What You Could Learn from a Contractor | Jobs In VT
Click Here For Career Advice and Articles

What You Could Learn from a Contractor

By: Melissa Suey

By Melissa Suey

A reader asks, "I know someone who was out of work and is now making a career out of being a contractor. He seems to like it more than when he was an employee. I'd like to try it. Do I stop my job search? What do I need to consider?"

My response: I love this topic because I believe if more of us thought of ourselves as self-employed contractors, whether we're employed full-time with an organization or not, we would be more in control of our careers. Let me explain.

What Job Security?

I think we can probably agree there really is no such thing as job security. Even if you are employed full-time with a reputable organization that treats its employee's well, things can change. Mergers and acquisitions happen, budgets can be cut, organizational goals can change, the economy can take a nosedive, or all of the above! My intention is not to sound negative, but the truth is that at any given time, any of us can find ourselves unexpectedly out of work.

I encourage people to see themselves as their own job security. It's not an easy thing to do for someone who has counted on an employer telling them what to do and giving them a paycheck in return for the past 20 years. I'm not saying you should quit your job, or advising you not to take a job with an organization if you are offered one. What I am saying is: perhaps if we opened up our perspective to at least thinking like we are self-employed, we would start to slowly climb into the driver's seat of our career.

Keep the Right Mindset

Consider the mindset of a successful self-employed person: they have a keen awareness that they are as successful as their previous job, last contract, or most recent closing. When one gig ends, they are not only self-employed - some think of themselves as being unemployed, too, without unemployment assistance.

How Contractors Succeed

It's this mindset that motivates the self-employed person to always be thinking of their next client or paycheck. Successful ones:

  • Are resilient and persevere
  • Learn while they earn - an important one!
  • Invest their own money to continuously improve their skills and education
  • Make it their business to keep up with the latest trends in their industry
  • Become articulate at explaining what they have to offer and how it benefits the consumer
  • Offer exceptional service to their customers, so they get repeat business
  • Keep an eye on the future, working toward where that next contract or paycheck may be coming from

Is Contracting for You?

Becoming a self-employed contractor is not for the faint-of-heart as there can be plenty of ups and downs. There are organizations that offer training for people who want to become self-employed like: New Ventures Maine and SCORE, to name a couple.

There are many things to consider, such as your comfort with risk-taking and your decision-making ability. You also need to be thoughtful about how you manage your money and consider how you will cover health insurance and other benefits. Also, a successful contractor needs to be dedicated, self-motivated, and really clear about what he or she has to offer and where those skills and talents might be useful - just like anyone else looking for a job.

A Challenge

I challenge you to start thinking like a contractor now. Try picking up some contract work, even while you continue your job search. You can test the market and see if it's feasible for you personally and professionally. The extra money will be nice, but more importantly, you'll gain awareness, find out what you need to do stay on top of your game and learn the value you bring to an employer, all priceless.

And the best part is this: the knowledge and new perspective you'll gain will be yours to keep, no matter whom you work for in the future. Now, that's job security.


Melissa Suey is a career and leadership coach and trainer who specializes in helping people find and stay engaged in work that is meaningful to them. Melissa is Manager of Talent Management for Delhaize America, Hannaford's parent company and has consulted for JobsInTheUS.com and the Maine Department of Labor. She completed her professional coach training with the highly acclaimed Coaches Training Institute in San Rafael, California. Melissa is a member of the International Coach Federation and is past Vice President of Operations for the American Society for Training and Development, Maine Chapter.