Career Opportunities

Helping to build the career you deserve!

A weekly ComputorEdge Column and Podcast by Douglas E. Welch

Contract Yourself

September 10, 2004

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As many of you know, working as a full-time employee can have many benefits, but just as many drawbacks. The bond of loyalty that once held employer and employee together continues to deteriorate and the situation only grows worse. Perhaps it is time to reconsider the concept of employment and what it means to be an employee. Instead of constantly reaching for the brass ring of “employment”, high-tech workers might find better career opportunities awaiting them on the freelance side of the equation.

Whole New World

Over the last 10 years, many business pundits have dared employees to think like freelancers or think like owners. Stock incentive plans and performance-based pay have developed as a way for employees to feel that they have a stake in a company. I believe, though, that for high-tech workers, the whole world has changed. The very nature of your work provides a singular opportunity to stop “acting” like owners, but to actually be an owner. Instead of waiting to see what your company is going to do to your job, your office, and your peers, it is time to be proactive and develop your own plans for the future.

For anyone working in a high-tech career today, I would recommend that you immediately start investigating how to turn your job into a “contract” position. You owe it to yourself to take an active role in your career beyond simply hoping that your current company will continue to be profitable.

You need to make a bold move for the future before someone makes it for you.In control
The goal in pursuing a contract relationship with your employers is freedom. The freedom to work on “WOW Projects” (Thanks, Tom Peters), the freedom to choose the direction of your career and the freedom to break from the exclusivity of working for one employer. Instead of tying all your dreams to one company, you need the ability to spread your work over a number of independent companies. Instead of the “single source” employer, you gain the freedom to shop your talents where they have the most impact and where you have the most fun.

How will your company respond to your idea? The answers will vary as much as the companies themselves. Perhaps your company is looking to reduce its bottom line and will embrace the idea. Another company might see it as disloyal and show you the door. In another, your questions might be the first time they have thought of such an idea. Regardless of the response, though, you must investigate the possibility. High-tech pundits have been proclaiming “the sky is falling” for years, now. Work will never be the same. I believe that is exactly the case, but many companies simply haven’t figured it out. Worse still, many will never figure it out and take their employees to the bottom with them. I trust that, if you have been reading my columns, you will understand the urgency of finding a new path. The world has changed and you need to embrace it in the best way possible.


As I am sure you are thinking, there are problems involved in breaking out on your own. You take on a host of new responsibilities when you do so.. Health care is a mess at the moment, but the situation is worsening even if you are a full-time employee. Some of you might be lucky enough to have healthcare through a partner, but, more than likely, you will have to get creative about financing and maintaining your health insurance.

You have to worry about finding the next project and the next and the next, but isn’t that more interesting than sitting in your cubicle “putting in the hours” but not producing anything? You do have to actively go out and sell yourself and your ideas, but isn’t that better than waiting for the usually mis-guided and unfair performance review by someone who probably doesn’t even know what you do.

Sure, life outside can seem scary, but less so if you consider the world you are working in today. If you are feeling trapped in your current position, get out. If you find yourself desiring more than the typical 9-5 can offer, get out. If you want the best life for yourself, get out.

On the worst days, it might not seem like people respect your skills, your energy and even you as a person, but I can guarantee you, there are companies looking for your skills, your mind and your energy. There are projects that desperately need your talents. There is a totally different concept of work awaiting you. Your goal is to break out of the mold of the last hundred years and find it.

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