As an experienced contractor who’s already completed a few assignments, you’re likely aware that starting a new gig is nothing like easing into a permanent job. From day one, you’re expected to come in and add immediate value. However, when each assignment can differ from your last and every organisation has their own unique way of doing things, hitting the ground running can often be easier said than done. Here are a few quick tips for contractors who are looking to be a roaring success in their next assignment.
Clarify Your Goals
Although the Hiring Manager would have briefed you on the assignment’s objectives before signing you on, it’s crucial to take the time to clarify the expectations on your deliverables as soon as possible. This is because unlike permanent employees, contractors are nearly always entirely self-managing. Hence, if you fail to confirm your short and long term goals and expected timeframes, you could end up wasting time and money. If you’re ever uncertain about how to approach a task or what a finished product should look like, ask for further clarification. Your Manager would rather you triple check than get it wrong. At the same time, be prepared to be flexible as the needs of your Manager and their business could change.
Create an Action Plan
Once you’ve discussed your Manager’s expectations, create an action plan that reflects the business’s needs and shows you understand the projects you’re working on. This plan will help you to see the role you’re here to perform, how you fit into the bigger picture and help you to work autonomously. Whilst keeping your overall objectives in mind, use your action plan to identify and achieve short-term goals that can help you make an immediate impact.
To ensure your hard work is focused in the right areas, refer to your action plan and if you ever feel like you’re spending too long on something, make your Manager aware that you’re trying to fix it. This transparency is a great way to promote that you’re open to frequent and honest communication throughout your assignment.
Although you’ve been hired to meet specific objectives, your action plan can provide a great basis for you to be proactive and increase your chances of securing more assignments later. If you notice any opportunities to utilise your skills, that are outside your current assignment, flag them as something that can be discussed with your Manager once you’re close to reaching your current goals.
Establish Strong Relationships
As a contractor, you might find yourself walking on thin ice when it comes to your colleagues. Whilst it’s imperative that you connect with key stakeholders who can help you to better perform in your role, consider what you’re there to achieve. Some employees might be disgruntled if you’ve been engaged to implement workplace change, and trying to build a relationship with them could provide counter-intuitive. Instead, focus on identifying the specialists who will be able to provide you with any relevant information you may need.
In addition, you should take the initiative to introduce yourself to other leaders and key stakeholders who you’ll be engaging with throughout your assignment. Establishing an internal network can improve your ability to successfully collaborate to accomplish goals, and your chances at securing more assignments in the future.
Know When to Respect the Status Quo (and When Not to)
An employer’s existing culture and processes can pose big risks to you as a contractor, especially if you’ve been working with one business for a series of assignments. The issue is that each employer will have a different way of doing things than the last, and complacency can sometimes land you in hot water. That doesn’t mean to say that it isn’t good to find ways to work efficiently and effectively. However, unless you’ve been engaged to manage structural change within the organisation, working the way your current employer wants you to is likely the best option.
If you find yourself struggling to adapt to a new environment, then your internal network is key to tackling this problem. The people you’re building connections with will have a strong grasp of their employer’s workplace culture. Ask them questions and observe your workplace to learn how decisions are made, people communicate, and conflict is resolved, and what key processes keep the business moving.
Check How You’re Tracking
As mentioned earlier, you’ll spend most of your assignment managing yourself. Hence, to ensure your work is headed in the right direction, don’t shy away from scheduling regular catch-ups with your Manager. To make certain these meetings are productive, draw attention to the progress you’ve made towards your goals and the challenges you’re currently facing. At the same time, it’s crucial to check whether you can request feedback from your key stakeholders, so that you can gain a 360-degree analysis of the quality of your work.
With so much to embrace and navigate whilst often having to meet high expectations and short deadlines, those first few weeks can be tough. We hope that the above five contracting tips will help you to hit the ground running as a contractor in your next assignment. If you’d like to discuss more helpful advice for contractors or what contracting opportunities we have available, get in touch with one of our specialist recruiters today.