A guide for IT contractors

Posted: February 2, 2012 by nullpointerexceptional in Programming
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Contracting is the oldest form of outsourcing and it’s on the up and up yet again. Let’s face it, companies don’t want real employees any more; they want proper semicolon use and people that they can say adios to at a moment’s notice. Budget cut? No problem, just unload the contractors to close the gap. Sudden multimillion dollar integration project for only a year- zing, bring on 10 contractors to cover the new work load. Hey don’t get me wrong, if you’re a contractor it’s a great way to make some dough – I left a full time position at a stagnate mom-and-pop consultanting firm for a 8 month contract and a 60% pay raise. (Then again I was getting screwed over at the other job).

If you’re a first time contractor, taking that first step is like trying to swallow Oprah Winfrey without gnawing on her first – it’s not easy even if you cover her in delicious jam. It’s a world of uncertainty but you’re highly rewarded for it, right? When I made the leap I was concerned with one thing – how much was I getting paid versus what I was currently making. The choice was simple – take the higher pay and be happy for 8 months and worry about it later. Heck, in IT there is always another opportunity if your IQ falls above 75 and can string together buzz words.

The part no one prepared me for was the perception that I was just a warm body. A no-name individual, sitting in a sea of cubicles, doing some generic task that could be farmed out easily. The weird thing was, it was everyone that interacted with me – even the money laundering err, pass-through company that was actually paying me. You’d hear grumblings about contractors associating with employees or how bad the job market was (from your recruiter) and not to even bother looking. Everything was glum, heck it felt like the Great Depression other than the fact that I was raking in the bennies. Nothing that TeknologySystems (name changed to protect their identity – haha eff you guys) did for me was beneficial to me. The account manager always talked about the lack of margin on the account – come to find out later that the margin was actually 40% which in my book is awesome given they provide nothing to the contractor other than funnel money. I even had to watch my paycheck every week, on 8 different occasions did they under pay me for hours worked.

Maybe it was my hatred of car salesmen and the fact that the account manager acted like his was the only shop in town. Or maybe it was the lack of communication on how long I actually had a job for (he was notorious for asking the contractor if they were extended or not – isn’t the the role of the account manager?). Something lead me to get out and stick it to the man. Knowing that giving 2 weeks notice would leave him in a tight spot never felt so good. Knowing that he’d be put in a room with managers reaming him out on how he could let the warm body fly away. The kicker was, I left the contracting job to work for the same company I was contracted out to…take that one MB. The final straw in the loving relationship was 6 months after I left for the perm position, after running into the account manager in the hall and the first words out of his mouth being “You still have a job here?” Reliving that moment, consistently is the onset of tears of joy – knowing that somehow, by me simply finding a job elsewhere made his life miserable for a few, however short, moments.

Alright, enough personal attacks. Working as a contractor isn’t all that bad. You have a certain bit of uncertainty for the future but you’re compensated in the form of a fat pay check. Don’t expect to get any benefits or lovey-dovey hugs from the ones that are pimping you out – to them you are a warm blob of genetic material. Use contracting as a way to break into new markets – in my case I got a salary position for the same amount I was contracting for (pretty sure I was getting ripped off – well I know I was but the opportunity made up for it). Bottom line, if this is your first time giving it a try, ask around on what an average pay rate is for that type of position otherwise you’ll get burned. Might also steer away from certain pimp firms as they are notorious for only caring about themselves even if their facade tells you otherwise.

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