CDI Corporation

5 free ways to strengthen your skills portfolio as an IT/engineering contractor

When trying to find work as an IT or engineering contractor, you have to walk the walk – not just talk the talk. Skills are everything in contracting, and it is your technical abilities and know-how that will set you apart from all the other highly qualified candidates. You should be devoting considerable time to regularly updating and improving your skill set to show that you’re a reliable investment for the company.

Continually sprucing up your technical abilities does not have to cost a fortune, however. Here are five free ways to strengthen your skills portfolio as an IT or engineering contractor:

1. Teach yourself

It is time to put your nose to the grindstone and expand your knowledge and expertise. Block off time from your schedule – say, 1-2 hours each day – to teaching yourself a certain in-demand skill, like a new coding language, for example. An easy way to do this is to log onto CDI University, which provides 24/7 access to a wealth of courses, books and learning resources. For topics that might not be available through CDI University, there are many websites that give in-depth insight into an array of IT and engineering topics, as well as free online courses that you can follow at your own pace.

2. Participate in local courses

Many community centers, colleges, libraries and other educational institutions offer free courses in a wide variety of IT- and engineering-related topics, such as building blockchain technology or engineering cybersecurity systems for small businesses. Seek out adult education classes and other similar programs and commit to attending each class to widen your skill set.

3. Contribute to open source software

One of the best ways to expand your skills portfolio is to learn by doing. Open source software offers many exciting opportunities for building technical skills, and it is free and easy to get started. The benefit of contributing to open source software is that you see your work make a real impact, and can test new technologies and techniques in a safe space. Participating in open source software is not limited to coding, however – there are a range of ways you can leave your mark, from testing to fixing bugs, as noted.

4. Attend industry events

While some conferences may have an attendance fee, there are many other industry events that you can attend free of charge to broaden your skills. Many cities have "meet-up" groups for IT and engineering contractors where participants can swap ideas. "Maker’s spaces" are also popping up across the country, which provide a space where IT and engineering professionals can tinker with new devices and technologies. Camps, seminars and lectures given by industry experts can also be very beneficial. By attending such events, not only do contractors get to develop their skills, but they also can network and make important connections that could lead to work opportunities.

5. Keep up with industry news

An important component of developing your skills is knowing which technical abilities are out of date, and which new ones you need to read up on. The only way to stay current is to keep up with industry publications and websites. Many trade publications are available online with no subscription fees, so this can be a smart way to cut costs while staying in the loop.

Expanding your skills portfolio can help advance your career as an IT or engineering contractor. Contact your CDI recruiter today to connect with the companies that will be the best fit for you.