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Break the Shackles or Stagnate

After 40 years in corporate life, at least 20 of which have been in the management of contract employees and some of that time as a contractor myself, I have seen the same story evolving over and over as professionals strive to break the shackles of corporate life. Their story is almost always the same when I ask why they choose contract work over permanent employment.

There is a consistent narrative that unfolds when professionals consider moving away from permanent employment:

"I am tired of corporate politics. So much of my energy is taken up playing the corporate game. Instead of doing what I am trained to do, I attend endless meetings, most of which are a total waste of time."

"I am no longer valued here. When I first arrived here, everyone took my recommendations seriously. Now they hardly listen to anything I have to say. It seems I am no longer the solution, just a part of the problem."

"We can no longer trust management. So many times, they have made promises they fail to keep. This is the second year in a row that they have failed to pay us the bonuses they promised us."

"My career is going nowhere. It is the same old routine day in and day out. I know my job backward and am pretty good at it, but I am not learning anything new, and there is little prospect of me picking up new skills. Frankly, I am bored."

''There is no longer any room for personal life. I feel smothered by the relentless work pressure, with very little room for time off to take a breather. The company has become so dependent on me that I can't take a decent break from work."

Frankly, I am no longer surprised when I hear professionals and highly-skilled individuals tell me these stories. Many more are feeling this way than ever before, which does not surprise me. It is no longer the fashionable thing to be safely ensconced in the bowels of the corporate family or to sell your soul to the company store. In many respects, companies have made this disenchantment with permanent employment.

Consider the case of Greg, who works at a large refinery and specializes in project managing shut-downs during the annual maintenance cycle. Essentially Greg is only fully operative for two months of the year, planning and resourcing the ramp-up to the shut-down, overseeing the maintenance crews, and ensuring the safe return to total production. He is so good at this that the company pays him a very lucrative package to stick around for the remaining ten months, doing odd project management work. Most of this is well below his expertise — no wonder the poor man is bored out of his skull.

Then there is the story of Lance, who made the decision some years ago to leave his employer of twenty years, where he has been a financial manager for most of this time. He is well qualified, having written his board exam and earned his credentials as a Chartered Accountant. He knows the books of an insurance company but nothing else. Consequently, finding a job and pursuing his dream of becoming a Chief Financial Officer is in tatters. The recruitment agencies insist he needs more generalist experience to take on a CFO role.

These are the familiar stories of the many professionals who find themselves at crossroads in their careers. Sadly, too many of them wait until their latent discontent causes them to be thrown away by the companies they have served so well for many years. Inevitably their exit happens at the next wave of retrenchments or when their discontent boils over into insubordination, or a similar offense, causing their dismissal.

Fortunately, many more make a move themselves at a time when relationships are still intact and can lean on their ex-colleagues for excellent references and referrals.

If you are at this stage, it may be time to join the ever-increasing millions of professionals and high-skilled people choosing contract work over permanent employment. Some will take up permanent roles elsewhere only to find that, after a few months, life as a permanent employee is much the same wherever you are employed. This signals that much of your discontent may have less to do with your employer and more with your mindset and longing for something better.

Consider the experiences of professionals who have found their home in contract employment:

" I love the flexibility that contract work offers. I can choose whom to work for and when. No more arguing with bosses and colleagues about who gets off over the year-end season."

"There is now so much variety in my work. Instead of doing the same old stuff ten times over, I now learn ten new things almost daily. I am far more confident as a professional and look forward to the next curve-ball thrown my way."

"When I started as a contractor, I was afraid I would need to take a big knock on my income. Surprisingly, I now command a much higher rate than I imagined."

The main reason permanent employees go contracting is an increase in money without having to climb the corporate political ladder. A lack of job satisfaction and a bleak future in a current position often triggers this.

Contracting can provide a higher income, guaranteed pay, fewer politics, complete control over training, and more freedom to take time off.

A word of caution, however. Plying your trade as a contractor is more complex than it may seem. Many contractors fall into the trap of not contracting correctly and compliantly with their new employers, often falling foul of taxation and labour laws. Ensure that you get the proper mechanism through which to lease your services.

Ready to make a move? Please speak to the guys at OUTprof. They can help set you up for success:

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