Contractor positions are about much more than delivering an assignment or receiving a paycheck – they are valuable opportunities to develop professionally. In some ways, a contractor has more chances to learn and grow than a permanent employee. While permanent workers must balance meetings and internal company issues, with their everyday workloads, contractors are typically only required to complete their assigned projects and thus have more time to spend honing their skills. Contractors should take advantage of this by learning as much as possible during their contracts.
By making the most of their positions, contractors stay relevant to the rapidly changing 21st-century job climate and become more marketable for their next assignments. Here are three ways you can optimize your learning in a contractor position:
1. Take advantage of training opportunities
Even though you are not a permanent employee, you should still attend any training programs or workshops that your company offers. Training sessions focused on improving technical skills will be an invaluable asset to your professional development and help ensure that your skill set is continually sharpened and expanded. This is especially vital in the IT sector, where new programs and tools are constantly being adopted as old ones are cast aside. Look for training opportunities in software, cloud-based computing, mobile applications and other innovative technologies. The current job market is flooded with top-tier talent, and being adept at using the latest tools and technologies will make you stand out.
However, don’t limit your training to technical, skill-based sessions. Programs and workshops in leadership and project management are incredibly valuable for contractors, especially those who have primarily held contract roles. Since your work as a contractor is typically based on assignments and deliverables, training opportunities in business and management methods are incredibly useful for your professional growth.
2. Expand your scope
It’s easy to become comfortable in your contract position and feel that your only responsibility is to complete your assigned projects. However, to become more skilled in your field and remain competitive, you have to actively look for new opportunities and challenges to overcome. Volunteer for extra assignments or take on additional projects when possible. Look beyond your department for chances to join a team or contribute your skills. Pay attention to whether there is a persistent problem that needs to be solved in your department, and volunteer to solve it. Actively looking for additional opportunities shows initiative, but it also keeps you agile and sharp. You strengthen your problem-solving and teamwork skills, and you can then use the experience to help land your next position and more effectively deal with future challenges. In addition, you learn how to work in a variety of environments and with different work styles, which shows you are flexible and can adapt easily to new situations.
3. Have a voice
Regardless of whether you work remotely or in the office, to truly benefit from a contract role you need to have an active voice in your department. Since you have contact with a wide variety of talented workers with unique skill sets and perspectives, don’t waste the opportunity to learn all you can from them. If there’s someone at your company who specializes in a skill you want to improve or in an area you’d like to learn more about, introduce yourself and ask to grab a quick coffee, or if you work remotely, ask to have a brief phone call. Don’t underestimate the value of a mentor: nurture these relationships throughout your contract and after. Learning all you can from others and strengthening these connections will develop your skills, expand your network and help you to become known as a dependable and valuable asset – all of which may help lead to your next position.
It goes both ways, though: make sure you’re available as a mentor too, and be willing to take the time to share your skills and knowledge with other people. You’ll not only help others, but will also gain experience teaching complicated skills and concepts to others. Being able to do this effectively will help ensure your continued success in your career.