The tech industry is broad. Very broad. Just have a look at the video in this post that builds a complete map of Computer Science or see the wide variety of Eagle Tech Talk episodes. Naturally, every IT contractor specializes in some area of tech, but the question of how specialized you want to get is up to you.
As a technology professional, it's in the best interest of your career to plan out your journey and know where you want to focus your training. Too often, we come across candidates who apply toeveryjob, claiming they could be a fit for anyone of them. While these ambitious people may be able to handle all these roles, the chances are they won’t be better than somebody who focuses in that specific area.
Certainly, deciding to specialize in a niche can have some risks to your career. For example, there will ultimately be fewer real job opportunities for you. Plus, there's always the fear that you'll box yourself in with a skill that becomes obsolete in a few years. That said, the extreme rise in remote work opportunities means you're no longer restricted to just your city to find that niche work, meaning you're much less likely to run out of work.
We've seen specialized independent contractors benefit in many more ways than we've seen them suffer. To start, when you have a niche title, backed with specific experiences and certifications that match your client's exact project, you immediately stand out from the jack-of-all-trades competing applicants. Clients are usually looking for a contractor who can hit the ground running and provide expertise for their project with little ramp-up time, meaning you become the top choice. As an added benefit, you can also charge a higher rate because of that specialized knowledge.
The benefits of being a niche contractor only grow exponentially as your career grows. When you do good work and demonstrate expertise n your chosen area, you will become a top-of-mind contractor to clients and recruiters alike. Soon enough, you'll never need to search for work because people will be calling you. Of course, keeping this momentum is dependent on you maintaining your skills and continuing to grow in your area with ongoing training.
How Does an IT Contractor Choose a Niche?
There are several ways you can define your specialty and separate yourself from other contractors. The three most common areas are by skill, product, industry (or any combination of them). Here are a few considerations when planning out this part of your career:
Looking at your past jobs and contracts, which skills have you used most, where have you excelled and, more importantly, which did you most enjoy?
Where is there a clear demand for specialized skills and knowledge? (keep a close eye on industry reports for coming trends)
Who is in your network (other contractors and recruiters) who can help you get your foot in the door or uncover hidden opportunities?
Are there any barriers to entry and can you realistically overcome them? (ex. do you need certifications or licenses to focus on a product and what kind of investment will that take?)
If money is a priority, consider the types of clients and industries that typically have higher rates and focus in on the skills and technologies they use most.
Some senior IT contractors can say that they have multiple specialty areas and truly out class in them all. If this is you, be sure to distinctly separate them when selling yourself to avoid coming off as that "I can do everything person." You can do this by creating separate resumes that truly demonstrate your expertise in both areas and using the appropriate one for specific jobs.
What are you doing to separate yourself and stand out among the many other IT contractors looking for work across Canada? It might just be time to start thinking about your niche!