Contracting still defies the economic climate
One of the things which employed people often say about being freelance or contracting is that it’s an inherently insecure career strategy.
It may seem to be so: after all, there’s no guarantee of work outside the current contract and, beyond that, what you can find for yourself. Employment seems – well, so much cosier. Or it had, until the current recession bit hard.
Yes, we’ve had recessions before – and high unemployment too. This time around, the jobs market seemed to be holding its own, despite the economy going from bad to worse. Now, things are slipping – and slipping fast. In April, May and June, 80,000 people lost their jobs, taking the total unemployed to above 2,550,000. Worse still, there aren’t many indications that things are going to improve any time soon. It’s depressing stuff – especially if you’re one of those who is currently looking for a job.
With unemployment rising so quickly, it’s clear that employment isn’t in itself any guarantee of security – yet the notion persists that self-employment is somehow more vulnerable.
There almost certainly isn’t an across-the-board advantage (or disadvantage) to either way of working. That said, it has to be noted that in many ways employment only provides the illusion of security, rather than security itself. A job is only as secure as the company you work for, the department you work in and the notice period you’re signed up for. That’s pretty much the same as being a contractor.
If an employed person loses his or her job, the main task is to find a job – a contractor finds a project; it amounts to the same thing.
What makes people more valuable and their job more secure is actually their skills. If you’re good at doing a job that’s in demand then your job is more secure – and your chances of finding another are higher. Within this obvious statement is the key to why many areas of contracting are performing well, even in the current tough climate.
By its nature, contracting tends to work best for high-level skills, niche skills, senior skills – especially if you have a high-level skill and can speak a second language. So, while we’d hesitate to say that contracting is in any way recession-proof, many roles in many industries are faring very well indeed (or are, at the least, far more resilient) – we’ve seen this first-hand in renewable energies, oil and gas, telecoms, trading, semiconductor, life sciences – and other industries.
Despite the economy, many companies are still investing heavily - new technologies, new products and so on. So, research and development roles remain strong, for example – and those pull through manufacturing design and project management roles… and so on.
Of course, some economies have been less affected than others. We’ve noted that some countries within Europe were less affected by the recession and are already doing well. In the East, many industries in China and Singapore are doing well. Even in Ireland, well-known for suffering a hard blow as the world’s economies tanked, certain businesses and industries are starting to get moving again.
So, for the right contractor, working in the right industry, there’s still great contract work available.
That’s not to say finding a role – even as a contractor – is easy. Organisations are looking most for people who are not only skilled, but also highly experienced and can add value quickly. On top of that, contractors with a second language have a definite advantage. In the industries in which we operate, we’ve seen demand remain consistently high for many roles – indeed, there are even roles for which we have an ongoing brief to find people with specific skills.
With the right skills, there can be more options for a contractor than for a permanent employee – simply because there are often more contract roles available for many of these high-level positions than there are permanent jobs.
Overall, despite the challenges of the current climate, contracting remains not only a viable career choice, but also one that can have – for many roles – distinct advantages over permanent employment.