Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: independent contractors

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian IT Contractors relating to independent contractors.

Contractor Quick Poll: Leadership Skills for Contractors

Leadership is a widely studied topic and a scroll through your LinkedIn feed will prove that it’s discussed by nearly everyone. While some would argue it’s over-talked about, others would argue it can’t be spoken of enough.

While this post isn’t going to argue whether or not we need more leadership articles, we are curious to know how relevant they are to IT contractors. Specifically, does it play a part in your everyday work? This month’s contractor quick poll asks independent contractors how often they require leadership skills to succeed.

Business Owner? Invest in YOU!

Kevin Dee By Kevin Dee,
Chairman of the Board at Eagle

This post first appeared on The Eagle Blog on March 23rd, 2017

learning quote from Brian HerbertEagle has been working with independent contractors for more than twenty years.  One of the challenges that any business owner faces is in personal development and it is particularly tough for the owner of a one person business.  If “the business” is taking time out for training, then it is not making money  and a second issue is that the business also has to pay for training.

When I started Eagle I had a similar dilemma, how do I continue to learn about running a business and still do my day job.

“Develop a passion for learning.  If you do, you will never cease to grow.”  Anthony J D’Angelo

Here are some ideas:

Read! It seems obvious … but so few people do it! I love the Executive Book Summaries because they are an 8 page (20 minute read) synopsis of some of the greatest business books. A very affordable annual fee lets me download pdf files that I print and read when I have a few minutes between meetings or when I’m traveling! I also subscribe to Harvard Business Review which produces short, very informative and relevant documents that keep me thinking, give me ideas and help me to stay relevant.

Network! I started a small group of fellow CEOs that gathered on a monthly basis to share stories and collectively grow. There are many existing groups that provide the same experience.  Over the years I have belonged to numerous such groups .. including the group of CEOs who ride motorcycles!  If you are an independent contractor why not start your own networking group?

Online Training.   In recent years there has been an explosion of available, and free or very affordable, training online.  Sites such as Coursera and others like it have great training in a plethora of subjects.

“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”  John F Kennedy

My advice to any business owner, particularly the independent operator …invest a little in yourself and you differentiate from almost everyone else!

Facebook and LinkedIn Groups for Contractors (Part 1)

Part 1: Which Network Has Better Groups for Independent Contractors — LinkedIn or Facebook?

Why Facebook and LinkedIn Groups are Perfect for Independent Contractors in Technology (Part 1)Social media groups are rooms or forums within a social network where like-minded people gather to share discussions, pictures and connect with each other. They have the option to be private or public and are used for unlimited reasons, from planning a family party to school projects to business networking. Depending who you ask, groups on social networks are either a productive way to network or a waste of time filled with garbage. That’s because everybody’s had a different experience with groups. While some experiences are beyond your control, when you know what you want to get out of a group and how to do it, your chances of a positive experience are higher.

Most of the major social networks have some sort of Group functionality, with the most popular being Facebook,  LinkedIn and Google+. A Contractor Quick Poll conducted in March 2015 concluded that 75% of independent contractors log into either LinkedIn or Facebook more than any other network, so let’s look closer at those two options.

LinkedIn Groups

You already know that LinkedIn is the professional social network. Those who use it correctly understand that they need to maintain a professional image, so content and discussions are generally business-related (some people like to bring in politics and fluffy content, but we’ll save LinkedIn etiquette for a future post). In addition, you will find senior professionals who are willing to connect with you on this network more than any other, making it the prime choice for business networking. So, naturally, one would think that LinkedIn groups are the best option for independent contractors in the technology space. In the November 2015 Contractor Quick Poll, only 33% of independent contractors said they use LinkedIn for Groups. There are many valuable groups; however, there are unfortunately more groups that have been filled with SPAM and sales people trying to take advantage of their captive audience. In fact, this combined with the fact that engagement in LinkedIn groups is at an all-time low have many people across the internet wondering if LinkedIn Groups are dying a slow death.

Facebook Groups

The Facebook Groups functionality was popular about 10 years ago, during Facebook’s earlier days, and started to trickle away for similar reasons as LinkedIn — engagement wasn’t there. Recently, Facebook Groups have been making a “comeback” and communities are embracing the functionality all over again. Because of its mainstream popularity, professional networkers may not believe there is as much success. Facebook is used less by senior professionals than LinkedIn and those who do use it tend be more hesitant about connecting with anybody who is not a close friend or family. Therefore, finding a valuable networking group may not be as easy to do.

So which social network should you use for business networking? LinkedIn or Facebook? In typical cliché fashion of most comparison articles you read online, we’re going to recommend the grey area in the middle. Every situation is unique, with factors such as who you want to connect with and the types of topics you’d like to discuss. As such, review the pros and cons above, as well as review the groups on both networks before deciding. If anything, we strongly discourage joining multiple groups and hoping for the best — this will either result in lot of lost productivity or you will be so overwhelmed that you will ignore it all and be no further ahead.

The biggest question you may be asking yourself right now is “Why would I want to join a group at all?” We’ll answer that and provide some tips on how to use social media groups as a technology contractor in the second half of this series.

2016 in Review: Business of Independent Contracting

2016 in Review: The Business of Independent ContractingIt’s well-known that successful independent contractors are hard workers, experts in their field and know the best ways to keep a steady flow of work. Something often over-looked by an outsider is all of the extra work an independent contractor has to do just to manage their business. Since we know that IT contracting goes beyond searching for jobs and working on projects, the Talent Development Centre is filled with helpful business tips and contracting advice.

Taking the Leap into Independent Contracting

Just getting into contracting can be a scary endeavor, which is why we posted these articles to help IT professionals in that situation:

Managing Your Independent Contracting Business

We also shared these posts to help manage the business once it’s moving:

Inside Scoop from Eagle’s Executive Team

One of the greatest benefits of the Talent Development Centre is the inside scoop we provide from our executives, who work closely with industry associations. As a result, 2016 also saw these policy-related articles:

What did we miss in 2016? Use the comments below to tell us what you want to learn more about next year.

Quick Poll Results: When do IT contractors plan to retire?

If you’re a technology professional considering taking the leap into contracting, you’re probably in the midst of considering a lot of different factors. One such factor may be retirement — will you still be able to achieve those goals? Might you be able to do it sooner? Could you start a semi-retirement today?

The easiest way to learn what you can do is to look at what others are doing and learn from their experience. In last month’s Quick Poll, we asked our readers, mostly independent IT contractors, at what age they plan to retire. Take a look at the results. Are your goals in line with these professionals’ goals?

What Age do Independent Contractors Plan to Retire?

Quick Poll Results: How Old will You Be When You Finally Retire?

7 Signs Your IT Resume is Outdated

7 Signs Your IT Resume Is OutdatedYour resume is the most important tool that you have in your job search arsenal. It’s your ticket in the door to an interview, and without one, you might as well just give up on finding a job.

Yet all too often, IT professionals rely on resumes that are outdated, poorly formatted, or full of irrelevant information, and then wonder why they aren’t hearing back from employers. If it’s been a while since you updated your resume (i.e. more than a year or two) or if you’re still relying on the format you learned back in college during the 1990’s, there’s a good chance that employers are ignoring you because of it. In a field like IT, where having the most up-to-date skills is a necessity, an outdated resume sends the wrong message.

If you are embarking on a new job hunt and still using the same resume that landed you your current job, you need to spend some time updating — and that means more than just adding your current position to your work experience. In fact, you might need a complete overhaul, especially if you spot any of these problems.

  1. You Have an Objective Statement

Perhaps the biggest indication that you haven’t kept up with trends is the fact that you have an objective statement highlighting your career goals at the top of your resume. Simply put, no one does this anymore. Employers don’t care that you want a challenging position or want to grow in your career. They want to know what you can do for them. Replace the passé objective with a short value statement and summary of strengths, showing employers what you can do for them.

  1. Your Certifications Are Old

Most employers want to hire IT professionals with the latest certifications, but if your resume doesn’t reflect your most recent achievements, you aren’t going to land the interview. Make sure that your resume accurately reflects all of your current certifications; if you are currently working on additional certifications by completing CISSP preparation or other coursework, mention that with an expected completion date. You want to demonstrate your commitment to growth and development, and be sure that your qualifications are obvious and relevant to the position you want.

  1. You Focus on Tasks, Not Accomplishments 

How do you describe your previous work experience? Do you list your responsibilities and rehash the job description? If so, you aren’t telling employers what they want to know. Employers want to see accomplishments, and how successful you were in your previous jobs. Instead of listing your day-to-day activities, highlight your successes using quantifiable data. If you can’t quantify your achievements, use quotes from testimonials or other accolades.

  1. You Still Have Unrelated Experience Listed

If you have been out of college for 15 years, but still have your college job at the supermarket listed on your resume, you aren’t doing yourself any favors. Typically, resumes should focus on what you have done in the last decade or so, and be highly focused on related experience. If you are just out of school and don’t have much experience, including unrelated jobs is fine if you can show transferrable skills, but as you get more experience, those jobs should fall off the resume.

  1. You Aren’t Keyword Focused 

Most employers use applicant tracking systems to scan resumes for keywords, and then rank candidates according to how many keywords appear. Therefore, if you don’t include the right keywords, your resume could be rejected even if you are the perfect candidate. When revising your resume, then, you should review job postings for your ideal jobs and incorporate the same language used by the employer; for example, if the employer asks for “strong knowledge of computer science fundamentals,” you should include “knowledge of computer science fundamentals” somewhere in your resume to ensure a match.

  1. Your Resume Doesn’t Highlight Technical Competencies

When applying for IT jobs, you need to clearly demonstrate your technical competencies and your skills. Don’t make employers search for that information or guess what you can do. Spell out your technical skills in a specific section. If you have any special achievements in these areas, include that information as well.

  1. You Don’t Highlight Transferrable or Soft Skills

Finally, many employers are looking for IT professionals with specific soft skills, such as teamwork, communication, and time management. Make these connections throughout your resume, including information about how you have demonstrated these skills when you discuss your achievements.

These are the major red flags that your resume is outdated and needs a makeover. Others include noting that references are available (employers know this), listing basic skills in your skill summary (we hope you can use Microsoft Office by now), and using an old email address from AOL or your university. If you make these changes, you’ll have a much better chance of landing the interview, and the job you want.

Author bio: Tiffany Rowe is a marketing administrator who assists in contributing resourceful content throughout the World Wide Web. Tiffany prides herself in her strong ability to provide high quality content that readers will find valuable. She enjoys connecting with other bloggers and collaborating for exclusive content in various niches. With two years of experience in blogging, Tiffany has found herself more passionate than ever to continue developing remarkable content for all audiences. http://www.seekvisibility.com/

Does Calling Yourself a ‘Freelancer’ Hold You Back?

This post by Susan Johnston Taylor first appeared on the Freshbooks Blog on September 28th, 2016

Does Calling Yourself a ‘Freelancer’ Hold You Back? One of the perks of freelancing is choosing your own title. So, what exactly should you call yourself? A freelancer, an entrepreneur, a small business-owner, something else?

In my experience, solopreneurs who choose not to self-identify as freelancers tend to fall into one of two main camps. The first camp chooses some other title to post on social media, print on their business cards and use in their elevator pitch (for instance, “independent web developer,” “creative director for hire” or “entrepreneurial journalist”).

Or they set up a business (for instance, “Sam Smith Media, LLC” or “The Red Pen Unlimited”) officially or unofficially that de-emphasizes their solo status and allows them to call themselves the owner, CEO or similar. In that case, maybe they plan on eventually scaling up to include others or they want to give the impression of being a larger company so they can attract bigger clients.

Here’s a look at the advantages and disadvantages of calling yourself a freelancer.

Advantages of the ‘Freelancer’ Title

Clarity

In certain circles, people will know immediately what you’re all about if you call yourself a freelance web designer or a freelance copywriter. They may not understand what you mean by a “web design ninja” or an “independent content marketing strategist.” That’s especially true of LinkedIn profiles. No client or employer searches LinkedIn for people with cutesy or creative titles like “copywriting maven” or “SEO guru,” so in that context, you’d want more a straightforward professional title that makes it clear what you do.

Camaraderie

Freelancers are a pretty rad tribe of free-thinking, creative people. Self-identifying as a freelancer means you’re part of that community and gives you the ability to tap into the collective wisdom of the tribe through online forums, in-person events and the like. Of course there are also forums and networking events for people who self-identify as solopreneurs or small business-owners, but freelancers tend to share some similarities that they may not share with the broader community of small business-owners who have brick and mortar locations or employees to manage.

Disadvantages of the ‘Freelancer’ Title

Lack of Respect

Alas, some clients just don’t respect freelancers. They may pay their freelancers late (or not at all) or email them at all hours of the day or night assuming the freelancer must have nothing better to do than wait at the client’s beck and call. Calling yourself something other than a freelancer could help establish yourself as a legitimate business entity deserving of greater respect.

Negative Associations

The term can have negative stereotypes for those who assume that a freelancer is someone who couldn’t hack it in the corporate world or who loafs around in pajamas watching daytime soap operas. For most freelancers that isn’t the case, but using a term other than freelancer could help bypass some of these misperceptions and position yourself as a bona fide professional.

Self-Perception

Aside from how others treat you, calling yourself a small business-owner or a solopreneur could also shape the way you think about your own work. If you view freelancing as a casual thing you do in between full-time jobs, you may not behave like a business or charge what you’re worth. But if you think of yourself as a business, then you’re more apt to get agreements in writing, send professional-looking invoices and take other steps that establish you as a business.

Possible Limitations

Some creative professionals grow from freelancing on their own to subcontracting work to others or even creating a virtual digital agency with multiple contractors or employees. If you see yourself as a digital agency of one, then that could create a smoother transition into a larger business in the future. Branding yourself as something other than a freelancer means you won’t have to rebrand when you decide to expand or change how you think about and describe your work. Of course, scaling up isn’t for everyone. Some freelancers are happy to remain a company of one.

Distancing Yourself from Your Work

Some solopreneurs choose to incorporate as a business to provide an extra layer of protection in case there’s a legal dispute around their work. Also, some freelancers define themselves by the success or failure of their work (an unhealthy, but all too common mindset). Using a business name other than your own name could also have the psychological benefit of reminding you that you are not interchangeable with your work.

In my case, I vary my word choice depending on the context. If I meet fellow freelancer, I’m apt to self-identify as a freelancer as well so that we can find common ground. If I’m hobnobbing with other solopreneurs, I might self-identify with that group. Ultimately, I think behaving like a business-owner is more important than what you call yourself.

About the Author: Freelance journalist Susan Johnston Taylor covers entrepreneurship, small business and lifestyle for publications including The Boston Globe, Wall Street Journal, Entrepreneur and FastCompany.com. Follow her on Twitter @UrbanMuseWriter.

 

IT is No Longer Just About Technology

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

IT is No Longer Just About TechnologyAs explained in this recent article from Dice, the marketplace for IT contractors and technology employees is changing at a pace similar to that of technology itself. With many of the “heavy lifting” IT jobs having been outsourced either on or off shore, the IT employees or contractors that remain in high demand are those with both technical and business capabilities.

What does this mean?  In order to add the value companies are looking for, prospective employees and independent contractors need to be able to both understand and communicate the business objectives of any IT activity.

The Agile framework is being implemented in more and more large organizations and communication is a pillar of Agile delivery, as all disciplines work together and collaborate throughout the development process.  Agile delivery cannot be successful without all stakeholders clearly understanding the business objectives and able to communicate as such.

Furthermore, the concept of performing a single function on “an island” within an organization has either been outsourced, as mentioned, or become entirely a thing of the past.

How do you as a contractor address these changes?  Firstly, take the time to understand the big picture: What is the overall project objective, not just your piece?  Understand the company you are working for, their history, their results, their major projects and initiatives.

Most consultants today work with one or more staffing agencies.  Hold your recruiter accountable for as much information as possible on each particular job opportunity.  This information will allow you to demonstrate your business capabilities and understanding as well as your valuable technical skills.

Keep up-to-date on the overall technology landscape. If you are in Telecommunications, know what the big 3 Telco’s’ major initiatives are.  If you have focused on the financial sector, know what major initiatives are coming from the big banks.

It is no longer possible to maximize your earnings and potential with technical skills alone.  All aspects of IT and business have become too interdependent.  Businesses rely more and more on technology every day as we know.  With this increased reliance comes a greater need for technology resources to understand business objectives and vice versa.

Ironically, the single most effective way to increase your business knowledge and communication skills… is a good old face to face conversation.

How to Tell a Client’s Employees They Suck

How to Tell a Client's Employees They SuckIt’s not unusual for independent contractors to suffer backlash from the full-time employees at their client site. You’re sometimes seen as a know-it-all who’s coming in to take their work. That means, that when there’s feedback to give and change to recommend, you’re likely to see some sort of resistance.

Delivering this sort of news is common for independent contractors, and many have mastered the art. For others, it’s still an uncomfortable situation or you always find it blowing up in your face. Here are a few simple pointers you can keep in mind next time you need to move a project in a different direction.

Don’t Assume They’re Wrong

It’s important to remain humble and accept that there may be more than just one way (your way) to do something. There are many variables involved in any decision, and whichever choice you disagree with may have also had some factors associated with it. Ensure you understand the full picture, including all of the client’s goals, resources and limitations, to better understand why they’re going in the direction they selected. If you still think they’re on the wrong track, then this exercise may help you uncover the root of the problem or develop a better fitting solution.

Prepare an Effective Feedback Strategy

Before you start explaining how you disagree, ensure that you’ve set up an environment and scenario where your feedback will be understood and compelling. For example, is it something that needs to be said to only one person in private, or do you need to call a meeting to discuss it with an entire team? You also need to consider timing. Providing the feedback immediately will keep the project from continuing in the current direction, but casually mentioning it in the lobby won’t allow for optimal communication. Finally, especially if your comments have potential to start a heated disagreement, refrain from email at all costs; the tone will never come across as you desired.

It’s All in the Delivery

How you say it is more important than what you’re saying. As already noted, it’s important to choose your timing. If your meeting is impromptu, then don’t surprise your client and team members. Open up by asking if you can give some feedback. When you start, be brief, factual, direct and calm. It’s also important that you choose your words wisely. Avoid negative words like “can’t” or “but” and be inclusive with “we could try this” rather than “you need to do that.” Finally, depending on how technical your audience is, you may need to refrain from too much jargon, to make sure they accurately understand the situation.

Get the Most Buy-In

You’ll know you succeeded at telling your client and the employees they’re wrong when they buy into it, rather than being left in an angry state. To achieve this, start to demonstrate your expertise the moment you come onto the site. We’re not recommending you always show them up by flaunting your knowledge, but instead, show your professionalism in simple ways like dressing properly and being punctual for meetings. Build a relationship of trust by mentoring full-time employees so they can learn with you, rather than feeling inferior. When you do give your feedback, come prepared with suggestions that match the overall project goals and backed up with facts and past experiences. Above all, when possible, work with the client and team to develop a solution together.

Feedback on a project is never easy to give, especially when it’s to people who may not be open to it or are dedicated to the current method. Following the tips above should help but above all, remember to pick your battles. Make recommendations in your areas of expertise (what you were called in to do) or it may come off as telling others how to do their work. In addition, be prepared for rejection. The changes you recommend may not happen and that’s ok. If you want to keep working on the contract, you will need to suck it up so you can move a project forward to success.

The Benefits of Being an Independent Contractor (Video)

It’s no secret to our readers that independent contracting has a number of benefits, as well as some risks that go with it. If you’re new to this, and still exploring the idea of freelancing, whether in IT or any other field, then take a couple minutes to watch this video from Xero Accounting Software. Ryan Baker of Upsourced Accounting discusses the benefits and challenges associated with being your own boss.

If you still have questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below or get in touch with your favourite recruitment agency.