IT contractors, be canny if job-hopping for cash

Although the words ‘scarcity’ and ‘shortage’ can have negative connotations in many walks of life, for a canny IT contractor these are the adjectives for market conditions sent from heaven, writes Natalie Bowers, co-founder of Bowers Partnership, a niche recruitment consultancy for the investment management sector.   

In the IT contractor recruitment industry, despite all the changes of late -- ranging from technology to compliance, it’s still a simple question of ‘supply and demand.’

And for the first time in quite a long time, certain skillsets are experiencing such a peak in demand that we’re seeing some really welcome, hefty pay rate inflation. It’s not gone unnoticed by a national staffing body, which says that due to market forces around certain IT contractor skills, there is a “strong chance of getting a pay rise” just by jumping jobs.

But the jump can of course be perilous, and having a pot of gold as your motivation requires some ‘belt and braces’ safety tips before you step off the precipice. Here’s my top three:

All that glitters…

That headline rate on the shiny contract or job advert on your favourite board really is an attention-grabber, isn’t it? But, hold on, if it looks too good to be true…it possibly is. In a candidate-short market, employers and agencies will go out of their way to get you to apply for their job or contract.

And one of the tricks of the trade is the ‘knock ‘em dead rate.’ It puts your current contract (and all others for that matter) in the shade -- and gets candidates queueing round the corner for the hirers.

It could be for real – but before you hit the “apply here” button and hand over your latest and greatest CV, it might be an idea to pick up the phone and speak to the advertiser in person. This quick one-to-one could head off the potentially unwanted scenario of the world and his brother knowing you’re back on the market – potentially for a fiction. Quietly call the agent just to subtly check and make sure that this opportunity really is the gold, and not the fool’s variety.

Don’t dead-end yourself

If you’re thinking to yourself that you could do with a change of scenery as well as a bit of a pay rise, first be sure that the move you are contemplating making won’t lead you off down a ‘one-way street.’

Clients and specialist agencies are always on the look-out for contractors with relevant recent experience and this also includes experience in their particular industry / sector. If you take the chance and follow the money off over the hill, and outside of your normal niche, then you may find yourself stuck in that sector without a way back to your normal hunting ground. Chopping and changing of industry sectors only serves to dilute your value in the market, and so where possible, stick to yours.

Get strategic

If you’ve given an opening serious consideration; its CV affirming and enhancing, and you’ve done your homework on the agency/client, including verifying that both the contract and the rate are real -- and you still want to make that move, then just finally before you leap, please consider the long-term view.

That fabulous new contract with the higher rate, may not be as lucrative as you think. It’s always a good idea to make sure that this next gig is going to be a long-term opportunity and is going to be worth the valuable inches it’s going to take up on your CV.

Do the maths and look at the calendar. An extra £50 a day (less tax and a few days holiday thrown in), for three months and then finding that you’re back on the market for an age at a time when all the demand dies off, is possibly not going to make this move viable. But, if it ticks all the boxes for you and you’re sure that it’s a marathon there for the completing – by all means – feel free to bag it up!

Final thought

Reading that ‘candidates planning to move jobs have a strong chance of cashing-in’ sounds great. It stands an even stronger chance of actually happening to you if you abide by the above trio and resist rushing to terminate your current contract on only the whiff of a new and improved version. Good luck!

Profile picture for user Natalie Bowers

Written by Natalie Bowers

Natalie is a co-founder of Bowers Partnership, an award-winning recruitment company that finds people for Investment and Wealth Management firms and Asset Owners. She has more than 30 years’ experience in recruitment, corporate IT and multi-functional general management positions.

Her areas of expertise include contract recruitment, permanent search & selection and recruitment-specific regulation. She is a regular commentator for recruitment industry publications and specialist websites.

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