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So, Now What??!

So, Now What??!

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

I’d like to begin by stating that this is purely an opinion piece. I’ve no better access to information than most other people (the information I’ve reviewed comes from internet sources and my own discussions with contractors, consultants and clients) but, I think, that this may be the point. I don’t know what’s coming next, no one does. Many say they do… but they don’t. So in this COVID-obsessed and stressed out world, what is one to do?

There are very few people in this world who truly love and embrace change. (And no, I am not one of them!) Sure, many of us can appreciate the concept of change being needed for progress to occur, we may even agree that it could be a good thing. But it rarely “feels good” when we are in the middle of it. And, boy! Are we in the middle of it now!! Everybody has everything in their lives turned on its head right now. Sure, we’ve made accommodations and are in the process of defining our own “new normal”, but the truth is that the way things are today aren’t the way they are going to be in 6 months from now, nor will they ever be the same way they were before! It’s a scary thought for most people — the “future normal” is unknown.

Wait a minute… the future has never been known… how is this “new” in any way? What is different now, is the scope of the changes that we are facing. Too much of our lives have been changing too drastically too quickly and it will continue to do so for some time to come, for the foreseeable future, actually. I guess hyper-change IS the new normal. Or, to put it oxymoronically, un-normal is normal. And we would do well to get used to that idea.

So, back to the original question: what do we do now, today, to set ourselves up for success in this “oxymoronical” (not a real word) time. I don’t know (for sure). But here are a number of ideas that have shown to be useful when living in times of great change:

  • Accept that you cannot stop change. Your plans, whatever they were, may no longer be possible to accomplish — at least in the way or time frame which you’d intended. If your situation has created an insurmountable obstacle to your plans, stop trying to fight it. Your time and energy would be better spent focusing on something else, something that will lead to positive results for you.
  • Be flexible. Look for ways to adapt your plans so that your goals might still be met. Look for a “Plan B”. Expect that you might need to look for a Plan C, D, E…
  • Be engaged. As much as you might want to hunker down, withdraw and ride it out, these massive changes will continue. Unless you are retired, with everything paid off and have a sizeable, well-hedged nest egg, you are not going to be able to “sit this one out”. “Group Think” is real and it is a powerful tool for you to use to keep current. Working your network of family, friends, colleagues, etc. will help to keep you abreast of the changes as they happen and provide ideas for making the accommodations necessary to limit the downside and maximize the opportunities.
  • Limit the downside and maximize the opportunities. As we all know, change does not need to be a negative thing. Although it can be uncomfortable, there will be both opportunities to take advantage of and pitfalls which we’d like to avoid. Being “opportunistic” might not always have a good connotation; however, in times of great change, it is an approach one should embrace.
  • Give back. As bad as we might have it, others have it far worse. Helping others in need is a great way to do good while attaining perspective, lifting your spirit, and generally feeling better about yourself (and your own situation).
  • On the career side, if you find that you have unwanted-but-extra time on your hands, investing in your knowledge/skills through training, reading, networking, etc. often pays a good return. If you don’t have the time or wherewithal for a formalized course/certification, there are many free sources of information and training available. As well, there are user groups (albeit virtual these days) that you can join. Not only are these a great networking opportunity, they are also great places to learn!
  • Try something new. If you’ve ever thought to yourself “I always wanted to… ??, but never had the time“. Or, “Someday, when the time is right, I’ll try to… ??“. Maybe now is the time. You may find a hidden talent or something new that you love to do and the rest of your life may be richer for it. Learn a new language! The direction of macro-changes suggests that globalization will continue unabated and being bilingual or multi-lingual can be a real advantage.
  • Do some soul-searching. Most of us have been “running hot” for a long time. We’ve had our heads down, and pushing forward with our careers/lives/relationships/etc. When evaluating your opportunities, it is a good practice to challenge your own goals, philosophies, and ideals. Is what was important to you 10 years ago still important to you today? If you take time to peel back that “onion”, you might be surprised to find that your priorities are due for a change. What Color Is Your Parachute? is an old, tried-and-true, self-help book meant to guide people through a career change; but it contains excellent exercises that helps one to identify what is most important to them and set goals and priorities and make new, better-fit life plans. Resources such as this book (and countless internet sites) are valuable as guides to your self-awareness journey.
  • Exercise and take care of your health. The benefits of this go without saying… so, I’ll only say this: Regardless of the amount of change facing you over the coming months and years, attending to your physical and mental health will never be a wasted effort.
  • Take time to read — news sources, industry articles, biographies, editorials, training literature and whitepapers. Listen to podcasts on subjects of interest to you. It doesn’t even have to be career-related; it can be of general interest to you or hobby-related. Try to choose things that engage you and stimulate your mind… and minimize your time watching mindless TV shows, the black hole that can be YouTube, etc. because, in these, you lose hours of your life and come out no better for it.

Here are some links to websites that share ideas on how to cope with change. They are good “reads” and can augment my own list here:

That’s my list for coping, Mid-COVID – August 2020. As I said at the beginning of this blog post: this is an Opinion Piece and I am the world’s leading authority on my own opinion. I’m sure you have your own advice to add to this list… and maybe even counter points to argue! I’d be pleased to see you share your own ideas with our readership by leaving a comment below! In the words of the great and wise Red Green: “Remember, I’m pulling for you. Were all in this together!”

Take care, stay well, be strong… and thrive!

Create Your Own Happiness as an Independent Contractor

Create Your Own Happiness as an Independent ContractorGoing into business for yourself and becoming an IT contractor is a no-brainer for many technology professionals. While some take the leap and quickly realize they were happier as an employee, many others love the flexibility, benefits and challenges that come with the independent contracting lifestyle. Regardless of how you’re employed, happiness is in your control and it goes beyond finding the right job with the right company.

Chris Christoff, co-founder of MonsterInsights, recently wrote an article for Inc. where he highlighted the importance of a positive attitude at work. He references a Harvard Medical School study explaining how the right attitude will keep a steady heart rate, reduce stress, and improve your happiness. And most importantly, he notes it is only you who can change your mindset. Christoff provides 4 tips: Practice Gratitude, Help Your Colleagues, Stop Complaining, and Smile Often.

Of course, a positive attitude will be difficult to keep if you dislike your job. As we’ve noted, independent contracting presents an opportunity for IT pros to build work-life balance and that should lead to more happiness. According to this article on FastCompany and written by John Rampton, though, there are 10 myths to Work-Life Balance that set false expectations, stress out entrepreneurs and set you up for failure, inevitably making you resent your career path:

  1. Myth: It’s actually about achieving balance.
    Truth: There’s no such thing as “balance” but instead, it’s integration or Be fulfilled everywhere.
  2. Myth: Life needs to be compartmentalized.
    Truth: It’s not possible to divide everything evenly. Some days have more work, others have more leisure.
  3. Myth: You can have it all.
    Truth: There are always trade-offs and sometimes you have to give something up to have it better somewhere else.
  4. Myth: Time management is the answer.
    Truth: Don’t trust outdated time management tips that say you can go completely off-grid every night.
  5. Myth: Technology will give you more free time.
    Truth: Technology is an assistant, but you still need to put in effort.
  6. Myth: It’s what employees care about most.
    Truth: Those you work with or manage often prioritize meaningful work over the flexibility of their location and hours.
  7. Myth: The early bird catches the worm.
    Truth: Waking up early doesn’t necessarily lead to productivity. And working late isn’t bad either.
  8. Myth: You never have to work during off-hours.
    Truth: IT contractors especially do not have this luxury. If you need to (or want to) be working, then you work.
  9. Myth: The less you work, the happier you’ll be.
    Truth: “It’s not about how many hours you work or do something you love. It’s about the quality of how you’re spending your time.”
  10. Myth: Everything has to be scheduled.
    Truth: Schedule important tasks but leaving gaps in your schedule opens up for flexibility and spontaneity.

Whatever your role, how do you maintain happiness in your work life? Do you agree with the advice provided in the referenced FastCompany and Inc. articles? As usual, we love your feedback, so please share your comments in the section below.

What to Do When You Lose Out on a Contract

The nature of IT contracting means that throughout your profession, you’re going to inevitably experience rejection. It’s not uncommon to work closely with a recruiter and meet with clients in an extensive interview process, only to find out you didn’t win the work. Especially for those new to the technology contracting space, this can be disheartening and discouraging. Those who have been around the block a few times know that how you react to such rejection plays a role in how your career will shape out. Here are a few things to do when you don’t win the contract you were hoping to get:

  1. Confirm the Opportunity is Closed. Let’s take a step back. Do you know for sure that you didn’t get the job or are you assuming so because you haven’t heard anything recently. Some clients, especially in the public sector, have a long evaluation process. It’s possible nobody, including your recruiter, has heard anything yet.
  2. Ask Questions. And do it promptly. As soon as you learn that the contract was awarded to somebody else, pick up the phone to your recruiter and start digging into reasons why. Try to get feedback from both the recruiter’s perspective and the client’s. Specific questions could be:
  • Was the contract awarded to someone else? (see #1)
  • What was the decision based on? (provide examples to help pry for details — price, qualifications, fit, etc.)
  • How can I improve for future opportunities? (interview performance, qualifications or training, soft skills)
  • What was the one thing I did best?
  • Are there any other open roles I’d be better suited for?
  1. Review Your References. You may get a signal based on your recruiter’s feedback that your references weren’t as shining as you’d hoped. In this case, review the names you’re providing and ensure that you are clear on the information they’re sharing with recruiters and clients.
  2. Self-Reflect. Take the feedback you receive and combine it with what you already know (practice self-awareness and be honest with yourself). Could you have been better prepared? Are you applying to jobs out of your league? Could you have been more personable?
  3. Act on the Results. It’s one thing to know what you must do but it’s another thing to actually do it. Using the feedback you receive, read through your resume, social networks and personal website to make improvements. Also review your skills and create a training plan based on gaps.
  4. Continue to Build Relationships. Just because your recruiter wasn’t able to help you land this contract, it doesn’t mean they will not have opportunities in the future. Keep working with them (and others) and ensure lines of communication remain open to build relationships and find new opportunities.
  5. Stay Positive. Negativity is a downward spiral that brings nothing productive. The right attitude is crucial in a successful job search and the opposite will quickly spread and make people much less likely to want to work with you.

Whatever your reaction to a lost contract opportunity, never burn bridges. This can happen much more easily than you might think. Letting pride get in the way, refusing any responsibility and blaming the recruiter, or pushing to change a final decision can all affect how willing your staffing agency is to present you for an opportunity in the future.

How do you deal with lost contract opportunities? Do you have a specific process, do you ignore them all together, or do react based on each situation? We’d love to hear your feedback and experiences. Please share them in the comments below.