For engineers everywhere a contract gig can be a sweet deal. Working as a contractor/consultant gives you the opportunity to make sick money, travel the globe, learn new things, and work for some INCREDIBLE companies on really cool projects. “Sounds great,” you say. What’s the possible downside?
Though I can’t speak for other industries or career specialties, I have some very specific opinions on perpetual contract work and how it can affect your employability.
The occasional contract gig in between career positions is smart. They keep you active and keep the money rolling in. However, it’s far too easy for GREAT engineers to fall into the perpetual contractor trap.
As a primarily direct hire recruiter I will VERY RARELY consider a “career contractor” for a full time, permanent position with one of my clients.
My livelihood depends on my understanding of clients’ needs and my ability to facilitate those needs. A consistent pain point with these companies is employee retention. Quite simply, if they look at a resume of a career contract engineer whistles start blowing.
They wonder and ask:
- Are you a commitment-phobe, perpetually choosing contract positions because you easily become bored or want to avoid the responsibility of making and keeping promises to your employer?
- Do you have skeletons? Are you REALLY leaving contract position after contract position for bigger and better challenges? Or are you being dismissed/leaving because your work is underwhelming and sub-par?
- Do you not play well with others and move on to a clean slate each time you accept a new position?
Whether or not these fears are substantiated, these are the questions that my clients are asking me if I put someone with a seemingly sporadic contracting background in front of them.
My advice? Diversify your background while you still can. If you are someone who really likes taking on contract roles, that’s great! Temper it with some direct employment engagements throughout your career. It will give the necessary balance to your employment history to make you marketable regardless of the “status” of the job.
It’s like the old saying goes – “you can have too much of a good thing”.
MODERATION ALWAYS WINS OUT!
PS – the IT world functions in a manner almost opposite to this, so if you’re one of our fantastic IT folks take this blog with a grain of salt. I’m an engineering recruiter and blogging from that perspective!
XO – happy career planning