Organisations keen to boost operations through improved productivity should consider harnessing the entrepreneurial drive of Australia’s project workers and white collar contractors (referred to as independent professionals or IPros by Entity Solutions), who have proven to understand what their clients want and work hard to achieve it.
This has been among the major findings of the IPro Index 2013, part of an ongoing research project into the attitudes, issues and trends of project workers and white collar contractors conducted by Monash University and sponsored by Entity Solutions.
The IPro Index assesses 5 key areas of study, namely:
- Lifestyle (overall job satisfaction)
- Wellbeing (psychological and emotional)
- Commitment to current client (skills and workplace)
- Perceived support from current client (workplace)
- Trends (employment alternatives and productivity)
This year the study also examined IPros’ locus of control. What emerges most strongly from the examination of control is that partnership and cooperation shape the early stages of the contract and is a matter to be negotiated with the engaging organisation on an ongoing basis.
However, when things go wrong or hit a roadblock, it is the IPro who often shows initiative, takes charge and demonstrates control in putting things right. An important management implication to emerge from these results is that IPros step up to the challenge and see it as part of their job to deal with problems when they arise.
During a time of fluctuating employment confidence, the challenge for individuals, irrespective of their mode of engagement whether permanent or contract is to not rely solely on their technical skills alone, however extensive their experience.
Due to the transient nature of engagement, project contractors tend to move through more roles than the typical permanent employee. Therefore, they need to ensure that they invest in the following activities that will assist in managing their careers and brand more effectively and hopefully instil job assurance.
Forward thinking individuals are focused on building and managing their own ‘brands’ and becoming proficient networkers and marketers. Personal branding efforts are a must for anyone looking for project work. Embrace the new job marketplace and highlight your product—you!
- What is my brand?
- What am I selling?
- What is my skill set?
- What do these skills mean to the marketplace?
Be proactive and drive your own brand, don’t let others drive that for you.
Build your reputation and your allies
Do not expect work to come to you. Being a project contractor is much like being a business, which means there may be times when you have no business.
It is a competitive marketplace and you need to be proactive in getting work. This makes constant and consistent networking a must. Do not undertake networking activities sporadically, but rather embrace it as part of your lifestyle. Use the internet, attend conferences and industry events and connect with people through social media.
Competency and skills investment
Often you only have five minutes for a potential client to decide your future. How will you set yourself apart from the pack? Take responsibility and accountability for your own career by continuing to invest in your skill set and capabilities.
Nothing demonstrates commitment to a client as much as being organised and professional. You may be juggling multiple projects, all without the ‘benefit’ of a boss to keep you on track. You are the boss, so timeframes, goal setting, tools to track progress and payments are essential.
Take the time you need to do the best you can do. An incomplete or poorly executed project can ruin your reputation.
Be accountable for your flexibility
Project contractors have to be consummate jugglers; you need to refine the art of flexibility. You are the expert and should guide your client, but often their needs dictate your offerings. Remember that you are your own boss and part of flexibility is learning when to say no.
Outside of the job, be smart about protecting your income for those periods when you are in between projects or simple enjoying the flexibility that professional contract work affords.