When working as a contractor or a freelancer, it can be hard to stay upbeat between jobs. This is where Hays’ Marc Burrage’s advice comes in.
If you were asked what your favourite aspect of contracting was, I’m guessing you would say it’s the freedom. That is, the freedom to choose which contracts you get involved with, the freedom to work from wherever and for whomever you want, and the freedom to manage your own time. But as a contractor, you will also know that this freedom comes at the cost of having consistent, guaranteed work, and this is the downside you are currently facing.
Despite your best efforts to avoid the situation, you have found yourself finishing up a job and unable to find your next contract role. This can be unnerving to say the least – so, how can you keep your spirits up and stay positive in between contracts?
Make your unemployment a project
Clearly you work well when given a project – that’s the very nature of contracting itself. So, start off by seeing your unemployment as another project, as opposed to a limbo in between jobs. This will help you to feel less lost and more in control of your current situation.
Put together a project plan for your unemployment and set yourself goals and time frames for reaching these goals. Make sure this plan includes the following actions:
Reflect on your previous contracts
What have you learned from your previous contracts, in terms of your preferred working environment? Consider elements like the company size, structure, industry and culture. What did you like/dislike about these contracts and how can you use these learnings to shape your current search?
You should also consider what you learned in terms of new skills and achievements, whether it’s using some new software, or managing stakeholder expectations. Make sure you update your CV and online professional profiles accordingly – doing this will give you a confidence boost and remind you of how much you are growing as a professional.
Lastly, think about what you are yet to learn. Revisit your career objectives from when you started your previous contract – where did this position fall short in terms of helping you meet them? For instance, you might have set out wanting to improve your presentation skills in your last role, but you weren’t given the opportunity to do so.
Use this time to not only look for contracts which can help you meet your unfulfilled objectives, but also to upskill yourself – whether it’s reading books, listening to a webinar or podcast or attending a talk/seminar in this area.
Reconnect with your network
At this stage, you should feel ready to start a more tailored search for your next contract. Yes, this will largely involve applying for jobs online, but supplement this activity with more proactive job search methods, methods which really sell your expertise to a network of people who could potentially help you with finding your next role.
Start by touching base with your recruiter if you haven’t already. Meet up with them and give them an update on your latest job search preferences, as well as your newly acquired skills. I would also advise that you reach out to contacts from previous contracts to see if they know of any opportunities or could make any introductions. Perhaps drop them a polite email or message on LinkedIn and while you’re there – ask for endorsements. As always, networking is about give and take, so whatever you ask of them, offer to reciprocate.
You could also join a professional association or attend networking events and industry exhibitions. This will not only give you the chance to expand your professional circles, but also to get advice and support from your peers.
Keep motivating yourself
Staying motivated in between job contracts isn’t always easy and there will be times when you experience job-search fatigue. Therefore, it is important that you take regular breaks to recharge the batteries. After all, you wouldn’t work every hour of the day and let yourself burnout when working on projects for contracts, and how you treat your own time shouldn’t be any different.
Have set periods for job searching activity and give yourself downtime to see friends, exercise and relax. After this, you will be in a better position to regroup and remind yourself why you chose contracting in the first place.
Contracting is a viable solution for many professionals wanting flexibility, autonomy and a variety of experience. But you have to take the rough with the smooth and accept the fact that even with the best forward planning and focus, there may be times when you find yourself in between contracts.
However, if you can use this time effectively and proactively, following the above advice, ‘Project unemployment’ will soon materialise into ‘Project new job’.
By Marc Burrage
Marc Burrage is the regional managing director for Hays Asia. A version of this article originally appeared on the Hays blog.
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