COVID-19 Government Support for Canadian IT Contractors

Last Update: April 2, 2020

The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak is causing drastic amounts of stress and uncertainty for everyone. We recently shared a post with ideas and resources to help deal with the anxiety, but there are many other concerns Canadian IT contractors are dealing with every day.

The Federal Government and various Provincial Governments are all taking measures and implementing programs to help Canadians through difficult times. We’re collecting these updates as they’re announced and posting them to this page.

Feel free to bookmark this page and check back often. If you have any questions, require more information, or have a lead on some support that we missed, please leave them in the comments below.

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

If you have lost income because of COVID-19, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) will provide you with $500 a week for up to 16 weeks.

Are you Eligible for the CERB?

To be eligible, you must:

  • Be residing in Canada
  • Be at least 15 years old
  • Stopped working as a result of reasons related to COVID-19 (if you are looking for a job but haven’t stopped working because of COVID-19, you are not eligible for the Benefit) or are eligible for Employment Insurance regular or sickness benefits
  • Have had income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of application. That income may be from any or a combination of the following sources: employment; self-employment; maternity and parental benefits and/or similar benefits paid in Quebec.
  • Be, or expect to be, without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial four-week period.

How to Apply for the CERB

You can apply for the CERB here.

Applications for the CERB will be accepted starting April 6th and you will require a CRA My Account. The link above includes resources for setting up your account, including retriving your password, setting up an account through your My Service Canada account or setting one up from scratch. To help manage the demand, applications are being accepted based on your month of birth:

Canada Emergency Response Benefit

Contacting Service Canada

Service Canada is temporarily closing in-person Service Canada Centres to allow them to better prioritize capacity and to ensure critical service delivery to vulnerable clients. You can apply for critical services online and Citizen Service Officers will be providing personalized service support for EI and pensions applications through an e-service available online and on mobile phone. To support access to critical programs and services for clients without access to technology, Service Canada Community Outreach and Liaison Service staff are contacting communities to offer alternate service delivery methods that will continue to support accessing critical programs, services and benefits. Service Canada is also warning that call volumes are expected to be high for the foreseeable future. Please visit Canada.ca for information. If you have difficultly getting through, please try again later

Emergency Isolation Support (Alberta)

Eligible working Albertans can receive a one-time emergency isolation support payment of $1,146 if they are required to self-isolate or are the sole caregiver of someone in self-isolation and they have no other source of pay or compensation. This is a temporary program to bridge the gap until the Federal Emergency Care Benefit is available in April. If you are eligible for federal Employment Insurance benefits, you are strongly encouraged to apply immediately.

Temporary Aid for Workers Program (Quebec)

This program, offered by the Gouvernement du Québec in partnership with the Red Cross, offers financial assistance to meet the needs of workers who, because they are in isolation to counter the propagation of the COVID-19 virus, cannot earn all of their work income and are not eligible for another financial assistance program, including EI. The lump-sum amount granted to an eligible person is $573 per week, for a period of 14 days of isolation. If justified by your state of health, the coverage period for an eligible person could be extended to a maximum of 28 days. Workers can start by filling out the application form here.

British Columbia Emergency Benefit for Workers

The B.C. Emergency Benefit for Workers will provide a one-time $1,000 payment to people who lost income because of COVID-19. Applications for the one-time payment will open soon.

Deferred Due Date for Taxes

Canada Revenue Agency is deferring the filing due date for individuals until June 1st. Furthermore, the CRA will allow all taxpayers to defer, until after August 31, 2020, the payment of any income tax amounts that become owing right now and before September 2020.

Temporary Wage Subsidy for Employers

This is a three-month measure that will allow eligible employers to reduce the amount of payroll deductions required to be remitted to the CRA. Incorporated independent contractors who pay themselves a salary may qualify for this. The subsidy is equal to 75% of the remuneration you pay, retroactive to March 15, 2020, up to $847 per employee per week. To qualify, employers will have to show that their revenues have fallen by at least 30 per cent due to COVID-19. The Prime Minister did warn that companies that can pay their employees without federal help should do so or else serious consequences will follow.

Once you have calculated your subsidy, you can reduce your current remittance of federal, provincial, or territorial income tax that you send to the CRA by the amount of the subsidy. You cannot reduce your remittance of CPP contributions or EI premiums. This does not apply to remittances made to Revenu Québec. Eagle recommends discussing this option with your accountant.

Mortgage and Credit Relief at Banks

Banks in Canada have affirmed their commitment to working with customers to provide flexible solutions, on a case-by-case basis. This includes up to a 6-month payment deferral for mortgages and opportunity for relief on other credit products. Contact your local bank branch if you require any assistance.

Job Protected Leave

Most provinces have implemented protected leave for workers who need to take time off to due to quarantines or COVID-19 illnesses. In Alberta, this does not require a doctor’s note nor is there a requirement to have worked for an employer for 90 days. The leave covers the 14-day self-isolation period recommended by Alberta’s chief medical officer and may be extended if the advice of the chief medical officer changes. Similarly, in Ontario, employees are not be required to provide a medical note if they take the leave and the measures would be retroactive to January 25, 2020. In BC, the COVID-19 leave is retroactive to January 27, 2020, the date that the first presumptive COVID-19 case was confirmed in British Columbia. During this public health emergency, employees can take this job-protected leave for the reasons above as long as they need it, without putting their job at risk.

Childcare

The Government is proposing to increase the maximum annual Canada Child Benefit (CCB) payment amounts, only for the 2019-20 benefit year, by $300 per child. The overall increase for families receiving CCB will be approximately $550 on average; these families will receive an extra $300 per child as part of their May payment.

In the Province of Ontario, the government is providing a one-time payment of $200 per child up to 12 years of age, and $250 for those with special needs, including children enrolled in private schools.

Ontario Renewal Extensions

The province of Ontario is providing extensions for driver licences, licence plate validation, Ontario Photo Cards, and Commercial Vehicle Operator Registration certificates, among others. In addition, expiring and expired health cards will continue to provide access to health services.

This extension will be in place until such time that, based on the advice of Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health and public health officials, the current situation improves.

Alberta Utility Payment Holidays

In Alberta, residential customers can defer electricity and natural gas bill payments for the next 90 days to ensure no one will be cut off, regardless of the service provider.

Relief from the Ontario Energy Board

The OEB extended the winter ban on electricity disconnections for non-payment for all residential customers to July 31, 2020. Low-volume, small business customers will now also be protected by the ban. In addition, the OEB is calling on distributors to be more flexible on arrears payment arrangements. The Ontario Ministry of Energy, Northern Development and Mines is looking at programs and policies to support electricity customers during the COVID-19 pandemic and information should be coming shortly.

Additional Resources

Dating Advice for your Job Search: 8 things you should NEVER do after a first date (or job interview)

Dating Advice for your Job Search: 8 things you should NEVER do after a first date (or job interview)

You gotta love that feeling after a successful job interview for a gig that you really want. Leaving the meeting knowing that there was a genuine connection, they know that what you’re offering is exactly what they need and you know that their project is exactly what you’ve been looking for. Unfortunately, you’re not the only fish in the sea, so as much as you’d like them to pick you right away, the reality is, they need to look at all their options before making their final decision.

The scenario is like that of a first date, so what better place to get your next steps than a dating professional? The dating website eHarmony published a post outlining what you should never do after a first date and it perfectly aligns with what you should never do after a job interview.

1. Go text crazy

Text, email or phone. A follow-up afterwards to thank them for their time is great, but then leave it alone and wait for your recruiter to get in touch with you. If a week or two goes by without hearing anything, it’s definitely alright to follow-up. Just like dating, ghosting is rude and no ethical recruiter will intentionally do it to you.

2. Over analyze

The past is over and you can’t control it. Rehashing every response you gave and wishing you’d said something else won’t change anything. Some interview advice does recommend that you can clarify in your follow-up email, but aside from that, stressing about it is futile. The only way to know If they liked you is by waiting for the recruiter or client’s response.

3. Add them on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, pin to their Pinterest board…

Add them to LinkedIn with a brief thank you message, and you should already be following the company’s social media pages, but it stops there. Most hiring managers and recruiters save their Facebook and Instagram accounts for personal relationships. Stocking them through those networks is slightly creepy and over-stepping a boundary.

4. Tell yourself you’ll be single [or unemployed] forever

A terrible interview is disappointing, especially if it’s one that you really wanted to work out. That said, self-doubt and negative talk about your future is not going to help you move forward. It’s important to keep a positive frame of mind so you can continue with a successful job search.

5. Act like you’re in a relationship

A great interview with a recruiter is fantastic and it is safe start building a business relationship. You will get to know each other better and the recruiter will send you job opportunities as they arise. But, the eHarmony article states that you need to know the difference between ‘dating’ and ‘in a relationship’. If we compare this to your recruitment agency relationship, it’s important to understand that just because they like you and you’re on their radar, it doesn’t guarantee they will have a job for you. That stage of the relationship might take some time to get to.

6. Cut off all contact with other matches

We always encourage IT contractors to build relationships with multiple staffing agencies. As per the previous point, no single recruiter will be able to help you 100% of the time. Even if there’s one you really like, continue to keep in contact with others. When you’re on contract, continue to meet with recruiters to ensure you’re set-up for the next gig. Polygamous relationships are not only socially acceptable in IT contracting, but strongly encouraged.

7. Tell your friends & family you’ve met The One

Recruiters need to present their clients with top candidates who they can guarantee will be available if chosen. After you complete a successful interview, refrain from jumping the gun and telling other recruiters that you’ve got a contract confirmed because that will diminish any chance of them submitting you to other roles. If that job you think you had falls through, you’ll suddenly find yourself with no leads at all.

8. Play games

Recruiters and clients have work to get done and don’t have time for your games. Be upfront in telling them about other opportunities you’re considering if they give you a job offer, be fair and open during rate negotiations, and stick to your commitments. Similarly, lying about other opportunities to try and speed up the process or adjust your rate is also an unethical game that, when discovered, will stop any future opportunities from that recruiter.

Staying Healthy at Home During Physical Distancing

Staying Healthy at Home During Physical Distancing

You and your family are at home, being responsible with physical distancing. Great! Thank you for helping to flatten the curve. Now, how can you ensure you stay healthy? We recently posted about the importance of your mental health and how to take care of that through the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s also important to take care of your physical health. Here are a few tips:

Keep Your House as Clean as Possible

Just because you’re locked in your house is no reason to believe you can no longer contract the Corona virus. Others in your house may already have it, food or other items that you bring home might contain the virus on its surface or you might pick it up while out and about grabbing some essentials.

First, monitor everyone in your house and be aware if they’re showing signs of COVID-19. The Government of Canada published this self-assessment tool to help you assess if somebody is sick. If somebody does show signs, do what you can to quarantine them within the house and pay extra attention to disinfecting any surfaces they may come into contact with. Use gloves around areas they touch, including when cleaning their laundry.

The CDC offers tips for cleaning and disinfecting your house here. They recommend you clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily, such as tables, doorknobs, light switches and toilets. It’s worth noting that cleaning removes germs but doesn’t kill them, it just lowers their numbers. You need to disinfect with chemical to kill germs on surfaces, after you’ve cleaned them. To disinfect, diluted household bleach solutions or alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol are best. You can create your own solution by mixing 5 tablespoons of bleach per gallon of water.

This post from ITWorld Canada also provides tips for cleaning cellphones and other devices, including your cell phone, keyboards and mice.

Exercising

It’s the little things that count. Even if you never had a regular workout routine, walking to the office and back from your car, going out for lunch, and taking a few sets of stairs are all forms of exercise we’re no longer getting. You must keep physically fit to stay healthy through these times, but it’s difficult when we barely leave the home and the couch is so tempting.

First, always remember that a walk outside is alright and encouraged by health professionals, as long as you maintain your distance from other people. If you’re looking for something a bit more structured, this CBC article is packed with free, no-equipment online fitness classes. It lists a variety of free apps and channels (ex. Nike Training Club or Fitness Blender), studios offering online workouts (ex. Fit Squad Training, Body Barre Fitness & Training Studio), and other opportunities to get some good family workouts at home. Those with kids can also check out some YouTube channels like Cosmic Kids Yoga and Barre Alley.

Food Safety

There are many questions regarding food, and how to ensure it’s safe, either when it comes home from the grocery store or a takeout restaurant. In a CTV News interview, infectious disease specialist Isaac Bogoch called the risk of contracting the virus that way “so extraordinary small”. He said the virus doesn’t appear to thrive on surfaces like food or paper, but it can survive for hours or days on others.

The same CTV News article provided a few suggestions for keeping safe with takeout. For example, use rubbing alcohol to wipe down the box (but not the food) and thoroughly wash your hands after exchanging packages or cash.

As far as groceries are concerned, experts say this comes down to good hygiene. That should come as no surprise to anybody today. Sanitize before and after entering the grocery store and sanitize your grocery cart before taking it. You can wear gloves during your shopping trip and remove them once you leave the store; however, don’t let them give you a false sense of security. Germs can still spread on surfaces of gloves.

For more details, here’s a video by Jeffrey VanWingen with some detailed tips on how to sanitize your groceries and takeout when you bring them home:

How are you ensuring you stay healthier (or get healthier) while social distancing? Please share your ideas and suggestions with our community in the comments below.

The Difference Between a Recruiter and Client Interview

The Difference Between a Recruiter and Client Interview

Crystal Nicol By Crystal Nicol,
Director of Delivery, Strategy and Development at Eagle

I often get questions from consultants asking me, “What’s the difference between my interview with a recruiter and the interview with the client (hiring manager)” or “Why do I need to meet with you if I’m also meeting with the hiring manager?” There is a real difference between the recruiter interview and the hiring manager interview, and they each have their importance. Remember, the recruiter is a third-party individual who is working with the client company to go out into the market and find the best candidates possible for that client company’s position. The hiring manager is someone who actually works directly at the client company seeking to fill the position.

A recruiter is requested to use their searching expertise to go out into the industry and find and qualify the best candidate possible who specifically fit a set of requirements provided by the hiring manager. They’re really focusing in on skills and requirements and the job fit. It’s the hiring manager who will take this candidate from the recruiter and then determine if the candidate’s qualifications are suitable for the open position, the team fit, the company’s culture, the company’s core values, etc.

An interview with the recruiter is important. In this interview they will ask you questions to help them determine if you have the specific skills required for the open position. The recruiter wants to set you up for success in your future role so they are going to look deep into your work experience and try to understand both your strengths and weaknesses. Interviewing with the recruiter is also good practice. As per this SparkHire post, during this interview, the recruiter will also coach you and help you prepare for your interview with the hiring manager. They will provide you with useful tips throughout the hiring process, such as appropriate dress, resume format, and handling gaps in employment. They can also provide advice on when it’s appropriate to ask questions about things such as salary and benefits. Your best bet is to look at your interview and conversations with the recruiter as more of a training advantage and a way to learn inside information on the job and hiring manager beforehand.

During the interview with a hiring manager, the hiring manager will ask you questions to determine if your experience would be beneficial not only to the position but to the company as well. The hiring manager is the person who defined the scope of work, including the tasks and responsibilities, and the requirements of the role. They also have the bigger picture and understand the goals and milestones that go along with this role. The hiring manager has the insight into the company and is more likely to assess your skills to see if your skill set would align to other projects or departments in the company, along with this position. They are also asking the candidate questions to determine the team and culture fit. It is the hiring manager who makes the decision over whether or not to hire the candidate.

Remember, it’s important to create a good relationship with your recruiter. A good recruiter is an added benefit to your job searching. If this particular opportunity didn’t work out and if you’ve made a good impression, the recruiter will work with you on future positions, increasing your options.

The Top Tools to Host Meetings Online While Working from Home

The Top Tools to Host Meetings Online While Working from Home

COVID-19 has quickly forced many of us from full-access to our teams in-person to working by ourselves at home. Communication with the rest of the team is obviously still possible, but depending on your client’s set-up, productive communication and updates might not be as simple. Separate from your contract work, physical distancing also creates challenges in setting up interviews with recruiters, leading networking events with colleagues, or any other kind of gathering you’d typically have professionally or personally.

There are a number of solutions available to help set-up meetings and accomplish your objectives. The challenge is weeding through them all to find the one that’s right for you. We’ve looked into some of the most common ones and summarized what you need to know here:

Standard Social Media Chat Applications

Let’s get this out of the way first. Facebook Messenger, Facetime, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Google Hangouts all provide ways for you to connect with friends and family, whether by chat or by video. They’re completely free and generally simple to use, so at a first glance, these would look like a fantastic options, but they do have some drawbacks. First, as noted, these are typically used for friends and family and require you to connect your social media profiles. Maybe you’re ok with it, but others would prefer not to have their colleagues following them on Facebook. These applications are also not designed for the work environment and are limited in a number of meeting-related features available in the below solutions.

Zoom

Zoom is perhaps the most popular platform being used today. Sign-up is easy and the free version allows unlimited 1-on-1 meetings. You can schedule meetings or start it immediately, but either way, you’re provided a link to send meeting attendees, which they just click on. Attendees will be prompted to download some Zoom software, but the process is quick and easy. Once in the meeting, users can turn on video as well as share screens. The downside to the free version is that any meeting with more than 2 people is limited to 40 minutes in length.

The paid version of Zoom is still reasonable. The cost is $20/month or you can subscribe for an entire year for $200. This opens up a variety of new meeting features, including up to 24-hour maximum meeting duration. Only the host of a meeting is required to pay for the upgraded version of Zoom. All attendees can have a free account and still attend.

Zoom also has many extra features, including a filter tool that lets you touch up your appearance when you’re on video. This recent Inc. article summarizes 7 tips for using Zoom.

Join.me

Join.me is another popular meeting tool and has been around for years. It contains many of the same features as Zoom but does not have a free version available. The Lite version costs $13/month is limited to 5 participants per meeting and no webcam. There are no time limits or meeting limits, though, so if you’re looking to host small conference calls, this would be a great solution. The next level up is $24/month and allows for up to 10 webcam streams and up to 250 participants.

Google Hangouts Meet

Google’s Gsuite is a business solution that provides access to email hosting, storage and a number of other organizational tools, including Google Hangouts Meet. The cost is $7.80/user/month, so if you’re an independent contractor, that would be your only cost and you get the entire Gsuite package. This solution is especially great if you own your own domain and want to consolidate all of those services.

Similar to the other solutions, Hangouts Meet lets you setup a meeting and share a link, without worrying if other teammates also have accounts and plugins. With a fast, lightweight interface and smart participant management, multi-person video calls are a breeze. Hangouts Meet also integrates with Google Calendar for some extra features and is accessible on mobile.

Microsoft Teams (replaced Skype for Business)

There’s a chance you already have access to Microsoft Teams. It is primarily for collaboration and chats as part of Office 365, and also includes a great meetings feature, that replaced Skype for Business. If you don’t already have access, signing-up is free and just requires a Microsoft account, but there is an extra fee if you want access to the conferencing.

Similar to Google Hangouts Meet, Microsoft Teams comes as part of a full package of business services from Microsoft. This starts at $10.20/user/month that is an annual commitment, and also comes with storage and access to web applications.

GoToMeeting

GoToMeeting by LogMeIn is another one of the original services and scales up for very large organizations. Their basic Professional level starts at $19/month or $16.25/month billed annually. This package should give you everything you need, including HD video, screensharing, web audio, dial-in conference line, unlimited meetings or meeting lengths, up to 150 participants, plus much more.

Blue Jeans

Another industry leader, BlueJeans, offers many of the same features. Their standard package starts at $15.90/month and allows you to host up to 50 participants, with unlimited meetings with unlimited durations. A differentiator is their Smart Meetings Features which includes meeting highlights, action item tagging and intelligent meeting recaps. If this sounds like something you’re interested in, you can sign-up for a 7 day free trial to see how you like it.

There are tons of meeting tools available and the ones listed above are a selection of the popular ones we’ve come across or used in the past. While Eagle does not recommend any specific one, we do believe that each of these are worth looking at if you’re in the market for a new tool.

What online meeting tools do you use? Do you have a preference? Please share your recommendations in the comments below!

Contractor Quick Poll Results: Who Does Your Taxes

It’s every business owner and independent contractor’s favourite tax! That wonderful job of organizing your books, searching for receipts, and learning just how much you get to pay the Government! Add that fun task to your growing list of to-dos and you barely have time to eat or sleep, let alone see your friends and family.

While some IT professionals are confident and happy to do their taxes by themselves, others prefer to seek the help of a professional to oversee and guarantee they’re done flawlessly. In last month’s contractor quick poll, we asked our audience which route they typically take. By no surprise, most IT contractors hire an accountant to do the dirty work.

Contractor Quick Poll Results: Who Does Your Taxes

Free Webinar to Help You Ensure Client Security While Working from Home

The new normal of physical distancing is expected to be in place for a while yet, meaning working from your home office on a more permanent basis is now a reality. Fortunately, the nature of IT contracting allows for this fairly easily and there are few complications in serving clients and completing projects.

While clients are thrilled that work can still be completed and productivity can remain high, there are security concerns. More remote workers mean that more information may be stored offsite and clients put their trust in IT contractors to keep their systems secured. That means that on top of being productive for your client, you also need to be vigilant in security to protect their information.

Last Summer, we shared a post written by NPC, an organization that specializes in secure mobile solutions. As the article states, clients depend on you to protect their business interests and “The impact on a contractor from a lost, stolen or compromised device while in a contract can be devastating.” Their service is an as-a-service model that provides secure managed devices with back-up completed each day into a secure data centre.

Free Webinar: Office 365 Basics for Secure Work from Home

Free Webinar to Help You Ensure Client Security While Working from HomeOn top of working on a secure device, you want to know that you’re using the software as securely as possible. One of the most common suites of software is Office 365. NPC is hosting two webinars in the coming week with practical insights regarding Office 365 to ensure your productivity and security during this time of challenge.

This webinar is for anyone that would like to know what Office 365 can do for them to work remotely, or current remote users who would like to be sure they are working securely but may need some clarity on key features. Staying connected to your team is important, doing it securely is critical. In this free 60-minute webinar NPC will walk you through the minimums of what you will need to effectively work from home using Office 365, and how you can be productive using key applications like SharePoint and Teams.

The webinar is open to everyone and will cover topics including: The Importance of Secure Computing from Home at this Time, Specific Cyber Threats, The Essentials for Secure Computing in Your WFH Environment, Connecting to Your Data with SharePoint, and Connecting to People with Teams.

Use either of these links to sign-up for the webinars:

Contractor Quick Poll: Who’s your favourite voice assistant?

Kids today will never know the pain of having to find a phone book, going line-by-line seeking the closest business and then having to call to find out when they’re open or if they have what you want. They’ll never experience the anxiety that comes from not knowing the name of that actor who played in that movie, or the friendships torn because there’s no easy way to settle the debate. They’ll never even know the patience it takes to watch The Weather Channel, waiting for it to finally display the local forecast… and the frustration that comes from turning your head and missing it! That’s because we’re in a world with instant answers and many of those answers come from one of three famous voice-activated assistants: Amazon’s Alexa, Google Assistant, and Apple’s Siri.

Humans naturally build relationships and loyalties and, oddly enough, a strong, emotional commitment to an AI device is not unheard of. Whether via a smart home device or a phone, almost all of us have access to Alexa, Google or Siri, and many have chosen our favourite. In this month’s contractor quick poll, we’re reaching out to our audience to learn who you believe is the best voice-activated assistant.

Practical Ways for IT Contractors to Use Free Time

Practical Ways for IT Contractors to Use Free Time

The COVID-19 outbreak is locking the world down inside their homes and many of us are already going stir-crazy. Evening extra-curricular activities have been cancelled, live sports are taking a hiatus, and we’re discouraged from going out unless it’s absolutely necessary. Even telecommuting, as convenient as it is, gives you an hour or two more at home… inside the house… bored.

As we noted in last week’s post, it becomes easy to create an unhealthy routine of rolling out of bed, doing your work, then watching Netflix, all while eating junk food throughout the day. That behaviour is acceptable over the Christmas holidays, but is not ideal. Instead, use your extra time to better yourself and plan some of these tasks into your daily routines:

Professional Development

How many times in the past couple years have you missed out on a gig or higher rate because you were lacking some specific training or certification. Did you tell yourself you’re going to get on it but life is too busy? Now is the time! There are plenty of ways you can expand your skills and learn right from your home. We recently updated this post that contains over 50 different online resources for building skills and earning certifications. Included in that list is ICTC’s newly launched ICTC Ditital Pulse Channel. It will include live virtual events via video conference and available on their Vimeo page.

Perhaps you just need to use some existing skills and develop tangible experience. In that case, try creating  a few made-up projects, similar to this video of Python projects that look good on a resume. Or, you can offer to help a friend or past client with a project at no charge, with the understanding that you are learning a new skill.

Update Your Resume

We see thousands of resumes. Few of them are perfect. Can yours use some polishing? Here’s a checklist of things worth reviewing:

  1. Experience: Review it and ensure you list all technologies and skills you used, in each project description. If you know you will be responding to public sector bids in the future, check out this past post about building a resume for a government matrix. Remember, when you’re in a crunch to get a resume to a recruiter, it will be easier to cut information out of a detailed resume than to write new information to put into it.
  2. Wording: You have the meat, now make sure you’re selling yourself! Check out this post that helps you write the perfect profile summary. It will hook a recruiter into wanting to read more of your resume, then you can sell them on your experience. This infographic contains powerful action verbs to incorporate into project descriptions.
  3. Formatting: It’s amazing how many great resumes are destroyed because the formatting is awful. The biggest letdown is when a candidate gets too fancy and designs a beautiful resume that staffing agencies’ Applicant Tracking Systems can’t read. Then all that work becomes pointless. Even when it gets through the system, some IT contractors still fail to catch a recruiter’s attention. A few years ago, we asked recruiters what IT contractors can do better when formatting their resume, here’s their responses. Does your resume have any of these mishaps? If you’re spicing up your resume, also check out the video series we did a few years ago that gives tips for formatting your resume in MS Word.
  4. Match it to LinkedIn: It is no secret that all recruiters leverage LinkedIn to build their network. You need to have an updated profile to be found by the industry’s top recruiters. You also need to confirm it matches your resume which is one of the top things recruiters look for in a great LinkedIn profile. Use your downtime to update your LinkedIn profile, complete with a great profile photo.

Organize Your Business

Keeping your business running smoothly requires extra time to organize, and frankly, few IT contractors have time for that… until now! Here are a few past posts that will help:

Take Care of Yourself

If all else fails and you don’t want to think about work, use your time to take care of yourself.

  • Add Exercise into Your Daily Routine. It can be as simple as a few push-ups and crunches throughout the day, taking a walk around the block during your lunch break, or finding online workouts to follow along with. Many gyms are offering free live sessions to help cope with quarantines, you just need to search for them.
  • Practice Mindfulness. Especially during uncertain times where stress and anxiety are high, this is a good opportunity learn more about mindfulness. Explore and practice meditation in a quiet area to help focus your attention on the present moment and accept it without judgement. Some forms of yoga can have similar results, and also accomplish that exercise goal!
  • Enjoy Time with Others. Enjoy board games and activities with kids and spouses. Then, when fights inevitably break-out, call old friends and relatives who you’ve lost touch with.

The COVID-19 pandemic is a challenging time for the world and it’s a test for all of us. How we react and move forward will determine who will come out on top when this is all over. These are just a few ways you can take advantage of your downtime to better yourself. What else are you doing to keep busy while stuck at home?

Managing Your Stress and Anxiety Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

Managing Your Stress and Anxiety Through the COVID-19 Pandemic

The Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic is causing drastic amounts of change and reaction from government, businesses and individuals. The unknown brings plenty of stress and anxiety to everyone, and that’s alright, as long as we deal with it in a healthy manner. While over-reacting and panicking has terrible consequences, under-reacting and denying the situation can also have tragic outcomes.

As the famous Serenity Prayer says “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the thinks I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” It’s easier said than done, but a step towards eliminating anxiety is to identify what’s stressing you out, and then decide if you can even control it. If you can’t, then let it go.

6 Things Within Your Control to Help Reduce COVID-19 Anxiety

The most uplifting news you need to remember is that you have full control over a number of actions. Taking control helps you rid anxiety because you know you’re doing your part. The most obvious example relating to the Coronavirus is that you can follow all recommendations that have been handed down from health professionals so we can flatten the curve. Here are six other suggestions, completely within your control, that will help reduce anxiety and help others while you’re doing it:

  1. Control the Information You Take In. The first step is to replace irrational thoughts with facts, which you can do by staying informed. But there is such a thing as being too Depending too much on articles from your Facebook feed or allowing yourself to go down an Internet rabbit hole is going to inundate you with information and much of it will not be valid. To prevent anxiety from over-information, find 2 or 3 credible, trusted organizations and stick with them for information. Only review the sources a couple times per day, and aside from that, stop yourself from being exposed to any other information related to COVID-19. The World Health Organization recently launched a service on WhatsApp so you can get information direcetly from them.
  2. Stay connected with people. Social distancing, quarantining and isolating does not mean you can’t have any social life. Make extra effort to maintain contact with friends and family. We can guarantee that the Coronavirus does not spread through text, social media, and phone calls.
  3. Take Care of Those Around You. Deliver groceries or take a moment to call somebody who you know is probably alone and worried themselves. Simply put, be kind to others. These are already stressful times and petty arguments are extremely unproductive. Making other people’s lives easier also just feels good and improves your mental health.
  4. Keep a healthy routine. Working from your home office for 8 hours, eating an greasy meal and then sitting on the couch until it’s time for bed is going to deteriorate your mental health. You probably have extra time, so experiment with new, healthy meals and fix up that sleep schedule. You can also help your mental health by getting outdoors, continuing (or starting) an exercise routine, as well as making time for relaxation and mindfulness, such as reading, taking a hot bath, practicing meditation or doing yoga.
  5. Help Your Kids Cope. Anybody who has kids is probably already going crazy. On top of trying to entertain them and split up fights every 10 minutes, you might be getting blasted with questions about what’s happening in the world, and that increases your own anxiety. Remember to stay calm and stick with brief facts. Allow them to ask those questions, but limit responses to what they need to know and especially limit their exposure to news sources that spread fear.
  6. Seek Help When You Need It. Most importantly, understand that there will be times when you don’t have the answers and coping alone isn’t going to cut it. Whether that means calling a friend or a professional, know when it’s time to reach out. Below are some links with information from credible organizations that can help you get started.

While we’re doing what we can to protect our physical selves from the Coronavirus, we can’t forget about our mental health as well. It’s normal to experience extreme amounts of anxiety due to the uncertainty; however, being able to cope mentally is a necessity in moving forward and getting through these unprecedented times.

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