The life of an IT consultant or contractor is an ever changing and fast-paced lifestyle. There is usually constant travel, different people to work for and work with, as well as new challenges around every corner. Many of you are thinking, “I would not have it any other way!” You relish your independence, embrace getting to know new people and enjoy not having to stay in the same place too long. But sometimes a great project with a great company comes along and in the blink of an eye the works starts to wind down. If only there was a way you could continue your assignment and extend or renew your employment contract beyond its original end date. While sometimes this isn’t possible, following these steps below you will unquestionably increase your odds of getting that extension:
1. Act “as if.”
Treat the assignment like it’s your full time, long term job. Understand and adhere to the company’s culture, abide by the dress code, know the company’s core values and code of conduct, treat your attendance and punctuality with the utmost importance, and get to know your managers and peers well. By seamlessly fitting in with the other direct employees you are demonstrating your value as a consistent and reliable performer that managers seek out when hiring candidates. It’s tough to let someone walk away that acts like, and more importantly feels like, a key team member.
2. Be Flexible.
Every project is different, so be flexible to accommodate the situation. Most projects are strictly 40 hours a week during normal business hours, but some require on call support, others off-hours work on some nights and weekends. Some contract assignments even have fluctuations or gaps in the work. Those that are able to adjust their schedule to the project scope not only enhance their value as a go-to resource for the present, but also for the future. When it’s time for another upgrade, migration, or implementation, you will be the first person the manager thinks of engaging.
3. Never Stop Learning.
Many companies have had to trim staff and reduce headcount in the last five years due to the state of the economy. This has resulted in a trend where organizations are trying to hire full time or temporary workers that can fill multiple roles and wear several hats. In the past these might have been two, three or even four separate roles. The more skills you have, and more importantly the more you can pick up quickly, the better the likelihood you can help out in other areas once the primary project is complete. If you have the opportunity to learn new technology (a new translator, ERP system, programming language, operating system, database, application, etc.) take it! Not only will this help extend your contract, but it will also give you valuable experience to help you land your next assignment.
The market is as competitive as ever in the consulting world and anything you can do to set yourself apart from the rest will result in longer project durations, a more diverse set of skills and a great reputation amongst clients and staffing vendors alike. You will not only walk away with invaluable experiences and new bullets on your resume, but you will have also left the door wide open to be brought back in the future and will have picked up fantastic references to help land your next project.