Brand management for project contractors
It’s official: Growth in contingent labour now outstrips growth in permanent employment. Numerous reports and studies such as those conducted by the likes of Emergent Research, Hudson, Information Technology Contract and Recruitment Association (ITCRA) and IBISWorld, indicate a fundamental shift from the traditional permanent employment model is occurring. The Adecco Group Temporary Labour Report in particular highlights that the number of contract roles grew 85% more than that of permanent vacancies in 2013.
This tells us that the working world is becoming more project-based, which is good news for project contractors. On the flip side, demand for contract labour is leading to more and more workers adopting the life of a project contractor and this in turn means more competition for contract roles. How can project contractors take control, enhance their capability and define their marketability?
We’re at a stage where the size of the contract workforce talent pool is such that project contractors can no longer rely on word of mouth or their contact network to provide the next job, particularly in an increasingly competitive marketplace. To keep up a pipeline, they must learn to market themselves and to position their skills and expertise ahead of the rest of the pack. In short, it’s time for project contractors to treat their careers as a business.
Step 1: A business requires planning
To begin, it pays to consider what you are hoping to achieve. Do you want to build your skills by learning more? Expand your capabilities, for example by working across different industries or technologies? Perhaps you want to work only for a certain type of organisation or maybe, your plan is to become a niche expert? Understanding your motivations and goals is important because it gives you direction and allows you to better plan your career moves.
To take it one step further, be sure to document your plan and for an even greater chance of success, share your plan with a respected confidante and get their buy-in to ensure that you remain accountable for your actions towards the plan.
Step 2: Identify your offering
Next, ask yourself, ‘What am I selling?’ Is it your skills, your experience, your qualifications? Don’t forget to consider any marketable personal traits that are part of the package. You may be calm and unflappable, making you invaluable in tense situations or when working to tight deadlines.
Create a skills inventory, then ask yourself what those skills mean to the marketplace. Do they complement each other to create a bundled offering that appeals to a particular market need? Are the skills up to date? If certifications or qualifications are no longer current, it may impact on your ability to sell yourself and will have a bearing on your value.
Once you have an inventory of current skills, map out those you will need to acquire along the way as you develop your career according to plan. Keep in mind the need to be competitive and marketable. The path to being truly competitive entails understanding your differentiators, what makes you stand out and your personal value position.
Step 3: Create and market your brand
Branding is the process of defining, packaging and selling the skills and value you bring to your clients through each engagement. It encapsulates your combined offering, expectations and plans.
The primary marketing tools for communicating brand are your CV and personal presentation.
As competition among the contingent workforce heats up, however, project contractors will find they need to become proficient networkers and marketers, using every opportunity to promote themselves. Consider activities such as membership of professional associations and seek out opportunities for gatherings with business contacts. In addition to a contacts database, social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook should be part of every project contractor’s repertoire.
In many ways, creating a personal brand and taking charge of your career is equally relevant to everyone in the workforce, whether you’re a project contractor or an employee. Because let’s face it, nobody else will ever be as motivated to help you succeed as you are right now.
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