If you’re considering a career in information technology (IT), but not quite ready to commit to a four-year degree or a full-time position, an IT contract job may be the perfect solution. A contract position is essentially a short-term employment that only lasts for a predetermined timeframe. Once the time is up or the project is finished, the company and employee part ways.
You may have some preconceived notions about contract positions. Is it really worth hopping around from company to company? Will future employers frown upon this experience on your resume? How can this possibly lead to long-term success?
There are many concerns that deter people from going this route, but the truth is that there are also some attractive advantages. IT professionals and recruiters alike say there are plenty of perks to starting out (or supplementing) your career in IT with contract positions.
Keep reading to hear from the pros about how IT contract jobs can set you up for success in the tech field.
6 advantages of working IT contract jobs
We enlisted IT pros and those who recruit them to learn about some of the surprising perks of working IT contract jobs. Read on to see what’s in store for you if decide to give contract work a chance.
1. You’ll stay up-to-date with technology
“[Contractors] have the ability to outpace a company’s growth into a technology by gaining experience at multiple companies,” says Haley Sabel, account manager at TEKsystems, the nation’s largest IT staffing firm. She says this will allow you to stay ahead of the curve, instead of always running to catch up with new technologies.
Many contract positions are project-based, so as new needs arise you’ll be able to learn about new implementations and acquire valuable hands-on experience with cutting edge techniques and technology. In an industry as fast-paced as technology, this exposure will help keep you at the forefront of the field.
2. You’ll gain marketability
"The more exposure you have to different processes, standards & technologies, the more marketable you will be."
“IT shops are like snowflakes, no two are the same,” says Derek Rabel, solutions architect at NetApp Inc. “The more exposure you have to different processes, standards and technologies, the more marketable you will be.”
Devoting a few years to contract work could help you build a diverse portfolio of experience and skills to add to your resume. You’ll work on a variety of projects with a variety of people, providing you with unique experiences you would never have in a stagnant position.
If and when you do decide to pursue full-time work, just image how attractive your resume will be to employers when they see the breadth of experience, challenges and accomplishments you’ve already had.
3. You can increase your earning potential
IT contract jobs can help you gain the experience and expertise needed to quickly climb the corporate ladder while also increasing your earning potential, according to Sabel. She’s seen this happen firsthand with several of her recruits.
She recalls an example of a contractor who recently finished a nine-month contract for an entry-level help desk position earning $13 per hour. Upon completion, the same individual was able to roll into a new contract earning $20 per hour.
“Where else can you make that type of financial increase within one year?” Sabel asks.
4. You can enjoy job security
This one might have you scratching your head. How can you have job security in a position you know is coming to an end?
Well technically, even a full-time employment contract could end at any time. But as a contractor, you’re often receiving your contracts with the help of a recruiter, such as Sabel. She explains that she works with her contractors from day one, understanding exactly what he or she is looking for and providing opportunities to match.
She goes on to say that a good recruiter will work to find another position for the contractor even before the timer runs out on the other. So though one contract ends, another is beginning almost seamlessly. This means you can concentrate on the project at hand with peace of mind knowing you’ve got someone looking out for you on the other side.
5. Your contract could lead to a full-time gig…
“Oftentimes, companies can be leery about hiring new, direct employees for a variety of reasons,” says Shefik Macauley, programmer for Merck Creative Studios. He says contracting is a productive means to leverage your presence within a company.
"You can cultivate your professional network & nurture your technical growth."
“By accepting a role as a contractor, you can cultivate your professional network and nurture your technical growth,” Macauley says. He’s seen this strategy work wonders in his own career by accepting a full-time position following his contract work at Columbia Law School. There’s no better way to prove your value to an employer than by actually working for them – even if it does start on a short-term basis.
6. …but if it doesn’t, it’s no sweat!
If your IT contract job doesn’t turn into a permanent opportunity, it’s not a big deal! That just means you get to start fresh in a new position within a new company, all the while expanding your experience and professional network.
You also might discover the position wasn’t quite what you expected or the culture of the company wasn’t a good match. Even if you are offered a full-time position, there’s no pressure to accept it. You won’t get a black mark on your resume for quitting or being ‘let go.’ Whatever the case, both parties can part amicably knowing the arrangement was temporary from the get-go.
Advance your IT career
Now you’re well-aware of the many benefits of working IT contract jobs. Whether you’re just starting out or just looking for something new, this could be exactly what you need to gain the experience needed to propel your career.
But it takes more than experience to advance in the tech world. Check out this article to learn how you can fill the holes in your resume to help you climb the corporate ladder: IT Career Advancement: What’s Your Resume Missing?