Performing the role of an interim Project Management professional is rather different to an employee position – obvious differences are that you are a temporary resource and as such you are paid (usually a good rate) to go in and address core business needs, and provide a robust solution.
Often you will face resistance by permanent staff and are viewed as the bad guy as opposed to the solution provider, it is not a role for the feint hearted and as such you will develop a style (and thick skin) which is flexible and understand the need to bring teams on board quickly without giving the impression you are stepping on toes but still meet overarching business goals.
Here’s a list of some things which you should consider if looking to take the plunge into contracting:
- No inductions – unlike the employee route which will have you sat in week long inductions, the contractor will be thrown into the IT team to get set up on their systems and then you are on the start line (the starter pistol having been triggered weeks earlier).
- Little support – as you are likely to be commanding a high day rate you will be deemed an expert in your field, so don’t expect any hand holding, be ready to roll your sleeves up from the off.
- No training – not true with every organisation, I have seen some businesses investing in training and qualifications for contractors, however this is a rarity and not something you should be expecting.
- Expected to hit the ground running – As per the inductions bullet point, jumping straight in is the norm. You will develop a style over time where you will have a communications plan set up from the off, getting to know the teams and understanding their perspective is important.
- Inheriting teams – although not always the case, some are lucky to be able to recruit their own team, whether internally or bringing in talent. But you will always come across assignments where the team has already been picked, not always ideal but a good leader will ascertain the teams’ abilities and needs quickly and ensure they are driving results.
- Resistance – how many have tried before you, I have spoken to many a contractor who has taken an assignment which has previously had several PMs try and fail. In this instance you are likely to be met with teams who are waiting for you to fail or are just fed up with a newbie coming in and implementing yet another method of approach.
Contractors by nature tend to get bored in their roles after a while which is why they choose to take this route, always looking for their next challenge and keen to be involved in problem solving. The best contractors really have the people element of PM nailed down, the ability to really understand people and lead from the front is key to being successful – arguably a skill which cannot necessarily be learned but can certainly be honed.
If you easily lose interest in your role and fine you want to move on regularly – you may be a perfect candidate for contracting. We are all different, some like to firmly plant their roots with an organisation and stay there for years; others want the challenge of a fresh portfolio and new faces. If you like change then I can highly recommend contracting, I have done it myself and it really does put a fresh perspective on your working life.
Contracting can offer a wealth of experience to your skill set and often the challenges faced on such assignments are not for the feint hearted. Typically an organisation will identify the need for resource on a particular area in the business – this can be anything from implementing a new IT system to streamlining the business. However as the contract roles are usually priced at a reasonably high day rate, the onus is on a professional in that field to join the organisation and implement the change. There are rarely, if ever, any inductions and no settling in periods. It’s time to hit the ground running. You will be self equipped with a laptop and mobile which you will need plugging into the business system (although financial services do tend to offer laptops and mobiles for security reasons) and downloading various applications used by the business, then off you go!
There is little room for forging friendships in such roles however an ability to quickly form strong business relationships is essential. You are there to perform a role and this may inevitably involve redundancies which means it’s no popularity contest – even if redundancies are not in the schedule, employees are often wary of contractors joining the team so you may meet a some hostility. These are considerations to make when looking at contract assignments – a lot of contractors I know are thick skinned and appreciate the day rate is commensurate to the task in hand.
If you are looking to move from your permanent role to a contract role you need to plan ahead and think about your notice period as a starting point – I have yet to come across a contract role which will allow for a months’ notice period. Actually, most contract roles need someone to be in the job within a week if not days of being interviewed. Can you afford to hand in your notice? Weigh up the risk of not securing a new contract for weeks and potentially months after finishing up your permanent contract.
Do your research – understand what level day rate you should be pitching yourself at, remember your first couple of assignments are crucial to gain credibility as a contractor so do not pitch yourself too high whilst trying to gain valuable experience and evidence that you can hit the ground running.
Your CV also needs to be a little different than a when looking to secure permanent work – to discuss, please get in touch with your CV for a free review and to talk further about contract recruitment. www.thecvrighter.co.uk