If you’ve worked for years in a certain industry, you may be considering transitioning to a new specialty. Industries like information technology and engineering encompass a range of disciplines and skill sets, and moving to a new position can help keep you engaged in your work, while also helping you grow personally and professionally. That said, making such a shift is sometimes scary. You’re leaving the security of one job to pursue another that requires additional skills, and not knowing what lies ahead can be unsettling. Transitioning requires ample planning, consideration and a realistic level of expectations, and being smart about the change can help make this new chapter in your life go much smoother. Contractor work can minimize the bumps on the road to a career change and help you reach your dream job.
Here are five ways that contractor work can help you make a career change:
1. Learn new platforms
In a contractor position, you’re frequently working on long-term projects for mid- to large-size companies that will expose you to a variety of technologies, content management systems and other platforms. Taking on a contractor role is a great way to familiarize yourself with the programs that you’ll need to know in your next position. For example, if you’ve worked in IT and want to make the shift to a new specialty within the industry, such as big data analysis, contractor assignments may require you to work with cloud-based software, data modeling tools, mobile applications and other advanced platforms. By completing this work for your clients, you’re building the technical fluency you need to successfully transition to a new specialty.
2. Financial security
Often, the reason that you remain in an unfulfilling position for years is because of the paycheck. You need to keep a roof over your head, have bills to pay and may have a family or other dependents you need to take care of. With all these financial burdens, making a career change may seem like the most unrealistic thing in the world, especially if you lack the necessary skills or experience to secure a well-paying position in another specialty or job family. When there are demands on your time and your bank account, working as a volunteer or intern to gain real-world experience and new skills is simply out of the question.
A contactor position is a great way to shift your sails toward your new position without having to dive into unknown waters with no oxygen tank, so to speak. If you have a well-developed skill set and years of experience in your field, you can net competitive pay as a contractor. This money will help keep you afloat as you plan your next move and explore opportunities to get your foot in the door to your dream job. It is also entirely possible that your contracting role can become your dream job.
3. Strengthen existing skillsets
While working on a project for a client in a contractor position, you strengthen your existing skillsets, whether those involve coding, website development, graphic design or a host of other diverse abilities. Since contractor work typically involves intensive assignments that are completed over a long period of time, being successful in your position and creating quality deliverables that exceed the expectations of your clients shows that you are talented in your field, dependable and able to effectively prioritize and manage your time. You demonstrate that you’re the go-to person in your field, which makes you a strong candidate for contractor positions with new clients when it’s time to make a career shift.
4. Evaluate goals
While you’re working as a contractor, you can evaluate your strengths and weaknesses and then use this knowledge to better shape your future career plans. Since contractor positions are based around deliverables, you can zero in on the skills and tasks in which you excel, and the ones that need more work. If you were a permanent employee for your client, your time would be filled with additional demands like corporate meetings and other events, so take advantage of the fact that you can fully focus on evaluating your skillsets and technical abilities in a contractor position.
Even though you’re not a permanent employee of the company, contractor work still puts you into contact with a variety of valuable work contacts who may know of great opportunities or entry points into your desired career. They can point you toward future jobs both inside and outside the company, offer industry advice and even serve as references.
To take advantage of networking opportunities while on assignment, contractors should approach each job as if they are permanent employees. Attending social and professional events with coworkers, eating lunch in a communal area and connecting with colleagues online can present great opportunities for networking. Just because contractors may only work for a designated amount of time with a company, it does not mean they cannot forge lasting relationships with their fellow colleagues.
The best networking tool of all may be to continually check out the CDI career portal and stay in contact with your CDI recruiter to land your next assigment.