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Star Gigs: Choosing Between IT Contract Opportunities

As an IT consultant, your professional career is marked by many choices, changes, and adjustments. While these career choices don’t consist of choosing between the light and dark sides as is the case for your favorite Star Wars characters, you must strive every day to ensure that your actions and decisions are in line with your ultimate professional goals. In light of the tech talent shortage, which has led to increased opportunities for IT pros, deciding on your path may be more challenging than ever before – particularly if you find yourself faced with multiple contract opportunities. While navigating these multiple offers or opportunities can be tricky, these tips from the battlefront experts will help you “use the force” and land your best IT gig:
See The Future You Will, Like Yoda: Think Ahead
Yoda’s legendary wisdom was not only limited to his factual knowledge and previous experiences as a Jedi Master, but also encompassed his foresight and sensible judgement as an instructor to Luke Skywalker. Likewise, a large part of your success as an IT consultant depends on your ability to judge what you’re looking for in your next contract gig even before reaching out to an IT recruiter. As a consultant, you know that contract offers usually require fast decisions. The client is aiming to fill a temporary and immediate need. If you find early on in the process that there are two employers interested in working with you, it’s important to prepare in advance for a double offer by imagining a large variety of outcomes. Start by asking yourself “what would my best scenario be?” and work from there. Remember that in consulting situations, hiring managers are usually working with set budgets and as such are not able to negotiate a pay rate once they’ve chosen you for the role, but there may be other factors that can help you determine which contract opportunity is right for you. According to one survey, 88 percent of workers make important decisions based on their gut, so try mentally committing to the various hypothetical offers and see what your gut tells you. If you’ve taken the time to consider proactively which role will be the best fit, you’ll be able to trust your instincts and make a fast but grounded decision between opportunities when the time comes.
Have Fun Like Han Solo: Assess The Opportunities’ Non-Monetary Value
Without a doubt Han Solo got a thrill from working as a smuggler. Though the pay was sometimes meager compared to the risks involved, to him the job was about freedom, adventure, and command over the Millennium Falcon. When faced with an employment decision, you need to evaluate all of the factors that could contribute to your professional fulfillment. It’s important to have fun at work, especially because most people spend at least 50% of their waking hours there. To discover the best culture fit for you, make a list of the things you care most about (besides wages) when working a contract gig. It might be best to use a tracking tool or spreadsheet to monitor not only all of the contacts, companies, and job titles associated with the opportunities you are currently pursuing, but also the non-monetary factors that come with them, such as office environment, commute, work schedule, and your interest in the daily responsibilities of the gigs. Again, if any of these are especially important to you, for example if you’re looking for a remote opportunity, mention this to your recruiter before pursuing a position. However, keeping a list of other perks that may not be a necessity for you up-front but which may come into play in a multi-opportunity situation will help to simplify your decision later on. Don’t forget that benefits and opportunities for career advancement may have a greater monetary impact even than your hourly wage, and should also be taken into consideration.
Be A Politician Like Padmé Amidala: Maintain Your Professional Reputation
From Queen to Senator of Naboo, Padmé Amidala was a well-respected politician of the Galactic Republic. Her integrity led her to multiple re-elections, and she was a key influencer in the pursuit toward peace in the galaxy. Like Padmé, your professional success is largely dependent upon your reputation. In consulting, getting that next IT gig every 6-18 months is all about maintaining a strong network and a good reputation. For this reason, it’s important that you stand by your professional decisions. Don’t burn a bridge that you might need to cross later by turning your back on an accepted offer when something better comes through. Instead, either explain that you’ve already taken a different role, and see the project through to completion, or let your recruiter know that you’re waiting on another offer or have an interview you want to go to before accepting the offer in the first place. On the other hand, if you receive two offers at the same time, maintain professionalism by thanking everyone for their time and interest in working with you, and respectfully offering a few reasons for your decision. Unlike when your contract gig obligations have run their course and a simple goodbye on the last day will suffice, this simple courtesy of a brief conversation is encouraged as a way to alleviate the blow of turning down a client who’s been fighting to have you on their team. They are sure to appreciate the attention paid to them and your professionalism, and may be a good point of contact for future IT gigs.
Don’t Regret Like Kylo Ren: Weigh Both Long And Short-Term Value
Kylo Ren stubbornly refused to see past the short-term difficulties of returning to the light side. With one dramatic and devastating act, he committed to the dark side and sealed his fate. While it is best to determine what you’re looking for early on in your contract gig search, there may still be times when you encounter two or three very competitive opportunities. When you’re faced with such a close match, the ultimate considerations will come down to which opportunity is the best fit for your current situation, as well as your career and future. Consider whether one opportunity gives you the chance to use cutting edge technology, learn a new skill, or refresh an old one. Though IT clients are looking for experts with the necessary skills going into a gig, it never hurts to accept an opportunity that would allow you to brush up on other, less-primary skills, particularly when it comes to more popular computer systems and programming such as .Net, Java, JavaScript/jQuery, HTML, Python, SQL, and Oracle. In the end, balance your present need for a position with the awareness that you will be seeking a new role again when your contract is up. Decide on a path that will best poise you for current and long-term success while recognizing that the best opportunities aren’t always the easiest.

In the end, it’s almost impossible to know for certain what kind of an experience you’ll have working with a prospective client before you’ve entered into your new role. Even legendary Jedi Master Obi Wan Kenobi made mistakes early on in his career. But like Obi Wan, learning from your past experiences can lead to great success in your future. One of the advantages of working with a firm is that you can engage your client manager to advocate on your behalf should you find yourself in an experience that was less than you were expecting. But regardless, both mistakes and on-the-job learning opportunities can ultimately lend themselves to career advancement. By drawing on your previous professional experiences, avoiding the common pitfalls of receiving multiple offers, and maintaining professionalism at all times, you’re sure to leverage the IT talent shortage and land awesome opportunities.


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