is in securing TN status.   If you do have any further questions or comments that may help other professionals, please leave your thoughts below and we’d be happy to help guide you in the right direction.