Talent Development Centre

Tag Archives: job searching

All Talent Development Centre posts for Canadian technology contractors relating to job searching.

4 Job Search Tips for Busy Candidates

Independent contractors are busy people.  You’re often juggling multiple projects, managing your business, balancing the rest of your life, and, of course, working to ensure you always have more work when the current contract is complete.  The last task can be especially challenging, given how much of your time those first three tend to use.

This video from Recruiter.com goes through 4 great tips for any candidate to search for jobs when they’re already busy.  Point number three discusses job alerts – did you know you can sign up for notifications through Eagle’s job board?

Life After Company XYZ

Jeremy Mason By Jeremy Mason,
Vice-President, Central Canada at Eagle

The IT Market changes dramatically each and every year, whether it is due to technological advancements, consumer demand, demographics, the economy, or any other reason.  While often positive, these changes can also have negative effects, causing companies to have to look at downsizing or restructuring.  In these cases, senior employees may be laid off, given an early retirement offer or even choose to take their natural retirement if the time lines up.  Regardless of how it plays out, it often comes as quite a shock to these individuals who have been with a given Company for very long time and suddenly find themselves having to think about their next move for the first time in over a decade.

Senior IT Professional Looking to Become an Independent ContractorIt’s completely natural for an individual in this position to wonder about “what they still have to offer.” The good news is there IS life after Company XYZ!!! Retirement or a new full-time job is not always feasible so instead, the next logical step could be independent contracting.  Not only is this group in a unique position to offer a tremendous amount of value to potential clients, but contracting can be very rewarding.

Here are just a few reasons why independent contracting may be the perfect solution for you if you’re a senior IT professional who is suddenly out of the workforce:

  • As already noted, the IT industry is changing, and as a result, companies are losing a tremendous amount of ‘Intellectual Capital’. You can take advantage of your skill set and offer your expertise on a contract basis.
  • After being with a given company for more than 10 years (which is rare in today’s Market), you can now have more freedom and choose what opportunity looks right for you.
  • It’s a great opportunity to start easing your way into retirement, working a little less and enjoying life a little more.
  • You’ll get to reap the financial rewards that come with it.

Eagle’s Executive and Management Consulting division works specifically with senior IT experts and has a network of clients who are looking for your knowledge. There is a definite demand for this market and, as more senior professionals start to retire, this demand is only going to grow.  If you find yourself in the position I described above, contact us today to discuss your options — you may be surprised at what you can do!

Develop This One Skill that Appears in 9 out of 10 Postings for the Most In-Demand Jobs

By Elizabeth Bromstein at Workopolis
This article originally appeared in the Workopolis Career Resources Blog

How many conversations have you had today? How many TV shows have you watched or podcasts have you heard? Now, how much of what you heard do you remember? How much did you actually listen?

Man and woman having a conversationI know I have a problem listening a lot of the time. I “listen” to podcasts on my way to and from work but can’t even remember what they were about the following day. I forget to listen to my husband when he speaks. I lose track of what people are saying when I interview them. We all do these things, though some of us are worse than others. I don’t think I’m actually that bad, but I’m not the best. I could be better. We all could.

Here’s the thing about listening: it is crucial to your career success. We know that “people skills” are for employers by far the most desired attributes in potential hires, and that listening is one of the most important people skills. We also know that “active listening” was listed as a critical skill for 9 out of 10 of the most in-demand jobs in a recent report. You must have listening skills.

If I were talking, you’d have tuned out already wouldn’t you?

We are losing our ability to listen, according to sound consultant Julian Treasure, who says we spend roughly 60% of our communication time listening but that we retain just 25% of what we hear. He says in a Ted talk that this is happening for several reasons, among them the noise levels to which we’re constantly subjected, the way information is expected to be presented in sound-bytes, and the rise of recording technology (I, for example, often find myself multi-tasking while interviewing people, and forgetting to pay attention to what they’re saying because I can just listen to the recording later).

“The premium on accurate and careful listening has simply disappeared,” he says.

In that talk Treasure also shares 5 exercises and tools you can use to improve your own conscious listening. These are:

  1. Silence
    “Just three minutes a day of silence is a wonderful exercise to reset your ears and to recalibrate so that you can hear the quiet again. If you can’t get silence go for quiet. That’s absolutely fine.”
  2. Something Treasure calls “The mixer”
    If you are in a noisy environment where sound is coming from all directions, listen for how many distinct channels of sounds you can hear. I do this for fun by listening for specific instruments in musical recordings. Symphonies are good.
  3. Something Treasure calls “savouring”
    This means “enjoying mundane sounds.” For an example, he shows how he turns the sound of his clothes dryer into a waltz.
  4. Listening positions
    This is “the idea that you can move your listening position to what’s appropriate to what you’re listening to.” I had some trouble grasping this one but he means that there are many different “positions” from which we listen: active, passive, expansive, reductive, judgmental. Treasure suggests playing with these “positions.” More on that here and in the Ted talk posted below.
  5. RASA
    It’s apparently the Sanskrit word for “juice” or “essence,” and an acronym for Receive (take in what you’re hearing),Appreciate (make listening noises like mmm hmmm), Summarize (recap with “so…”), Ask (ask questions).

Treasure says he believes that “every human being needs to listen consciously in order to live fully.” That’s a beautiful thought. And it will help you get a job, which is also nice.

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!”

Economic Downturn — Now What?

Cameron McCallum By Cameron McCallum,
Branch Manager at Eagle

The complexities of today’s economy are exceedingly difficult to understand.  The interdependence of our global market means that what happens in one part of the world can ripple across vast oceans and impact your life with little or no warning.  Wars, natural disasters, and recessions make news headlines daily, and the economic impact can quickly become a wave that engulfs your quiet world and turns things upside down.  Here in Alberta, we’re witnessing one of those events, as the price of oil continues its downward trend the effects are being felt here and across Canada.   Projects are being shelved, contractors have been let go and the news doesn’t promise to get better anytime soon.  As an independent contractor, this can be a time of stress and uncertainty.  How should you respond?

  1. Stay Professional:  If your contract is terminated early, understand that this is a market condition that you have very little control over.  Do whatever it takes to leave the project in as good as shape as is possible.  If you can, ensure any items that need to be handed over are completed and let your client know that if they have any questions, you will make yourself available to them.  Ask your manager if they would be willing to act as a reference.   Maintain your professionalism. The client who is forced to let you go early may one day be hiring again and you want them to remember you in a positive light.
  2. Talk to the Pros:   Your staffing agency has important, real time information about the market.  For example, while one sector of the economy is in upheaval, it doesn’t mean that opportunities don’t exist in other sectors (or other geographic locations).  They will know the lay of the land and can give you valuable knowledge and a big picture view of the market and where you might fit in it.  You also need to update them on any new skills you’ve acquired and make sure you’ve updated your resume so they have a fresh copy.  Keep in mind that it might be a good time to highlight specific projects or industry experience to mesh with where current opportunities lie.
  3. Update your status on Social Media and let contacts know: Updating your status on social media is critical.  You need to get the word out as quickly as possible and social media is an excellent way of doing it.  Be prepared for the questions that come with your updated status.  People will want to know what happened.
  4. Increase networking activity:  It’s time to step up your networking activity.  Industry events, professional organizations and other gatherings are great places to meet others in your field and gather intelligence on what is happening in the market and pick up strategies for dealing with an uncertain economy.  Many of us stop networking when things are going well. Instead, make networking an ongoing habit.
  5. Determine your acceptable levels of flexibility:  During an economic downturn, you Stressed contractor dealing with economic downturnmay decide that you need to widen your parameters.   Are you now willing to travel for a contract?  Should you lower your rate to be more competitive and are you ok taking on different roles which may not be as challenging or fun?  Make sure that you have these discussions with your family, partner, accountant or anyone else who is invested in your career.  Traveling for contracts can be a great way to escape a regional slowdown but it also has its challenges.  How will your family cope with you away much of the time? What are the financial implications? Will your rate cover the extra expenses of living in another city?   And what about your rate?  Most contractors would agree that lowering your expectations makes sense but how much do you move?  Again, talk to the professionals.  Recruiters are constantly monitoring the market and receive real time information about what rates are competitive in different markets.   And what about looking at different roles?  While this can sometimes work, for example, a PM taking on BA work, it is generally not an easy thing to do.  Clients pay a premium for contractors exactly because of the expertise they bring to the table.  It could be argued that many PMs are capable of doing BA work, but there is a general sense in the marketplace that you hire BAs to do BA work.  Trying to force your resume to make it fit another skillset rarely works and recruiters and clients alike are trained to uncover the truth.
  6. Stay confident:  Don’t allow frustration to creep in.  If your search is progressing slowly, keep meeting and talking to others in your field.  Not only is it important to continue to gather information, just the act of getting out and having a purpose to your day is integral.  You’ll feel better and the information you gather could lead to your next contract.
  7. Upgrade your skills:  If you decide to ride the downturn out, now might be a great time to upgrade your skills.  Get that certification you need to complete your resume.  Most recruiters will ask you about work gaps in your resume and will understand when the timing corresponds with an economic event — especially when you’ve filled in the gap by taking courses or programs which help you become a more marketable candidate.
  8. Respond appropriately to the market:  In times of change, the job market can shift considerably.  A market that supported a great deal of contract work may change 180 degrees.  Now, not only are you out of a contract, but the only roles being offered are as permanent employee.  While anyone can understand the pressures of having to pay the bills and keep a roof over your head, it is important to protect both your integrity and your reputation.  Taking a perm role with the intention of leaving as soon as the next contract comes along can damage both.  If you decide to consider permanent opportunities, look for a role where the benefits are mutual and commit to making it work.  You have a great deal to offer as an employee and companies can offer training and benefits that you might not otherwise have access to.   While workplace tenure is a thing of the past, you can maintain your reputation as a professional if you go into this scenario with the objective of making it a win-win.

Do you have any other tips to add?  Have you tried any of the above and would like to share your experiences?  Add your comments below!

5 Ways to Find a Contract While on Holidays

Last week we discussed 6 reasons it’s a good idea to keep searching for opportunities over the holidays.  Let’s dive deeper into some simple strategies you can use or activities you can do right now that will give you an advantage in the New Year and throughout 2015.

  1. Holiday Events
    How many parties and dinners have you been to so far and how many more will you attend?  How many do you actually want to attend?  All of these are networking events, so take advantage by meeting new people and re-connecting with old friends.  You don’t need to sell yourself or hand out copies of your resume, but it’s amazing where a simple discussion can lead.
  2. Send thank you notes/holiday cards
    Speaking of building relationships, have you sent your holiday cards yet?  If you Person Writing Cardsthink it’s too late, how about thank you notes to people you worked with this year?  This is a simple task you can do while watching TV or traveling and can have great rewards.
  3. Take the time away to do research
    You don’t need to be applying to jobs to get ahead, instead simply focus on planning.  Research your industry, potential clients, and potential agencies.  Find out where the opportunities will be and where you want to be.  Then develop your plan.  Will you work on some relationships? Register for some events? Set-up email notifications on Google and job boards?
  4. Take the time away to inventory your skills and re-work your resume
    The previous point focuses on your external analysis, but don’t forget about the internal one. Take a step back to review your skills.  Should you do any extra training this year?  Then, re-work your resume.  Maybe even create multiple resumes that focus on different roles.
  5. Be flexible when scheduling meetings
    If you manage to get an interview or meeting with a potential client, be able to work around their schedule.  Everybody is a busy right now and will be playing “catch-up” for a couple weeks after the holidays.  The more flexible you are, the more likely you’ll be able to get a meeting, and clients will appreciate you accommodating to their schedule.

If you set a goal to find new contracts during your break but haven’t started yet, don’t worry, there’s still plenty of time.  The tips above are simple and shouldn’t take too much time away from your vacation.  Do you have any other quick tips to find new contracts over the holidays? Share your ideas below!

You Job Search Shouldn’t Rest Over the Holidays

Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Stop Searching for IT Contract Opportunities Over the Holidays

We’ll all use this holiday season to relax, enjoy time with family, and even be a little lazy.  Given how busy we are the rest of the year, taking a break is necessary and there’s a good chance that what won’t be on your mind is searching for new contract opportunities.  If Business person working during holiday mealyou are able to squeeze it in between meals and movies, though, you just might set yourself up for a rewarding 2015.

There are several reasons a job search over the holidays can increase your odds of winning a contract.  Here are a few:

  1. Organizations are still hiring. Even though many of us will take a break, business will absolutely continue to operate.  Companies are always planning their next moves, projects are always moving forward, and people are always needed (usually sooner rather than later).  If you keep an eye on your favourite job boards, you’ll notice that, although there won’t be many, there will be new opportunities appearing.
  2. Less competition. And while those new opportunities are appearing, fewer people will be seeing them. Remember, most people use the holidays to “turn off”. When you “turn on” for a few minutes each day, you may be the only person applying to a job.
  3. Budgets reset.  While not true for all organizations, many companies reset their budgets on January 1st.  They suddenly have money to spend and will want to get projects going the second 2015 starts.  They’ll use the holiday period to find contractors to work on those 2015 projects.
  4. Recruiters are easier to reach.  As we said in #1, it may be slower but business doesn’t stop during the holiday season.  Many recruiters are still at their desk and may have some extra time.  What a great opportunity to call them, build relationships, and discuss upcoming roles.
  5. People change jobs in the New Year.  2015 will come with a slew of resolutions and some of them will be to make a career change.  Be proactive by getting your name in front of recruiters and hiring managers over the holidays, and you’ll be the first person they call in January.
  6. Show enthusiasm and initiative.  If anything, taking the time to apply for jobs, writing cover letters and checking in with your network shows that you’re serious about your business.  Many clients love that personality trait and will recognize you for it.

We’re not recommending you cancel your vacation, ignore your family and work for the next few weeks straight.  But could you monitor some websites and make a few calls?  It just might pay off!

4 Assumptions That Are Hurting Your Job Search

Change is inevitable throughout the business world, but in the last decade, it seems like the pace of change has been increasing every day. If you agree with this statement and believe that SO MUCH has changed in just a few short years, then you need to be very wary of OLD ASSUMPTIONS!

We all tend to have them, they come from previous experiences, they are bred into us as children from our parents’ experiences and over a lifetime we tend to adopt them as fact.

If you look at the job market today it would be easy to apply the same beliefs you had years ago, or even just a few years ago before the recession.  Yet the job market in particular has changed enormously in a short space of time.

Canada’s economy is one of the best in the world but we still have almost 7% unemployment, AND we have jobs going unfilled every day!

If you are looking for work you might need to reset your expectations.  Here 4 common assumptions some job seekers still have that are holding them back from a future opportunity:

  1. “I need to secure full-time, permanent work.” Most of our readers are independent contractors so already know that this is false.  Temporary and contract work is growing. Even if it is not your preferred answer, it gives you (a) a pay cheque; (b) an “in” to an employer; (c) good experience; and (d) it is always better to look for work when employed! There are many benefits to contracting and the Talent Development Centre is dedicated to helping professionals succeed in it.  If you’re looking for work and have been ruling out those contract opportunities, it may be time to start considering them.
  2. “I can find work in my city.”  This isn’t completely false; you can find work, but is it Woman searching for a job onlinethe work you want? The job that matches your career goals may not be available in your geography, so maybe you should consider moving to where the work is.  Traditionally, Canadians have been slower to move for work, unlike the US, but being employed is a big part of anyone’s life so you should give it real consideration.  A great part about being an independent contractor is that taking work in another city doesn’t necessarily mean a big move. It may only be for a few months until a contract comes up closer to home and, depending on the client, you may be able to build travel costs into your bill rate.
  3. “I have always been a <fill in the blank>.” The truth is, some skills get outdated, especially in IT. Sure, you could become a subject matter expert in a niche area, but that will make contracts hard to find and could involve a lot of travel.  If you want to continue in that line of work, you’ll need to get some extra training to refresh your skills, or maybe you need to consider something different that could take advantage of your current skills.  For example, you could consider becoming a recruiter!
  4. “I know how to find opportunities.” If your colleague told you the only place they look for contracts today is in the weekly careers section of the newspaper, you’d probably look at them like they had two heads. Perhaps the fastest driver of change today is technology and that’s creating countless new places where companies are promoting their opportunities.  If you’ve been sticking with the same one or two sources for the past five years, you’re not much further ahead of the person who only looks in the newspaper.

Getting past some of these assumptions could require a big decision and don’t make any of them without really doing your research.  Remember, though, the people who figure out this new world first will be the winners! So ask yourself, are you changing with the times or are you still stuck in some old ways.  Do you have a plan to embrace new ideas and try new strategies?  Share your ideas with our readers below.