When did you last invest in your own career? (Forget about what your employer does.)
Do you have a personal training plan?
Do you have a career plan?
Do you understand how your industry is being affected by technology, by regulatory change and by global competition?
Can a call centre in Africa do a part of your job … for a fraction of the cost?
Can a robot replace you … or some part of what you do?
Is your company being overtaken by disruption?
“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” Henry Ford
Take control of your own destiny, because life has a way of happening:
have a great attitude (its all in your head);
have a good work ethic (anyone can do this, but many don’t!); and
have great skills.
Take advantage of every training opportunity possible AND invest in yourself!
“Those people who develop the ability to continuously acquire new and better forms of knowledge that they can apply to their work and to their lives will be the movers and shakers in our society for the indefinite future.” Brian Tracy
By Morley Surcon,
Vice-President, Western Canada at Eagle
Aesop’s “The Ant and the Grasshopper” is a timeless tale that makes the link between hard work, saving and the security that comes from doing both. It tells the story of a hard-working ant who spends the summer collecting food, while a more relaxed grass hopper sings the summer days away. Come winter, the grass hopper is stuck begging for food while the ants are prepared for the rough season.
In the present day, we see this story playing out on a macro-scale, right down to the individual level. I recently attended a speaking engagement featuring Larry Berman (BNN’s “Bermans Call”) and he suggested that the future of the EU is uncertain should the Germans eventually get fed up working to older and older ages to support countries such as Greece where people can take an early retirement pension as early as 45 years old.
Closer to home for me, living in Calgary, current economic conditions are certainly rewarding “the ants”. Although it is hard to predict when the tough-times are going to hit, they surely come; and when they do, that rainy-day fund (and all the sacrifices made to accumulate it) really does provide some much-needed security.
Along with the many benefits of being an independent contractor, one of the common risks is that these “winters” are more likely to happen, and for any number of reasons extending beyond a challenging economy. For example, sometimes projects being shut down or personality clashes cause gigs to end abruptly. Although you may have relationships with a number of IT recruiters in your region, they may not be able to find you new work immediately. In other situations, you could suddenly get sick or have to take time away from work for a period of time which, again, would leave you in a stage with no revenues.
In any case, the story referenced above can be used as a lesson for independent contractors to always be gathering for the winter. Perhaps that means taking on multiple contracts when they’re available or ensuring you’re always setting some cash aside for times when IT jobs aren’t coming as quickly as you’d hope.
There are many benefits to taking an “ant-like” approach to both your work and your life, as discussed in this article from Success, but should there be a balance? Just because you’re in a “summer” period, does it mean you have to work 24/7 to prepare for a “winter” that may not arrive for a while? What approaches have you taken as an independent contractor to prepare for winter and balance your life? I encourage you to leave a comment and share your ideas with our readers!
By Frances McCart,
Vice-President, Business Development at Eagle
I just returned from one of the toughest, but also one of the best and most memorable experiences of my life. A little over a month ago, I posted about my preparation and challenges for my upcoming climb of Mount Kilimanjaro. Now that I’ve completed the journey, returned home safely, and had a chance to reflect on the past couple weeks, I’d like to share with you one of the most important take-aways I brought back with me. Something I always knew, but this trip made me see it in a whole other light: When taking on any major challenge, a solid team with an exceptional leader will make the difference between success and failure.
Overall, our trek up Kili was a very difficult climb — harder than we expected due to some horrible weather conditions. Fortunately, we were accompanied by a team of experienced climbers, including a Chief Guide. Our Chief Guide informed us from that start that every day would be a challenge. She would give us instructions to follow that seem simple, but were critical to making it to the peak (like eating food when we did not have an appetite due to the fact the altitude had killed our appetites). She kept us on a very short leash, yelling instructions from the minute we got up at 6am until we fell asleep exhausted in our tents at 9pm. Twice a day we were given information about what lay ahead and what was to be expected. She was tough on us but we knew what was expected. She told us over and over again that she and the rest of the team (all 93 of them) were there for us and that everyone wanted to see us at the top!
The most gruelling part of the trip was Summit Night, where we set off to reach the summit starting at midnight. Forming a long conga line of people up the mountain, we had only our headlamps and the night moon to light our way. As a team, we had to work slowly and take one small step at a time, as anything bigger was dangerous due to the slope of our climb, the darkness and the fear of hitting someone in front of us. We all had to work as a team to get to the top and we were kept in spirits by Fuso who sang to us to help keep us awake and positive.
It was tempting to let the overall toughness of the challenge consume us but, as our Chief Guide told us, the key is to focus on the step in front of you, and don’t get overwhelmed by the day and its challenges. It is easier to cope with any problem or task one step at a time. What kept us going was thinking about all the little steps that need to be taken in order to achieve the overall goal of reaching the summit.
Overall, it was a team effort that got us to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Every day had its challenges throughout the journey, but we were well taken care off. We knew what we had to do and it was one step at a time that led to the ultimate success!
We all have good intentions to be productive when working from home. After all, there’s nobody around to distract you, how can you possibly not get things done? If you’ve ever worked on projects off-site from your home office, you know that isn’t true and distractions are everywhere, in every form.
So how can you avoid them? Take a look at this video. Holly Casto provides 5 very helpful tips to set up your home office, eliminate distractions, and optimize your productivity.
This post first appeared on the Eagle Blog on July 27, 2015
We are all born with certain talents.
We all have the ability to improve those talents through education, practice and effort … and we can do
Some people will take full advantage of those talents and others will not.
Robert Schuller asked the question, “What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?”
The intent of that question was to make us think about why we are not chasing our dreams or reaching for goals. If the fear of failure were eliminated then would we have some goal in mind? If so, then why not go for it?
Here are a few thoughts on this subject:
When humans are forced into situations they can accomplish incredible feats. Think about the stories of people who survived great hardships, or the heroic stories we hear about people who found themselves in tough situations.
When we decide to “go for it” we are proven to be able to achieve great things too … think about professional athletes or even very successful entrepreneurs.
Failure is not a terrible thing. Through failure we learn invaluable lessons. Each new attempt will bring us closer to our goal. There are many people who have achieved great things, before which they had many failures … think Abraham Lincoln.
We can fake ourselves out easily … by focusing on all the things that can go wrong and the possibility of failure. OR we can focus on making it happen.
Why do you need to be forced? Why do you need circumstance to push you?
We all get one go around at life.
Why not take our talents and make the most of them?
I love my job. It is challenging yet rewarding, exasperating but fun, I work with amazing people and some not so much, I work long hours, but I do that because I take pride in my work.
Most of us need to work, to pay the bills, put a roof over our heads and generally get “things” that are important to us.
Given that we need to work, then there are many reasons why it makes sense to turn that into a positive. Work is such a big part of our lives that we should find ways to get pleasure from work.
The reality is it is not easy, and it is important that we set expectations correctly.
There is a phrase that people attribute to Confucius that says, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” It is a great saying but is far from reality and I think we sometimes set young people up for failure because they don’t expect work to be so hard!
Here is the reality.
I don’t know anybody who loves their job who would say it is easy.
I don’t care whether you define success based on money, position, power, achievement of life goals, impact on others or any other definition, it is hard!
I love my job, but there are days when the stress is BIG.
I love my job but sometimes I find myself working many more hours than I had intended.
I love my job but I know that the only way to get better is to try things, push limits, fail and get back up and go again.
I love my job and despite all of the challenges, setbacks, pain and stress, I get pleasure from the wins, the learning and the growth.
If you are looking for a job to love then recognize that perfection does not exist. You will need to work hard at your “perfect” job and some days it will FEEL hard!
Understand that “love”, “success”, “fulfillment” are all very personal, and that largely it is your state of mind that determines whether you achieve those things.
It is possible to find a career that interests you and for you to learn to love that career.
Be pragmatic about life and make your choices with your eyes open. Cute quotations and sayings do not replace reality.
Having said all of that, I would offer this advice:
Look for work that is fulfilling.
Learn and grow every day.
Know that the tough times just help you to get better, IF you learn from them.
You can choose to adopt a positive attitude toward your job, whatever it is.
Work is work, but it can be fulfilling, rewarding, rich in experiences and you can learn to love it!
My quote might be, “Choose a job you love, and you will feel good about your hard work.”
Steve Jobs was famously quoted thus,
“You’ve got to find what you love. And that is as true for your work as it is for your lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle…”
This man was noted for his work ethic and he did what he loved. He suffered, he failed, he sacrificed but he loved what he did!
YES, find the work you love; just don’t expect it to be easy!
As you may already be aware, Eagle’s “Eagle Elite” program is a certification recognizing outstanding contractors who fully complete their contracts, receive glowing reviews from the client and, above all else, follow a Contractor Code of Ethics. The Code of Ethics is a simple set of guidelines and we refrain from working with any contractor who doesn’t adhere to them.
It would be great if there were no need to have these guidelines. In fact, some of the best contractors we know are a little taken aback that we would ask them to agree to a Code of Ethics. It’s only when we share stories of the poor behaviour of “the few” contractors that tarnish the industry that they gain a better understanding and most are keen to let the world know of their professionalism.
It is interesting to see some of the antics of some contractors. We have had people go through the entire process, from interviews to rate negotiations. They are happy to have been awarded the contract until they find out the person next to them earns a dollar more! What must a client think when a highly paid professional who has made a contractual commitment starts complaining about their pay just days into a contract! (TIP: The time for rate discussions is up front, once it’s done get on with the contract!)
A hot market can bring out the worst in people. We have seen people with long-term contractual commitments, who are key resources on projects, hold their clients to ransom because they suddenly decide that if they move they can get more money. Yes, they can get more money, but a negative reputation follows and is one that our industry inherits!
It is fortunately a very small minority who act in this manner and the vast majority of contractors do operate ethically. They are business people and act that way. Our clients love to work with these contractors and we look forward to adding more of these contractors to the Eagle Elite.
Have you witnessed unethical behavior from other contractors? What about from agencies? Share your experiences below!
We live in a rapidly changing work world and one of the biggest changes is the concept of working remotely or “telecommuting”. More companies are offering this kind of arrangement and for a variety of reasons. It may be part of a “flexibility” perk to save their employees time and money on an especially long commute or the firm may decide to save money on real estate or leasing costs by having a percentage of their staff work at home.
For independent contractors though, it may be a different story altogether. If you possess a rare skillset, chances are you will find clients much more willing to accept you doing the work in a location other than where the project is taking place, especially when they cannot find someone locally with the pertinent qualifications. But there is still a lot of reluctance amongst some clients who worry that if they don’t have you onsite, they won’t be able to supervise and monitor your work. It may be that your duties require you to be there during normal work hours every day for interactions with other project members such as meetings or facilitation sessions. But so often, it seems to boil down to the simple issue of trust. Perhaps they didn’t find that it worked for them and so how could it work for anyone else. Or maybe they’ve had a bad experience with an employee or contractor previously.
So, how then do we change the narrative and ensure our clients feel comfortable with this alternative method of delivering work? The simple answer is by changing perceptions and when it comes down to it, the responsibility lies with you. So what, then, can you do to show that you are able to meet contract deliverables when working remotely? Here are some simple ways to set yourself up for success:
Contact is the key – as a remote worker it’s critical that you stay connected, especially from a client accessibility standpoint. Today’s technology makes working from anywhere that much easier—but it is still up to you to demonstrate that you are equipped with the fastest Internet connection possible and latest communication gear that enables a variety of ways for clients to reach you. Phone, email, Skype. Dropped or missed calls, bad connections will only cast doubt on your ability to deliver so invest in your infrastructure.
Establish regular work hours – While you may enjoy the freedom of deciding when to work, you need to decide when you’re “on the clock” so that clients can reach you and personal contacts know when to leave you alone. Getting in a regular routine keeps you productive and without that discipline you may find that one of two things happen: You procrastinate and find yourself in a stressful crunch to get things done with an unhappy client or work gets spread out throughout the day and you feel like there’s never any downtime.
Set boundaries and limit distractions – With no one looking over your shoulder, it is up to you to stay focused and motivated and to keep others from interrupting your work time. Friends, family, pets, YouTube etc., can all compete for your time if you let them. Remember, not only do you have a contractual obligation but you are also trying to change perceptions so you need to be strict with yourself and demonstrate your professionalism and ability to deliver.
Create a work-friendly space – One way to limit distractions is to dedicate an area as your “work area” when not at the client site. A home office that will give you privacy and keep you away from interruptions is essential. Even if you live in a small apartment, dedicate a corner where all your tools, materials, media connections, and papers are at the ready. This will serve as a visual and psychological signal that it’s time to get to work. Or as an independent consultant, perhaps it’s time to rent an office space where you can have business mail delivered and a place to go every morning. Besides being a great way to establish your credibility as a professional, having somewhere to go can often stave off those feelings of isolation when working on your own.
Working remotely can be an advantageous scenario for both the independent consultant and their clients — as long as both parties are comfortable with the arrangement. Taking steps to increase the likelihood that you’ll stay engaged, focused and professional and building trust and setting yourself up for success is essential and will ultimately improve your work performance and inspire confidence in your ability to deliver remotely.
Do you work remotely? If so, have you had clients who were apprehensive about it? How did you work past it? We’d love to hear from you. Share your comments below.
At various times in the Talent Development Centre, we explain different aspects of the staffing industry, how they work and why it is that way. The non-compete clause is another aspect that should not be taken lightly by independent contractors.
In Canada an independent contractor is a business entity. When we place a contractor, Eagle enters into a business-to-business relationship with the independent contractor and similarly, we enter into a business-to-business relationship with our client. Thus a three way relationship is formed, which is just one of the ways to ensure that the employer/employee issues surrounding independent contractors are kept clean.
It is a standard in our industry for contracts to include non-compete clauses. This provides some level of protection to the agency and to the agency’s client. The following are just some of the scenarios it is designed to prevent:
An unethical competitor agency proposes to a client that they will take on all of their existing contracts for less money than the client is now paying its current agencies.
A contractor decides to cut their own deal, either with the end client or another supplier, and ends up back in the same job through someone else (or not) and the original agency gets cut out of the equation.
In the case where the client is another supplier, such as system integrator or software development company, the non-compete will protect them from someone else winning their business using the same contractor, or even the contractor competing themselves.
Generally speaking this approach works well. It is the one piece of security that an agency has and most people will respect the clause and its intent.
Staffing companies incur significant costs in establishing and maintaining the infrastructure that allows them to access “just-in-time resources” for their clients, and the only time they make money is when they actually have people on contract. If those contracts are shortened or margins are significantly reduced artificially then the viability of the economic model is challenged. At the end of the day, the agency does their job and wants to be paid fairly for that work. The non-compete will provide some protection for that revenue stream.
More importantly, independent contractors who do not to maintain a code of ethics and fail to live up to their contractual obligations are quickly blacklisted by an agency and can even gain a bad reputation throughout the industry.
No matter what your role is, your skill level, how much experience you have, you can always get better.
The question is DO YOU WANT TO GET BETTER?
Many contractors are pretty content to drift, moving from one contract to another. They will do what they need to do but don’t do anything more. Some percentage of contractors just don’t care. They will find any and every excuse to do the bare minimum and bill for the maximum.
The good news is that the people who do want to get better can easily differentiate themselves and rise above the pack.
Five reasons that you might want to do this:
It makes you feel good about yourself.
You have to work anyway so why not be the best you can be?
Contractors with a reputation of working hard generally get more interesting, higher paying contracts with better clients.
In the event of cut-backs, clients will try to hold onto their more valuable contractors.
When the market is tight, contractors with better references tend to get hired first.
Five things you can do tomorrow to improve your value:
Emulate the best performers in your field. Find what makes them successful and copy it.
Do a self-assessment of your skills with third party input from your peers, your clients and even past clients. Identify one thing to work on and develop a plan.
Take an interest in your industry. Join industry associations and networking groups to get to know your peers and help each other develop skills.
Adopt a “can do” attitude. When approached with a problem, find a way to come up with a solution. At the same time, be honest about what you “can do” and don’t over promise.
Develop GREAT time management skills. Start small and work at it constantly. How can you be more efficient?
How do you stand out to clients and recruiters among all of the other contractors in your field? Do you have any other tips? Share them here!
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