We've been fortunate to work with some incredible IT professionals -- skilled contractors who are also amazing people and phenomenal team players. We love working with these folks and our team will often go out of their way to ensure the great contractors are always presented to clients.
Unfortunately, all recruiters also have plenty of run-ins with not-so-professional IT contractors. These are the people who lash-out and are incredibly rude to clients, recruiters or colleagues. They're the applicants who stretch the truth on their resume or submit completely different resumes that don't align (yes, recruiters compare your past resumes). These are also the applicants who ghost recruiters and clients during the interview process and later come back with bogus excuses. This group of contractors will move to the bottom of the list (if they make the list at all) for any job opportunity and recruiters dread having to call them, regardless of their skills.
The truth is, though, that a few of those who fit into the first description of an incredible IT professional may have, at one point in their life, been categorized as that undesirable contractor. Anybody can have a bad day, go through a rough period, or make an awful decision due to a lapse in judgement. We all learn as we progress in our career and improve ourselves to be better people and professionals.
So, what if you were down a bad path and recently turned things around, taking a new approach to your IT contracting career. You're proud of your accomplishments and know that you will bring value to your clients, but how do you convince the recruiters you burned a bridge with five years ago? How can you possibly tell a client who did a happy dance the day you walked out their door that they won't regret giving you a second chance?
If you’ve recently reflected, realized that you're not proud of your past professional experience and want to rebuild the bridges you burned in the industry, here are a few tips for you.
It's great you've decided to start mending some rough relationships, but how and when do you even start? While you no doubt want to give everybody time to calm down and gain perspective, you also don't want to wait too long. Overall, experts suggest the sooner the better.
It's best to start slowly and gently, but directly. Send an email or, better yet, make a phone call, to acknowledge that the previous encounter did not go well, and you'd like to work to get back on track. This step is best done before there is even a job on the table, that way it shows you're sincere and not just trying to get your name put forward for the next gig.
The person's reaction to your olive branch will determine your next steps. Expect anyone to be at least a little cold and bitter, but then gauge who's still open to dialogue and which people are not ready to move forward with you. Accept the situations that resolve today and develop a plan.
Just because somebody is open to talking and allowing you to rebuild that bridge, you're not out of the woods yet. How you approach the initial discussion and others moving forward is crucial. Begin by ripping off the band-aid. Accept responsibility and apologize early on to get everything on the table. As tempting as it might be, this is not the time to point out their mistakes and faults. You don't know their whole story and, if you're the person starting the conversation, it should mean that you've forgiven them.
Next, listen to what they have to say. A recruiter or client might tell you how your previous actions affected them or voice their concerns about working with you on future contracts. By truly understanding this, you have something to work with when redeeming yourself. You can use their feedback to find tangible examples of how you have improved or how you will conduct your business differently on upcoming projects. Afterall, actions speak louder than words and saying sorry will only get you so far.
The bridge isn't completely rebuilt yet. And if it has been, it's quite thin and delicate. A recruiter or client who chooses to work with you again after you compromised their trust in you will be watching you with a close eye. You can offer more gestures such as offering some extra hours or lowering your rate, but overall, it will just take time and the proper actions.
We also need to be realistic and accept that, no matter how hard you try, there may be no rebuilding this bridge. At least not today. If that's the case, politely move on and come back another day. Being pushy or angry will only cause more damage.
Having an argument or misunderstanding with a recruiter or client is natural. These situations can be resolved and forgotten, and you can easily move on from them. Burning a bridge because of unethical or extremely unprofessional conduct is a different story. While we hope you never find yourself in the latter situation, if you do, hopefully a few of these tips will help you get back on track.