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Career-Growth Advice for Employees That Also Applies to Independent Contractors

Do you ever look at your clients’ employees and think about how much easier they have it? Employees already have deductions removed from their pay, they can take advantage of company perks and benefits, they enjoy more job security and they need not worry about career advancement. Well… kind of.

While employees can usually lean on their boss for skills development and career progression, those who rely solely on the company are doomed to fall behind compared to those who take matters into their own hands. Similar to being an independent contractor, full-time employees must take charge of their own career growth to open up new opportunities and build their earning potential.

A recent article by Hanna Morgan and published by U.S. News provides tips for employees to do just that and much of the advice can be passed along to independent contractors:

Provide Solutions: The article starts by recommending an employee address their manager and recommend ideas to improve the organization’s processes and save money. This is a wise idea, but in a different context. Given you are your own manager, schedule time to reflect on your business processes such as accounting, resume-writing, and job searching and see if anything you’ve always done the same way can be re-thought.

Learn New Skills for Career Growth: We frequently ask job seekers not to apply to jobs for which they are not qualified. But that does not mean you shouldn’t still look at them. In fact, when any contract opportunity is appealing to you, thoroughly understand the required skills and technologies… then go out and get them! This also means identifying common soft skills that you should improve upon.

Expand Your Personal Brand: The IT contracting world is often transactional. You work for a client, you complete the contract, and you all move on to future business. Unless you made an outstanding impression, your client is not going to tout your brand through the industry to make you the most in-demand contractor of the city. This is something you must take into your own hands. The recommendations this article makes to employees in a similar predicament are also perfect for independent contractors: update your LinkedIn profile and resume with the narrative you want, and look for opportunities to write or speak about your skills.

Network for Career Advancement: The advice provided by Morgan in this section is so perfect, we’re going to quote her directly: “Think of networking as information gathering. It helps you learn about the challenges other workers face and it gives you the opportunity to talk about what you have learned. If you are networking-averse, keep in mind that all you are asking for when you meet with someone is advice, information or recommendations. Don’t forget to keep in touch with past colleagues and classmates. Maintaining these relationships helps you feel connected and makes networking more enjoyable. Creating time in your hectic schedule for networking allows you to meet people who can help spread the word about you and your personal brand.

Find Mentors for Career Growth: Yes, you need to adapt to changing trends and technologies, but there is no need to re-invent the wheel in IT contracting. Seek out an experienced, successful contractor who knows the game and ask them to be a mentor. They can provide career guidance, motivation and serve as a role model.

You May Have to Move On: Obviously you will need to move on to a new client eventually, that is the entire premise behind contracting. Independent contractors experience other forms of “moving on” when change is required. Should you start working with different recruiters? Should you try a new industry or even a new skill? Perhaps there are better opportunities in a complete different city.

The benefits of independent contracting come with a number of struggles that employees do not have to face, so it’s nice to recognize the ones everybody shares. In all cases, having a plan and then working on that plan is the only way to ensure life takes you to where you want to go. Otherwise, you will find yourself working on boring contracts at lower rates, when you know you have the potential to do so much more.