Most people think of career advisers as people to speak to when they are looking for a job or when they are making major career decisions. However, Career advisors can help in other ways too. One of the biggest problems facing people in the workforce today is underemployment. Nearly 1 in 5 people are either unemployed or looking for more work. That is a pretty big number, so when you are looking for work, there is going to be a lot of other job seekers competing for the same job. If you’re a contractor or casual worker then there is a strong likelihood that you will be facing under employment at some time in the future.
Businesses are always looking for ways to drive down costs. In most western economies, labour is the largest cost of most businesses. One way that businesses have been successful in lowering labour cost has been through the transformation of permanent workforce to an agile, flexible workforce. Enter the contract worker. At present the growth of the casual workforce has grown from 13.7 % in 1978 to 33.4 % in 2018 and is forecast to grow to around 50% by 2030. This will lead to a loss of about 4 million permanent jobs in Australia, presumable to be replaced by casual or contract roles.
There is not a lot that can be done to change this phenomenon in the short term as it is being driven by global trends, factors beyond our control. It means that for at least half of us, we will have to resign ourselves to a fair proportion of our working life engaged as a contractor or casual worker.
Benefits of contract work
For many professionals, such as workers in IT or engineering, a significant percentage of the workforce is already engaged on a contract or casual basis. Much of their work is on projects with defined life cycles, working as a short term (or fixed term) contractor. Many have worked in this capacity for years and have adapted their lifestyle to suit.
Some of the benefits of working on a contract basis is; flexible hours, the opportunity to work from home or travel. They work on a variety of projects and are exposed to a variety of technology and business models. Payrates are higher than their permanent colleagues as well as being paid for the hours they work (while permanent workers can pump in as much as 12 – 18% of pro bono work). Another benefit of contract work is that it’s not necessary to stay with the one employer, you can take time off between projects to study, travel, take leave or take on personal projects.
How will contracting affect me?
If you have not worked in a casual or contract position before, it can be quite a change – not only to the way you work but in how you get your work. You will need to take a more active role in finding work and will need to build your network and professional connections. Although opportunities may come about easily when demand is high, you will often need to tap into your connections to find out about work opportunities. So how prepared are you?
How to prepare for contracting
Below are some of the skills that a career adviser can help you develop. They are important skills to acquire and if you get started now you can get up to speed within a few months.
Identify your Personal Value Proposition (PVP)
The best way to define a PVP is that it summarises who you are, what you do, and most importantly, the value you provide to your employer or customers. All of us have skills, interests and values that sets us apart from our competition. However, it can be difficult to describe those attributes. This is where a career adviser can be invaluable. If you can nail this, you are a third of your way to getting work any time you want it.
Become more active in reviewing your industry trends
If you aren’t doing so already, you will need to take a greater interest in trends that are affecting your profession and industry. Get onto a news feed service so you can direct useful articles straight to your device. Feedly or Google alert are great tools for tapping into interest areas. You can get them coming straight to your email account. LinkedIn has industry and profession groups where you can learn about hot topics or get connected with other people in your industry. Get involved in their forums and discussions.
In an age where technology is constantly improving and driving change in the workplace, it is more important than ever to ensure that your skills are current and relevant. In the process of reviewing industry trends, participating in forums and discussions etc. you will learn about the skills that are most in demand. This is the ideal opportunity to highlight the skills you will need to develop to keep you at the top of your game.
Building professional connections
Do you try to build relationships with your professional colleagues? If you don’t, you should and if you don’t know how to then you need to learn. 80% of jobs are won via referrals, warm introductions and recommendations. Besides, soft skills are the killer app of selection criteria and will become more so over the next few years as businesses integrate many of their functions and processes due to automation and robotics. If you’re shy then definitely seek out a career counsellor who can train you in easy ways to build trust and relationships with your peers.
“What is networking and should I do it?” If you aren’t networking then you are missing valuable opportunities to easily build relationships with people in your industry and profession as well as expand them. Although in principal it seems simple, most people don’t put a lot of thought into it. Unfortunately, this can lead to poor interactions. If you’ve had a bad experience it can be pretty off-putting going to another event. Networking can be very rewarding and fun – if you know how to do it. It can be very simple to learn and this is definitely an area you should invest in. You should attend industry and association events at least once every 6 – 8 weeks or more if possible.