||By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle
I thought I’d use this blog entry to give a shout out to the CED (Calgary Economic Development) for the great work they are doing to attract new business to Calgary. They are a relatively small group of very dedicated and committed people working to make a big impact. In order to stretch a fixed budget, their marketing plans are lazer-focused and, as it turns out, they are gaining the ears of companies south of the border!
Calgary faces a number of challenges as a result of the changing business dynamics within the global Oil & Gas industry. These challenges manifest themselves in several ways:
- Increased unemployment/underemployment in all sectors, but especially in professional STEM positions which are typically higher income (tax paying) positions;
- Down-town vacancy rates are over 40% by many accounts and this threatens to put additional tax burden on the remaining businesses, making a bad situation worse;
- Reduced spending by the companies that have been driving our economy produces a trickle-down effect that has impacted small and medium sized businesses as well whether in the Oil Industry or not.
These issues could start a downward spiral if not for the efforts of the CED, other like-minded businesses and the municipal government who are taking this slow-down as an opportunity to attract new businesses across other industries. Calgary has had some extreme advantages over other North American cities for some time – a young highly-educated workforce; an entrepreneurial spirit second to none; fantastic and reliable infrastructure; and it boasts the most head offices and small businesses per capita in Canada (and being one of Canada’s 5 largest cities is saying something!). All this, while being a place where people want to work and live (Calgary ranks second of major Canadian cities for healthy lifestyle and life satisfaction according to the Conference Board of Canada). AND NOW… we have ample (and affordable) downtown office space and available highly motivated and educated workers too. This is an unprecedented opportunity to bring in new industries.
The CED have set targets for themselves based on the goals of increasing levels of employment, filling unused office space and diversification of the local economy. To accomplish this, they target companies that require knowledge workers and who struggle in their “local” labour market to attract/keep top talent. Some smaller to medium sized high-tech companies struggle to hire technologists with competition the likes of Google and Apple. Other US-based companies have hired huge numbers of foreign workers for their expertise in areas such as engineering, software development, and technology hardware; and, with the new Trump administration threatening to “send foreign workers home”, there is an opportunity to potentially move these people lock, stock and barrel to Calgary and continue to have them be productive employees. Yet other companies are looking for affordable places where people want to work to help start-up companies get a foothold and succeed… Rocketspace is such a company and is one of the first to commit to opening new offices in Calgary.
After a couple years of economic misery, there is a new “buzz” in Calgary and a new feeling of optimism as the city rebuilds (and rebrands) itself! New opportunities are coming… as a professional contractor, are you ready for this? Do you have the right “transferable skills” to take advantage in new industries? People who have chosen to specialize in Information Technology have embraced the notion of life-long learning and, as such, can and will adapt and pick-up the needed knowledge to enable them to work in any industry. The following are links to other TDC articles written on the topic of professional development… I hope they share some insights that you will find useful!
Forget the ABC (Always-Be-Closing) approach Alec Baldwin made famous in the in the 1992 movie Glengarry Glen Ross. As Kevin Dee’s recent post indicated, independent contractors — and all professionals — need to Always-Be-Learning if they want to stay competitive within their industry.
A recent Contractor Quick Poll revealed that our readers want to increase their training and development this year, but the reality is few people have the time and/or money to go back to school and take courses to learn a new skill or improve a current one. The alternative is to get creative and figure out how you can learn and expand your knowledge during your everyday life. There are unlimited ways to achieve this and it often only takes a bit of creativity and innovation, or a simple Google Search.
Learn While at Work
This article from The Muse outlines unique learning opportunities for full-time employees and there are some helpful take-aways for independent contractors as well; for example, earning a free MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) Certificate and Joining a Professional Network. The referenced article suggests these are ways to learn at work, but we recommend holding off on taking an online course or attending a networking event until a time when you’re not billing the client. That said, you can use work time as a chance to network with fellow IT contractors to learn about professional networks and courses that they find helpful.
Learn While Winding Down
According to this Entrepreneur slideshow, the average person spends 17 minutes on YouTube every day, making it the #3 biggest time waster stealing your productivity. Fortunately, Dice found a way to make YouTube productive with these 6 channels for developers that help you build your skills and learn various languages and platforms. If you’re interested, check out:
We also recommend Eagle’s YouTube channel which features quick, helpful videos for independent contractors.
How do you learn? Everybody has their own way of keeping on top of the latest trends. We’ve shared some unique training ideas for contractors on the Talent Development Centre and if you have new ones, we want to hear about them! Please share your secrets with our readers in the comments section below.
Here’s Why IT Professionals Need to Volunteer in the Gig Economy
Giving back to the community is an activity that every citizen should do, at whatever capacity they can. In some cases that involves donating money, but it should also include donating your time. In addition to the core functions of local community groups and charities, independent contractors and freelancers are sometimes asked to volunteer their own professional services. Regardless of what kind of work you do, just a few hours of free work can go a long way in helping a charity or non-profit organization get closer to accomplishing their goals. In addition, there are countless benefits and rewards that can come to you, both personally and professionally.
What Do You Gain from Volunteering?
As selfish as it may feel, every volunteer gets personal gain from putting time into their community, whether or not they recognize it. For example:
- Being involved and doing the right thing brings personal satisfaction.
- Building a better community not only is great for your family but can raise the value of a home.
- It’s an opportunity to meet the “who’s who” in your area, including business owners and politicians.
- It brings new challenges when you feel life is getting dull.
- The change in routine helps to get away from regular life stresses and recharge your batteries.
- You can make new friends and improve your social life.
- It provides an overall perspective on what you have in life, which can make you happier.
How Does Volunteering Help Your Business?
Beyond the personal benefits of volunteering is the professional value that can also come with it. Independent contractors can gain significant traction for their business, by simply finding a cause they love and putting in a few extra hours.
- Networking: Industry events get bland and you start to only see the same people. Volunteering opens you up to a whole new set of professionals from different backgrounds and industries.
- References: Speaking of the people you meet, some of them will make valuable character references and, in some circumstances, can speak to your technical skills as well.
- Maintain Unused Skills: You know that old technology that you barely use anymore because all of your clients have moved on? A charity or non-profit may still be using it. When you volunteer to help with that piece, you keep yourself fresh in case it ever comes up again with clients.
- Work on New Skills Too: The organization where you give time may also be using a tool you haven’t yet tried or one for which you need to build experience before you can sell it. This provides a win-win scenario for both of you!
- Explore Something New: Perhaps you’ve been considering a career change or thinking of changing industries all together. Volunteering is a simple way to test the waters while helping others at the same time.
From helping the less fortunate to caring for animals, everybody can find an organization that speaks to them. As an added bonus to contributions you make in your community, you will improve your life, both personally and professionally. If you’re not volunteering yet, what are you waiting for?
Many of the professionals we work with at Eagle are independent contractors, who are one person incorporated companies. One of the challenges that business owners always face is in personal development and a one person business exacerbates that problem.
If “the business” is taking time out for training, then it is not making money and it is paying for training. This brings up a common question asked by independent contractors: “How do I continue to enhance my skills and still do my day job?” Here are a couple of ideas:
Read! It seems obvious but so few people do it! Take a look at Executive Book Summaries. They are an 8 page (20 minute read) synopsis of some of the greatest business books. A very affordable annual fee lets you download summaries and read them when you have a few minutes. You can also subscribe to periodicals relevant to your specialty which will produce short, very informative, relevant documents that keep you thinking and help you to stay relevant.
Network! It’s almost a sure bet that there are many existing groups near you filled with like-minded professionals looking to meet new people and grow their knowledge. If not, why not start your own networking group?
The Internet! There are online courses in just about everything that will help you improve your skills or get you familiar with that newer technology. It takes discipline, but that’s the price of being great at what you do. Get the search engines working for you! It also doesn’t hurt to scan through articles that speak to the latest trends. Social media is filled with them as long as you’re following the right people, especially on Twitter and LinkedIn. (Tip: a Google search will help you find the best people to follow)
Invest a little in yourself and you differentiate yourself from almost everyone else – that’s a guarantee! Do you invest in yourself and, if so, how often? Do you have any tips for the busy contractor who wants to do more? Leave them in the comments below.