Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: contracting

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

What to Do When Your Contract is Suddenly Terminated

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.

Right Away

What to Do When Your Contract is Suddenly Terminated

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 the early contract end. Are there business factors beyond the control of your immediate manager and recruiter? Was the entire project cancelled? Or were there issues with the client 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 to reflect. This is a great time to 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 search for a new contract immediately, 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.

Starting the Contract Search

Before starting the in-depth search for your next contract, be prepared to talk about the sudden contract end. 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 any short comings and 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 opportunities, meeting with recruiters and doing what you do best to find that next gig!

Be Prepared

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 income.

The Connections Between Gaming and IT Contracting

Since the original Atari hit living rooms more than 40 years ago, gaming has been a way-of-life for millions of people around the world. While at one-point video games were known as time-wasters for youth and burn-outs, modern games have transformed far beyond the 8-world adventure that was Super Mario Bros. Today, people of all ages from all backgrounds game and there are proven benefits for young people as they develop and adults as they build careers.

The Critical Skills Youth Can Build from Video Games

The Connections Between Gaming and IT ContractingA recent Globe & Mail article highlights a study by a University of British Columbia economist, Nicole Fortin, that found a correlation between video games and higher math scores among teenagers. Fortin saw that video games are not only a strong predictor of future careers in finance, computer science or STEM (areas forecast to dominate the job market), but they also benefit students with attention deficit issues. In a separate Psychology Today article, Peter Gray, ph.D, agreed there are career and personal benefits to young people playing video games — cognitively, creatively, motivationally, emotionally and socially.

The rising popularity in video games has also given way for the eSports trend. In the same way that schools and recreational groups have competitive sports teams, many implemented eSports teams for kids to compete in video games, and it’s a huge thing! According to Teched Up Teacher, nearly 500 colleges in the United States support eSports at the club level and, even in Montreal, a high school launched a specialized eSports program streamed specifically for aspiring pro-gamers.

Students benefit from eSports for all the same reasons they gain a brighter future participating in sports and other extracurricular activities. The game skills themselves are just a small piece, as they also build team, social, emotional, and time management skills. Even those not playing the game participate by managing social media, casting games, and overseeing the team’s Twitch account.

How Video Games Can Help Your IT Career Today

The benefits of gaming extend beyond building skills of our future leaders. In fact, plenty of research and experiences point to IT professionals’ careers advancing as a result of this hobby. Dev.to published an article this past January with compelling arguments for a number of skills that can be improved through gaming. The nature of the most popular games requires one to communicate with people around the world, work together, and solve problems as a team, all while under pressure. This results in improved soft skills like communication, leadership, alertness, decision-making, stress management, and strategy.

So, bragging about your gaming hobby might just be something that progressive recruiters will find attractive. A study at Missouri University of Science and Technology looked specifically at World of Warcraft gamers and discovered they share improved traits of extroversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. Furthermore, gamers are more likely to have computer-mediated communication skills and technology-readiness skills. Essentially, the study found that the more achievements you have unlocked in a game, the more technology savvy you are in real life.

There continues to be different views on whether or not gaming truly does improve the skills of an IT professional or if being a gamer is a sign of a skilled worker. Just read through this extensive Quora discussion, which is filled with mixed opinions. Some IT hiring managers say they specifically look for gaming in an applicant’s profile, where other very skilled developers believe it to be a complete waste of time.

Are you a gamer? If so, do you believe it helps in your career and builds the skills needed to serve your clients? We’d love to hear your thoughts. Please leave them in the comments below.

10 Productive Things to Do When You’re Not Making Money

10 Productive Things to Do When You're Not Making MoneyThe concept of income is pretty simple for the independent contractor — if you don’t work, you don’t make money. But that simple notion is perhaps also one of the most stressful elements of IT contracting. When one job ends and you still haven’t found that next gig, you find yourself at home knowing that you made $0 today along with the uncertainty of when the next cheque will come in.

The fact is, there is nothing you can do to change the current situation but there are many tasks you can do that will ensure you’re set up well to find your next technology-related job quickly and reduce stress in the future. Here are 10 things you can do that are better than stressing over no income:

  1. Update Your Resume (or make multiple versions of the same one). Very frequently in the IT contracting world, a job is filled within hours of it being posted to a job board. You need to be ready with your resume as soon as you learn about it. Create an extremely detailed resume of everything you’ve done or multiple resumes with different themes. This will make it easier to quickly customize a resume the second an interesting job posting becomes available.
  2. Review Your Social Media. Now that your resume is up-to-date, take a look at your social networks, specifically LinkedIn. Recruiters often check here first when searching or they cross-reference it with your resume to look for red flags. Having all of the details from your resume on LinkedIn will help significantly.
  3. Search and Apply for Jobs. Don’t expect your favourite recruiters to call you just because you’re available. Continue searching for jobs on all of the major job boards and apply to all of the ones for which you’re qualified. The more staffing agencies with your resume, the more chances you have of getting a phone call down the road.
  4. Review Your References. Have you been giving the same list of references for a few years now? It may be time to review. Check to ensure all contact information is up-to-date and look at some recent contracts to see if there are better references you can use.
  5. Go to Interviews. If you have done a good job at updating your LinkedIn profile and resume, as well as applying to plenty of jobs, then you’re hopefully also receiving phone calls from different recruiters. Take the interviews even if they do not have an opportunity at the moment. Meeting them now means, with your consent, they can quickly submit you to a client when a job opens up.
  6. Organize Your Accounting. Your accountant might take care of your accounting but it’s still up to you to have the information together. The more organized you can be with credit card receipts, invoices, and reconciliations, the lower your bill will be from your accountant.
  7. Professional Development. Downtime is the perfect opportunity to improve your skills. You’re well connected in your field of IT and should already know exactly where you need to improve (be honest with yourself). Look for resources online or sign-up for a course. The investment will be worth it on your next contract.
  8. Join a Networking Group. Being around like-minded professionals can be a better way to build skills than formal training. We guarantee there are plenty of networking groups available that meet your needs (either locally or online), you just need to find them. Get involved and meet people!
  9. One-person businesses need marketing too. Have you updated (or even created) your website recently? Do you have business cards to hand out? Not only do these tasks make you more professional and memorable to recruiters and clients, but they are another step you can take to protect yourself when the CRA is reviewing your independence.
  10. Take a Vacation. Take advantage of the fact you’re suddenly without work. Unplugging and destressing is extremely important to your mental health and makes you more productive when you do start working again. If it’s been a while since your last holiday, you caught up with friends, you’ve done work around the house, or you’ve just done nothing, then don’t feel guilty about taking time for you.

The least productive thing you can do when you have no work is sit around and worry about money. In fact, any experienced independent contractor will tell you it’s the nature of the beast and you should plan for it. When you are working, ensure a portion of your income is being allocated for these “rainy periods.” Then you can work on any of the above tasks with no stress and full commitment.

Evaluating Your Career and How It Fits Into the Gig Economy

Morley Surcon By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President Strategic Accounts & Client Solutions, Western Canada at Eagle

I saw the following graphic and it struck me as being a very smart way to look at one’s career and potentially do some “life/career-mapping”. There have been many articles written about whether contracting is right for you, including many independent contracting-related posts on the Talent Development Centre. It seems to me, this graphic from linpernille.com captures the gist of it:

Qualities of the Perfect Job

The “gig economy” is common fodder for news, blogs and posts. Staffing Industry Analysts estimates a 6% growth this year and another 6% next year, with the participation rate (in the USA) being 31% due primarily to the growing number of people who have side jobs and businesses. And, if you are reading this, there is a strong likelihood that you fall somewhere on the spectrum of Gig Workers.

If you are feeling content and comfortable contracting or completing temporary work, it is likely that you are hitting on all three aspects shown: you are good at what you do, you enjoy doing it and there is someone pleased to be paying you for your efforts. It’s like a 3-legged stool — you need all three legs for it to work; so, if you feel that something is amiss, then perhaps this diagram can help you find what is wrong.

Additionally the website, The Muse suggests 4 steps that may help you find your way forward (there’s many websites with advice on the subject): Pinpoint the issue, get a new perspective, reflect on your growth/accomplishments, and know that it is ok to move on.

It’s important for your long-term personal wellbeing and mental health to find a career that interests and energizes you (not to mention one that puts food on the table!). The Gig economy is growing and offers many opportunities for personal and professional growth, but it isn’t for everyone. Knowing what’s right for you is the first step to charting your course and braving the open waters that is the job market.  – Happy sailing!

Should You Buy or Lease a Car?

This post first appeared on the CPA4IT Business Resources section on June 22, 2018

Is it better to buy a car under your name personally, or through a corporation? And is it better to lease – or borrow money to acquire a vehicle?

These are the two most common questions we hear all the time when it comes to buying a car.

Questions to Consider

Should You Buy or Lease a Car?

First, let’s address the question about whether it’s best to lease or buy. While most people believe this to be an accounting question, there are other factors that have a greater impact on your decision. For example:

  • Do you want a brand new car or would you be a happy with a car that is a few years old?
  • What are the current finance and lease rates?
  • How many kilometres will you drive?
  • Are you the type of person that will drive the same car for 12 years – or do you want a new car every few years?

These are the questions that ultimately affect your decision.

Tax Deduction

There are 2 methods for calculating the automobile expense: 1) mileage – and 2) actual expenses. In most situations the mileage nets a higher deduction. If you use the mileage rate, the deduction is the exact same whether you lease or buy. However, if you have an expensive lease – or simply don’t drive much – then using actual expenses may result in a greater deduction. So let’s evaluate the differences in deductions when using the actual method.

With leases you can deduct the total amount of the lease – up to a maximum of $800 a month (assuming you are Toronto-based as an example). With a purchase, you can deduct a percentage of the purchase price of the vehicle each year due to the vehicle’s depreciation in value. The maximum amount that can be depreciated for a passenger vehicle is $30,000. The vehicle can be depreciated at a rate of 15% in the first year, and 30% of the remaining balance for each subsequent year. While there is a difference between these two methods the bottom line savings is marginal.

If you’re going to buy or lease a car, we usually recommend that you do so under your own name and have your corporation reimburse you for its use of the vehicle. On the other hand, if the car is under a company name – and you use the car personally – you must reimburse the company for your personal use percentage of expenses, or take a taxable benefit into your personal income. You’ll also need to calculate a gain or loss when you sell the vehicle: this means more paperwork for your accountant and higher accounting fees for you. One of the great benefits of a corporation is limited liability. However, if your assets are owned by the corporation, you’ve limited the liability to all of your assets – which defeats the purpose.

When you’re making major life decisions such as purchasing or leasing a vehicle, we highly recommend you speak with your accountant to ensure you’re making the best decision. If you have any questions about automobile expenses – or are considering the lease or purchase of a new car – please feel free to contact us directly so we can discuss your particular situation, and assist you in making the right decision – for you.

The Secrets to Building a Successful IT Contracting Business

The Secret to Building a Successful IT Contracting BusinessIT Contractors have a cyclical challenge of finding new gigs and competing to win business. While the tasks never get easier, they can certainly seem simpler when you have the routine down to an art. When you already know what to do, where to go, and how to separate yourself from the others, it allows you to get faster wins, better serve your clients and, ultimately, charge higher rates!

To start, you need to know where to find IT contract opportunities. Indeed, your favourite recruiters and go-to job boards are sure to have some for you, but there are often additional gigs out there waiting to be found, you’re just not hearing about them. Simple Programmer published an article a few months back explaining how you can find freelance jobs that are not advertised by including these four simple concepts:

  • Talk to People: Hang out with the kind of people you want to work with at meetups, industry events, conferences, etc. Look for people in a similar role and company you’d like to work at and who are using the technologies you want to use. From there, avoid selling yourself but talk to them and build conversations.
  • Put Yourself Out There: Make sure people know what you are up to and what you are interested in. This means sharing relevant content on social media or a blog, and simply talking to like-minded professionals about what you do. The more you put yourself out there and start conversations, the more luck you have!
  • Build a Reputation: The author of the article puts it best — “Once you have the chance to work with a client and help them achieve the results they want (or better), this will lead them to tell other people about you. The other people will want those results too, and they’ll come to you when their business needs you.
  • Skip the Competition: When you hang out with your target customers and position yourself as a solution, you’ll no longer be one of 100 people who bid on a gig. You’ll be the professional they already know and trust!

The final two points are crucial to building your IT contracting business finding tech gigs with less effort, but also the most challenging to accomplish. Building that solid reputation will get you more business and allow you to bill at a premium, but you will not do it tomorrow. The good news is, Dice has some suggestions to get you there:

  • Use SOWs to Measure and Track Your Performance: If your client doesn’t already have one, work with them to create a statement of work with specific deliverables, timelines and schedules. Regularly review it and demonstrate how you’re meeting or exceeding expectations.
  • Connect Your Role to the Bigger Picture: Understand the strategic value of a project and work to make suggestions that add value. Reducing costs, decreasing errors and producing more code are all examples of how you can go above and beyond.
  • Document Your Achievements and Attributes: Keeping a regular journal of your accomplishments, conducting end-of-assignment interviews, and getting testimonials is a solid way to get your next contract. These referrals and reviews can be included in your resume, personal website or social networks and will do wonders in your job search.

Building an independent contracting business is hard enough, and getting to a point where you minimize the amount of time you spend searching for jobs is even harder. However, when you put in the work and continue to maintain those efforts, you’ll understand why so many senior IT professionals would never look back from their contracting lifestyle.

2018 in Review: Business and the Workplace

Independent contracting is no regular type of employment. On top of ongoing skills development and job searching, you have to worry about the rest of your business – accounting, taxes, marketing, networking, navigating relationships with recruiters, building your reputation… the list goes on!

If you’re drinking your coffee today and stressing over some of these areas (actually, even if that doesn’t sound like you at all right now), have a look through the list of posts below. Today, we compiled the top posts of 2018 that are related to running a business, navigating the workplace, and keeping an overall professional image.

Enjoy!

Working with Staffing Agencies

Life as a Contractor

Workplace Tips

Contactor Quick Poll Results: Would you ever go back?

The life of an independent contractor is filled with ups and downs. It seems that every benefit of being a contractor comes with an extra stressor. Some IT professionals start contracting and later realize that they prefer the life of being an employee, where as others will get into the new lifestyle and never look back.

In last month’s Contractor Quick Poll, we were curious to learn how many of our readers want to return to the employee life versus how many love the contracting world. It turns out, that while few independent contractors want to get back into a permanent position as soon as possible, more than half said that if the right opportunity came along, they would consider ditching their current freelance career.

How likely are you to leave independent contracting for a permanent position as an employee?

5 New LinkedIn Features for the IT Contractor

5 New LinkedIn Features for the IT ContractorLinkedIn is the best social network for professionals in all industries to connect, network, share information and, of course, find new job opportunities. Recruiters frequently search LinkedIn to build relationships with IT contractors and when you’re not active there, you are missing out.

Did you know that even if you are diligent at keeping your LinkedIn profile updated and connecting with recruiters, you could still be falling behind? That’s because, like any technology-related company, LinkedIn makes ongoing advancements and updates to their product. The IT contractors who know about them can quickly set themselves apart from those continuing with the status quo. Here’s a look at some of latest LinkedIn features from the past year:

Find People Nearby

Have you ever been at a large conference or networking event and wondered who in your network is there? LinkedIn’s new “Find Nearby” will help with that. All you need to do is open your mobile app and go to the My Network section. Turn on the “Find Nearby” option and give permission to show your location. The tool does have its limitations because you have to remain on the Find Nearby page in order to be discovered and others have to be doing the same. In other words, this is only useful at a large event where many people are also interested in connecting and know about the feature.

Give Kudos

This might be the most interesting feature LinkedIn has added — being able to publicly thank a connection on one of 10 subjects (Amazing Mentor, Inspirational Leader, Going Above and Beyond, Great Job, Great Presentation, Making an Impact, Making Work Fun, Outside the Box Thinker, Team Player, Thank You). To use the feature, visit your connection’s profile and under “More” select “Give Kudos”. From there, choose the topic and follow the rest of the instructions. You only get to give kudos three times per week, so use them wisely, but what a powerful way to build a relationship!

Select “Remote Jobs” as a location

Independent contracting is all about flexibility, including the location where you work. Depending on your local economy, finding IT gigs locally may not be easy and uprooting your family for a 5-month contract also isn’t feasible. Now, when you search for jobs on LinkedIn, the location field includes a “Remote Jobs” option that will display opportunities you can do from anywhere in the world. You can also add remote work to your career preferences so recruiters on the other side of the world will know to contact you for opportunities.

QR Codes to Connect to Your Profile

It took long enough, but it appears LinkedIn has finally adopted QR codes. Customizing your LinkedIn URL is a must when you want to easily share your profile, and QR codes give you one more way to share your credentials. From your mobile app, the search bar now has an icon to the right of it that looks like a QR code. When you touch it, a new page opens up to either scan somebody else’s QR code or view your own code. Download your code and place it on business cards, signature blocks, resumes or anywhere else you may want to share your LinkedIn profile.

Ask for a Referral

There is no better way to get a recruiter’s attention than by a warm lead and LinkedIn now makes it even easier to get them. When you see a LinkedIn job posting, it will also tell you if anybody in your network is already working for that company. If they are, LinkedIn shows a “Ask for a Referral” option, which generates a message to your connection asking them to share your profile with the recruiter or hiring manager, and links back to the original job posting.

What newer LinkedIn features are you most excited about? Or, are their any tried and true classic features that you can’t live without? We’d love to hear more about how you use this powerful social network to increase your opportunities. Please share in the comments below.

Best Productivity Tools to Save Time

Guest Post by Chanell Alexander

Describing the life of an independent contractor as busy is an understatement. Managing deadlines, producing quality work, distributing invoices, scheduling appointments, collaborating with clients, and everything else in between can be more than overwhelming. An independent contractor in IT is a one-person band, and while technology is not necessarily a cure-all, it can help to accomplish daily tasks more efficiently. Here are five productivity tools to save time.

Best Productivity Tools to Save Time

1. Flipboard – Stay current on industry trends

 

If an independent contractor specializing in IT knows one thing, it is that staying up-to-date on technology industry trends and emerging developments is essential. Flipboard is an app that individuals can use to receive curated news by selecting topics they want to see. This app collects news from various news outlets so that users do not have to take the time to comb the web for issues relevant to them.

2. JibberJobber – Keep track of the job search

Looking for new clients and ongoing assignments are a regular part of the life of an independent contractor. After multiple emails and job submissions, it can be challenging to keep track of the job application process. JibberJobber is a platform that enables the user to keep track of jobs applied for, track relationships and follow-up opportunities, and relevant company news. Contractors will never have to worry about whether they already applied for a position, or when they should reach back out to check a job status as JibberJobber takes care of this guesswork.

3. Harvest – Time management and invoicing

Keeping track of hours worked, projects started, and deadline can be a day’s worth of work in itself for an Independent Contractor in IT. Harvest allows users to track the amount of time they have worked on a project, ensure they are staying in budget, track expenses, and turn billable time into invoices that can be emailed directly from the application in PDF form. Users can also do a bit of forecasting to ensure projects meet budgetary and time requirements.

4. Hubspot – Customer Relationship Management

An independent contractor makes an excellent contact at a networking event. Great! Now, how can they continue to stay on top of nurturing this person from contact to customer without the hassle of an Excel spreadsheet? Hubspot is a free customer relationship management system (CRM). Contractors can keep track of appointments scheduled, conversions, and sales activity. All information and every interaction with a potential (or actual) client can be recorded in Hubspot. Many Hubspot users mention how easy to use the platform is and how simple it is to set up email campaigns.

5. Asana – Project and Workflow Management Tool

Asana is an all-in-one project management program. If contractors are collaborating with multiple staff members in one company, or are working side-by-side with clients to develop a deliverable, Asana is a great place to begin the journey. Contractors can track progress, assign tasks, set deadlines, and report on work progress. Users mention that Asana can even integrate with Harvest to turn tasks into billable hours for invoicing. This program also has a mobile application so contractors can manage tasks and productivity on-the-go.

The Wrap Up

The life of an independent contractor is anything but easy, but having an arsenal of tools to stay on top of the workday can go a long way to make life a little bit easier. As long as contractors intelligently map out how these applications and those like them can increase their productivity, then the day can unfold a bit more smoothly.

Chanell Alexander currently resides in Atlanta, GA. When she’s not traveling and trying new restaurants in the Metro Atlanta area, she writes about the latest technology and tools for TrustRadius.