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Is contracting a career?

Is contracting a career?

May 24, 2012

Ben has been with Head Resourcing since 2004 & now manages our contract recruitment division, supplying skilled interim resource into IT companies, banks and financial services customers, corporates and SMEs. Here he shares his experience of the contract market:

Changes in the employment landscape, mergers and acquisitions, new entrants to banking, and roles being made redundant, have meant that I am often asked ‘can I make a career out of contracting?’

Traditionally I would have worked with one type of job seeker – experienced contract workers who carry out an assignment for an agreed period of time, then move on to their next role.  Over the last few years, a growing number of candidates have emerged who have traditionally been ‘employed’.  These candidates are used to being in permanent employment and are interested in trying contract work for the first time, perhaps because they have accepted a redundancy package, or because they recognize that they have a set of skills that are currently in demand (ie. regulatory experience in a banking environment, pertinent when FSA reform is so prevalent).

For want of a better word ‘traditional’ contractors acknowledge that they will constantly need to consider where their next role is going to come from, and accept that contract work involves a certain amount of compromise; clients’ expectations can be high in terms of  what constitutes a ‘professional working day’, often contractors will spend the week working away from home, there is no safeguard in terms of holiday pay or sick pay provided by the end client, and self employment, after all, does not suit everybody.  On the flip side, interim workers enjoy the freedom they have – they work for themselves, and financial reward is certainly greater than their employed counterpart.

So if I’m speaking with someone who has been employed up until now, and they ask me why they should consider contracting, how do I respond?  For those who can adopt a ‘contractor mentality’, there are many reasons why interim work makes sense:

  • There is an argument that in the current climate permanent employment is only marginally more secure than contracting.  Jobs remain ‘under threat’ and change and reform, especially in banking and financial services, has led to growing demand for short term expertise.
  • Contractors keep their skills up to date, and can choose how and where to apply their subject matter expertise.  By lending their knowledge to different customers, contractors also gain from seeing how different companies operate and can re-use what they learn.
  • For those who ultimately want to return to permanent employment, interim work offers the opportunity to ‘get a foot in the door’.  Whilst an employed opportunity may not currently be available, within time a permanent role may open for a consultant who has demonstrated their skills and developed relationships.
  • Financial reward is greater than equivalent permanent roles.  By virtue of the fact that contractors are ‘temporarily’ required to fix a problem, offer expertise, and provide solutions, clients are prepared to pay a rate higher than a salary, especially as they are not making a long term commitment.
  • Contracting helps to expand networks.  If for example a job seeker has been made redundant, rather than solely focus on securing a new permanent job it may be prudent to consider interim work for a period of time.  Your network may ultimately lead to future contract work, or indeed a future permanent role.
  • Considering the above point, contracting helps to avoid gaps on your CV.  Ultimately, returning to work becomes more challenging when you are interviewing for roles with other candidates whose skills are more current.

For prospective candidates who are actively considering leaving employment (rather than by circumstance, as discussed above) can a career be found in contracting?  As long as a candidate can satisfy themselves that the contracting ‘lifestyle’ suits them and their circumstances, then contracting can be an exceptional career choice. 

Candidates need to establish a good relationship with experienced recruitment companies, working with agents they trust to source them relevant roles, give them insight into their fit for the end client, guide them through the interview and selection process and to keep working together after they go ‘on site’ to derive the best outcome from the contract.

If you’re interested in finding out more about contracting with Head Resourcing please visit  and have a read of our Guide to Contracting or contact Ben for a confidential chat: email or call 0131 625 9613

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Is contracting a career?

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