Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: independent contractors

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

Contractor Quick Poll: Would you ever go back to being an employee?

There are so many great benefits to being an independent contractor in the IT space. You get to set your own hours, work on projects you love, be your own boss, and take advantage of tax incentives. But let’s face it, independent contracting is not for everyone. Some technology professionals prefer not to live in the risk of hoping they have work next year or managing the extra expenses that come with the position.

In over 20 years of working with independent contractors across Canada, we’ve worked with thousands of IT workers as they made the change from a permanent position as an employee to independent contracting. Some of them absolutely loved it while others realized it wasn’t for them. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we’re asking IT contractors how they currently feel about their career decision.

The Game of Life, Freelancer Edition

Life is a journey, not a destination” — words once spoken by American poet and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, and then sang again by Aerosmith in their song Amazing. It’s definitely a journey — a long, unpredictable, sometimes-good-sometimes-bad journey, and independent contractors are not immune to the volatility.

The classic board game “The Game of Life” makes light of the ups and downs of the average life and how single decisions can impact your future, but Freshbooks felt it still doesn’t portray the life of a freelancer so they created this fun infographic. Sure, there are only 23 steps compared to the thousands you’ll have to take in your career, but it still gives an accurate depiction of independent contracting at a high level that’s easy to understand. If you’re exploring a career as an independent IT consultant, then get started by reviewing this infographic and to see what you’re in for.

Obtaining a Federal Government Personnel Security Screening

All companies and organizations perform some sort of background check on employees and independent contractors before hiring them, but the extent of the check will vary. One organization in Canada known for its checks is the Federal Government, which requires nearly everybody who works with its information or assets to go through a degree of security screening. For IT professionals new to the government, this can be a long, intense and confusing process.

Types of Federal Government Security Screenings

As mentioned, nearly every individual who works for the feds will require some sort of security screening. There are a number of types and levels of screens. The one you will require depends on your role, project and information you’re accessing, but it will typically be one of the following 3:

  • Reliability Status (valid for 10 years and required when accessing Protected A, B or C information, assets or work sites)
  • Secret Clearance (valid for 10 years and required when accessing information classified as Secret)
  • Top Secret Clearance (valid for 5 years and required when accessing information classified as Top Secret)

The Federal Government Security Clearance Process

A federal government security screening should begin as soon as you become employed with a company or organization that will require access to protected or classified information. In theory, for independent contractors, that would be as soon as you start working for your own independent business, and your business should be the organization initiating the clearance through its own organization security clearance. However, due to various process and efficiency concerns, independent contractors will often obtain their personnel clearance through a Recruitment Agency, who will start the process as soon as they verify that you’re a potential fit for government contracts.

The complete screening process and all the requirements are extensive and you can find all of the information here. Reliability Status can take as little as 2 weeks where a Secret or Top Secret clearance is usually a minimum of 6 months and up to 2 years or longer. The length of time depends on the history of you and your immediate family, including the countries in which you lived and/or worked. More specifically, the screening will require:

  • Background checks (5-years for Reliability status and 10-years for Secret or Top Secret clearance)
  • Background checks of your immediate family (Secret and Top Secret clearances)
  • Law enforcement inquiry through the RCMP (fingerprinting)
  • Credit check
  • Loyalty check conducted by CSIS (Secret and Top Secret)
  • Passport photos (Top Secret)

Depending on your history, you may also be required to complete out-of-country verifications, interviews, and provide supporting documents.

Federal Government security screenings are owned by the organization who completed the screening. For example, if you received your clearance through your recruitment agency, it’s your agency who holds it. This also means that they have the ability to terminate your clearance when you no longer work with them. To be safe, many recruiters will ask you to complete a form to duplicate your clearance, meaning their agency will also hold your clearance. This way, if your first agency terminates your Reliability Status or Security Screening for any reason, it will still be valid and active through the second agency.

There’s no doubt that Federal Government Security Screenings can often be complex, confusing and frustrating. The best advice for getting through it is to remain as detail-oriented as possible, be prepared, and work with the Company Security Officer who is helping you obtain it. For more information, you can also visit https://www.canada.ca/en/services/defence/nationalsecurity/screening.html.

A Surgeon Teaches Us How to be Super Human

One of the top reasons clients hire independent contractors is because they’re the best in the field. When an organization needs something developed in a specific way, they find an expert IT contractor with a niche skill set. That contractor will not only deliver the solution most efficiently, they will also transfer knowledge and provide more in-depth knowledge to the client’s IT department. It’s safe to say, if you want to improve at any skills, it’s best to ask an expert and those with the most experience.

With that said, we can all learn something from doctors and surgeons. Before you get concerned that this post is advocating learning about medicine and performing surgery through a video, we’re referring to another skill that all successful medical professionals have proven to be experts at: productivity.

In this video, plastic surgeon Dr. Jay of Med School Insiders provides some of his own productivity and efficiency tips that have allowed to get through med school, continue a successful career and still balance a fun life. Watch the video to learn how you can maximize your time efficiency and start getting more done today!

How to Talk Money with Recruiters

Sam Rahbar By Sam Rahbar,
National Training Manager at Eagle

No one likes to discuss salary or rate, it can be an awkward conversation. But as an IT consultant this is a topic that comes up all the time when discussing contract opportunities with recruiters. Rate conversations can often turn into a long drawn out back and forth between the recruiters and consultants. Here are five tips on how to work with a recruiter to avoid the unnecessary lengthy conversations and land the best rate possible:

  1. Customize your resume. Before applying to the role, make sure to include all your relevant experience related to the provided job description, including the nice to haves. Don’t leave any room for assumptions. Competition is fierce and a customized resume is the first step towards getting a more competitive rate.
  1. Remember, you are on the same team! A recruiter’s primary role is to present the best available candidate with the most competitive rate. Work with your recruiter to find out the top end of the rate and the sweet spot where the client likes to hire at. With VMS companies dictating level playing grounds for all recruiting agencies, these days all recruiters work within the same rate brackets and cannot go above or below a certain percentage. This means all recruiters will compete for the best candidate with the most competitive rate.
  1. Ask about market rate. When it comes to current market rates, recruiters have VIP access! There is no one better to educate you on who is hiring at what rate. This is crucial information when it comes to landing your next gig. Ask your recruiter for current market rates, so you are able to position yourself accordingly.
  1. Be flexible. I hear so many times about great candidates that lost out on opportunities due to not being flexible on a couple of dollars an hour. Clients want the job done with the best quality and most reasonable price. Sometimes that 2-3 dollars an hour can put you in a competitive advantage. And when you calculate 2 dollars an hour over a course of a 6 month contract, after taxes, it does not amount to much. It’s definitely not enough to lose out on a chance to work on a project with a reputable brand.
  1. A new project means a new budget. Different clients will have different budgets based on their industry, type of project and market rates. It is normal to have your hourly rate fluctuate 10 dollars, up or down, depending on the end client and type of project. So try not to use your most recent rate as a hard bottom-line for your next contract because that will potentially limit your options.
  1. Consider the BIG picture. When discussing a new opportunity with a recruiter, make sure to consider all angles: length of the contract, possibility of extension, getting exposed to new technology, or a new type of project under your belt. Think about what the positive effects could do for your marketability long term. There are other factors to consider like your hours, commute, company culture, and perks to name a few.

 

Professional Development Ideas for Independent Contractors

Of the many benefits that come with working for yourself as an IT contractor, having to worry about your own professional development is not one of them. Employees regularly get to rely on their employer to coordinate the training plans and classes that help them advance their career. Independent contractors are not so lucky.

Planning training and development is yet another IT contractor responsibility, above and beyond completing projects and serving clients. There are so many options and it can be hard just knowing where to start. Here are a few common areas for professional development and some suggestions on where to start.

Types of Professional Development

The term “Professional Development” is very broad and comes in all shapes and sizes. If you know you have to advance yourself somehow, then consider your current progress in any of these areas and prioritize what to do next:

  • Skills (New and Existing): When most of us think about training, we think about the core skills we use in our job. For example, a Developer may look into enhancing their knowledge in their preferred programming language or learning a new one. Start by understanding your industry and the trends of common skills your clients will be demanding, then decide what skills you need to build.
  • Certifications: If there’s any way to stand out to a client (and sometimes just qualify for a contract position) it’s to earn a relevant certification in your field. Though it may require you to sit through some courses on information you already know, certifications are important for IT contractors and will make you more competitive.
  • Soft Skills: Unless you’re swimming in certifications and have the best skills of anyone else in the market, you must have top-notch soft skills to compete. This includes time management, organization, email etiquette, meeting etiquette, emotional intelligence or conflict resolution, and a recent contractor quick poll revealed that most of your co-workers want you to have outstanding communication skills.
  • Industry Knowledge: As noted above, knowing what’s happening in your industry and the most in-demand requirements is crucial. In addition to knowing what skills to improve, you’ll also be able to plan for trends like upcoming opportunities with specific clients and job shortages in certain regions.

How Can IT Contractors Find Training Opportunities?

  • Enroll in a Class: The most obvious way to learn something new is to register for a class or workshop. This can be through your industry association, an online course or a local school. Completing a course provides you with something tangible for your resume; however, it’s also time consuming and can cost money.
  • Read: Read everything. Newspapers articles, magazines and books published by industry-leaders in your field are guaranteed to provide you with additional knowledge that will help you move forward. Also, don’t discount the social media posts by people you follow — there’s always something new to learn if you just look for it.
  • Network: Networking events — both online and offline — give you the opportunity to pick the brains of other professionals in your field. You’ll learn about best practices, trends and about more unique learning opportunities.
  • Ask Questions: Go a step beyond just networking and ask everyone questions. Your clients, recruiters, team members… everyone you come across can teach you something. A simple question such as “Why do you do it this way” or “What do you think of this” can open up a discussion and ultimately expand your mind to improve your work.

In conclusion, training and development is more than just enhancing your core skills and it does not have to be an expensive nor time consuming endeavor. While enrolling in classes will offer you the most tangible benefits, when you keep an open-mind and embrace all opportunities to learn, you will improve as a professional and ultimately enjoy more success.

Has The Calgary Market Finally “Turned The Corner”?

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

It has been two (plus?) very long and difficult years for the Alberta economy, especially so in Calgary. Tens of thousands of people had lost jobs and/or have had to take wage or rate cuts. The trickle-down effect from this to the broader economy was huge. Compared to the economic dip created during the 2008/2009 world financial crisis, this was a “valley” for the local economy. During this time, Alberta went from a “have” province to a “have-not” one, adding deficit spending in the billions of dollars. Market rates for contract work fell and more closely matched those in the rest of Canada. The “Alberta Advantage” had all but disappeared.

The City of Calgary has been working very hard to attract new companies to the city and diversify the industry. Over the final months of 2017, Eagle had witnessed some new, small projects popping up here and there. This was partly due to M&A activity, but was mostly outside of the Oil and Gas (O&G) space. This new activity was spotty at best and all companies didn’t participate in a general sense. However, since the New Year the feeling has been more optimistic across a broader base of companies. Big O&G companies are holding their own, although they’re not driving a lot of the new projects. But outside of these, work is beginning to show up again.

In the Information Technology and Communication sectors we are seeing cloud, security, infrastructure, and some new development projects being rolled out. And there does appear to be more companies participating this time. Rates have halted their decline, although there hasn’t been much upward movement either.

Also, an interesting situation has occurred on the skills side of things. It had been common practice that IT consultants relied on new, leading edge projects to keep their skills up-to-date. However, with the lack of projects available over the past two years some are finding their experience/skills have fallen behind where technology is at today. And as companies spark up their new projects, they are looking for employees/independent contractors with knowledge and experience in the latest technology. Oddly enough this has created a skills shortage in certain areas within the market, despite supply and demand being closer to a balance than it has been in a very long time. It will be interesting to see where this takes us.

So, has Calgary officially turned the corner economically speaking? It feels as if it has. I would love to be able to report emphatically and with confidence that things are on the upswing. However, only time will tell. When Calgary came out of the financial recession in 2009/2010, we had one of the busiest summers ever. People were trying to make up for lost time on the projects and lost billings for their businesses. Work and projects were plentiful, and we saw many people foregoing their vacations in favour of getting caught up.

But will this time be different? After two years of depressed economic conditions, one would think that there would be some appetite to make hay. But people are also fatigued. Over the past years, those that were able to find opportunities had to push through working as many hours as possible. When between assignments, they were working extra hard to find their next gig. There wasn’t a lot of rest or downtime over this very long period. So maybe a rest is needed and work will slow over the summer. The continued growth of our economy requires that we get our second wind and push through. The activity level over the next two months will show whether Calgary is back to growing again or whether this will be the new normal (for a while longer, at least).

What do you think? What are your feelings on this subject? Share your prediction by leaving a comment below!

Ottawa Regional Job Market Update

David O'Brien By David O’Brien,
Vice President, East Region & Government Services at Eagle

Amazon has Chosen Ottawa!

That’s what they call the attention grabber! Though the title is true, it’s not the highly publicized Amazon HQ from October 2017, but rather a large logistics warehouse. Despite it not being the “Amazon Jackpot” we all heard about, it will nevertheless produce 1000 good, middle class jobs.

Traditionally, the Ottawa job market has been driven by the Federal Government and it’s by far the single biggest employer. But news like the Amazon warehouse has started some exciting conversations locally about the increased activity seen in Ottawa’s Private Sector. Ottawa’s high tech sector, once the pinnacle of the late 90’s/early 2000 economic boom, which led to Ottawa being referred to as Silicon Valley North, is now pared down. However, it is still led by the mighty $15 billion dollar global electronic commerce star, Shopify. The bulk of the company is in Ottawa and has been on an ever expanding hiring bonanza for several months now. Other high tech companies, albeit much smaller but not insignificant, like You.i TV ,Klipfolio , Kinaxis and Mindbridge AI have also driven up hiring in the high tech sector.

All of this is good news for the Ottawa economy, but the government or more broadly the Public Sector is still the straw that stirs the drink. The Trudeau government has been on a hiring frenzy since 2015. We already know that the Public Sector in Ontario has created 5 jobs to every 1 in the Private Sector for the last several years, but whether that is a sustainable formula is a topic for another day (Hint: it’s not)!

The broader Public Sector in Ottawa, in addition to the Feds, include the City that employs 20,000 employees, the universities with 12,000+, and the hospitals with another 11,000. These are all jobs that tend not to disappear, quite the opposite in fact. All of this has contributed to a blazing hot unemployment rate of 4.4% in May, the lowest in over a decade. The unemployment rate in tech, though not specifically measured, would be a mere fraction of the overall rate.

The Feds have added 1900 jobs in April alone. Shared Services Canada (SSC) is the most prominent having added 300+ in the last year. We know many of these jobs have been life time contractors converting to FTE’s in the Government. This caused a level of concern for many IT staffing agencies in Ottawa, as they suffer both a loss of revenue and the scarcity of quality candidates becomes even more exacerbated.

At Eagle, the greatest demand in Ottawa in the last quarter as been in these categories:

  1. Architect
  2. Project Manager
  3. Developer
  4. Database Administrator
  5. Systems Analyst

The Emerging War for Tech Talent

Alison Turnbull By Alison Turnbull,
Delivery Manager at Eagle

We weren’t surprised to see the recent unemployment numbers in tech coming out of the US, since it’s becoming increasingly apparent that Canada is experiencing the same war for talent.

At Eagle’s permanent placement division, we have had an increased number of requests for developers. While the usual niche skills are in very high demand (Data Science, Machine Learning, Security), clients seem to be struggling to secure solid tech talent in more common areas. There seem to be more opportunities out there, particularly for experienced Java Developers, than there is talent.

Many developers choose to work as independent contractors. The appeal is obvious with the flexibility of projects/work. High rates are also a primary factor for choosing to work on a contract basis rather than full-time. But with some clients wanting to build out high performing engineering teams and keep this talent in house, they are having to come up with new and interesting ways to attract them.

Clients are now having to offer very competitive and comprehensive compensation packages. This is not unlike the trend we have seen in the US with unlimited vacation days, flexible working hours, remote work, and much higher base salaries. What may surprise some is that one of the key factors to attracting great candidates is offering them the opportunity to work with leading edge technology. A recent Forbes article states that “40% of employees had already left a job because they didn’t have access to the latest digital tools.”

We have experienced some scenarios in the past few weeks where employers have lost candidates because they failed to move through the process quickly enough and gained additional clients because internal recruitment efforts just can’t keep up with the demand. Solid developers are highly sought after and if they are considering a career move, they will typically be considering multiple offers in a very short period of time. Clients who expect candidates to go through multiple interviews and hope they will still be available 2-3 weeks after being presented, inevitably results in staffing agencies being on the losing end of this war for talent.

Working with an agency is becoming more essential as the market heats up. At Eagle we work closely with clients to:

  • Ensure that they have a carefully (and accurately) crafted an Employee Value Proposition
  • Give them unparalleled access to the ‘passive job seeker’ market
  • Provide detailed market data so that they can stay ahead of market trends and ensure their compensation is competitive
  • Keep in close contact with candidates throughout the entire process so that everyone is aware of competing offers before the candidate is off the market

With this new war for talent, it’s time for hiring organizations to start asking themselves if they’re ready to compete and what they’re going to do to attract and keep the best talent. On the flip side of the coin, with so many options available, it’s a good time for IT professionals to evaluate their own careers, develop a plan and decide where they want to be!

4 Habits of Highly Successful IT Contractors

What’s your definition of professional success? Is it having a high income? Working with the best clients? Or working enough so you can enjoy all other aspects of life? We’re not going to debate that in this post (because it’s Friday and nobody wants to have that discussion) but we do want to help you achieve your goal with the help of this video from Proactive Thinker.

The video reveals four habits that they say every successful person shares, and they can all be applied specifically to independent IT contractors. The video is just under 5 minutes and provides more details, but here’s a quick summary:

  1. Learn to Say No: You can’t work on every project and you can’t do other team members’ work while still expecting to serve your clients to the best of your ability.
  2. Accept the Reality: Things go wrong in IT projects and in your job search. Accept what you can control and work with it.
  3. Manage Your Energy: The healthier you are and better you eat, the more productive you’ll be.
  4. Take Ownership of Your Environment: You can’t control the people a client hires, but you can control your friends. Do everything you can to surround yourself with others who support your goals.

What else would you add to the list?