The contracting space is getting more and more competitive. As organizations demand more from their contractors and more candidates enter the workspace, one needs to know how to stand out from the rest.
Media and Social Media are Your friend
To stand out in a competitive market, you need to self-promote. Social media and repositories like GitHub are the perfect place to display your work with like-minded individuals. Promoting your work on social media or places like GitHub allow you to speak and display your work wherever you are, whether that be a meeting with a recruiter or in an interview with a client. You'll seem more prepared, invested and motivated in the project that you are applying for because you believe in your skills/abilities and you want to showcase them.
Invest in relationships and network
Referrals are becoming more and more beneficial to contract workers. Positive recommendations from others in your field go a long way in getting calls from recruiters and getting you further along in the process. The more people you know in your field (i.e.: Program Managers, fellow developers at other organizations etc.) the easier it is to get a foot in the door. Take time to foster relationships from your past contracts and make sure to attend networking events. Know what projects organizations are working on before you attend these sessions so that you can speak to individuals about them and show off your knowledge and interest. Never burn bridges and work harder in the last week of your contract then you did in the first! If there is no extension, make sure to leave a last impression.
Certifications and Continuing Education
Certifications are mentioned on almost every job description that a recruiter sees. Most of the time, these certifications are in the nice to have section. Nowadays, anything in the nice to have section is code for "these will make you more competitive"! Contracting can be hard work and breaks after 6 month or 12 month contracts can seem like the perfect time to take a vacation. During breaks between contracts, you need to be aware of how to effectively fill that time. Breaks for R&R are totally necessary but as a contractor in an ever changing market you need to have time to build new skills and show that you were productive during larger gaps between contracts. Taking courses or getting certifications during breaks shows that you continue to self-improve and want to become more competitive for that next role.
Money Isn't Everything
It is easy to say YES or NO to a role solely based on pay rate. Recruiters understand that you have bills to pay and deserve a fair rate for your skills and abilities. In a competitive market like today, you need to weigh your options. If a role is paying you less than the last, ask youself the following:
Will this be a role where I can broaden my skills and expand my network?
Is this a role with a new organization/company that I have not yet had the chance to work in that will open doors in the future?
Will this role keep me in the tech space and engage me?
The key is not to short-change yourself but also understanding that the benefits to contracting is not always financial but to improve your own professional development. How do you remain competitive in today's contracting market?