Extensions are a major part of IT contract work and, at times, are as important as getting a new position. Not every contract is guaranteed to be extended but as a contractor, you should know how to go about getting that information and what to do with it.
When your contract is coming to an end, it is important to make sure that you are communicating with both your manager at your current client and the recruiter who you worked with to get you that position. The recruiter will always be working on their end to help and push extension discussions; however, depending on client processes, they may not have as easy access to those answers as you do.
Asking your manager and your recruiter at the same time about your extension will prompt both sides to begin the conversation sooner. Within the last month or two of your contract, start following up to see if there are any chances for an extension. Depending on the response, you can start to plan your next steps based on your preferences.
When There Will Be an Extension...
If this is a role that you want to continue in, make sure to let both your manager and recruiter know. It is especially important that you share that information with your recruiter so that they can work for you to get that extension done. Extensions and the process to approve them can sometimes take time and this is something that you don't want to leave to the last minute. You want to make sure that both sides have all the information and that communication can be as clear as possible.
When You are Ready to Move On...
If you are coming to the end of your current contract and you are not interested in being extended, tell your recruiter by the last month of your contract. You want to give the recruiter the opportunity to let the client know that you will not be accepting any pending extensions so that you leave the position in the best standing. When possible, provide as much knowledge transfer and even referrals so your work can be transitioned as smoothly as possible. Communication about this is as important as the communication to get an extension.
When There Won't Be an Extension...
Coming to the end of a contract without an extension can be daunting but there are things that you can do to make the transition of finding that new position easier. Keep irons in the fire! Know what is out there, even if you are still on the current contract, and report that to your favourite recruiters. Let them know what kind of roles you are hearing about in your network and what roles you will be looking for going forward.
What else is out there? Call your recruiter and ask them what roles they are working on and give them details on your current end date and what specifically you were doing on your current project. Clients want contractors that are 'working,' and if you are finishing up a current contract and getting your resume in front of hiring managers, it can be a benefit to them to know you are just finishing up and are ready to jump to the next opportunity.
No matter if you are being extended or not, the key is to be proactive. Your recruiter will help you find that next position or work hard on your extension process, but making sure they have ample time to do so will only benefit you in the long run.