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<background>Recently began contracting again after being an employee for
almost 2 years. Got laid off in November. Watched lots of friends at big
companies and in this community go through repeated rounds of massive
layoffs before I got hit. I never stressed about the possibility because
it's a waste of time. I was extremely loyal and never looked for another
job, despite all kinds of financial uncertainty. I was at a start-up, so
people were constantly asking me about "risk" and "job security" Like
Bruce, I believe it's a myth.</background>
take sabbaticals: I never got to take sabbaticals, and it honestly never
entered my mind until I did have that month after being laid off. The
prospect IS intriguing though, and one I have to consider, as this
contract will be up at some point and I have to decide how aggressively
to pursue the next and in what timeframe.
What was very cool about contracting the last time I did it was being
able to bank my overtime. Then I could take a day whenever I wanted and
be paid, as long as the client was cool.
because you got bored: Once, after 2.5 years on the same software that
was threatening to go into serious maintenance mode.
because you don't fit into old economy workplaces: I know this was
discussed some in the thread, but I lost it amongst all the other stuff
and I'm not sure now what this refers to.
because you prefer intensity which you can more readily obtain through
contracting?: I'll tell you one big benefit of contracting: I'm not at
all worried about potential reorganizations, or who's reporting to whom,
or what the impact of new business partnerships/dissolutions is going to
be. I'm extraordinarily focused on doing my job. Employees who are
worried about that sort of thing aren't as effective as they could be.
And it's not just a matter of saying, "well, they should be better
employees." Everyone is subject to the same thing, and especially in an
era where companies are constantly merging and spinning off, it's a
constant headache. If "focused" = "intensity," then Yes.
because contracting keeps you on the bleeding edge whereas FT doesn't
those opps?: Actually, I learned more in the past 2 years about business
in general and technology related to tech writing than I ever did as a
contractor. Heck, I got to be product manager for a while.
I actually think contracting can pigeonhole you. People *do* expect
contractors to hit the ground running, so unless you are an extremely
close fit, there may not be the opportunity for on-the-job learning,
esp. company paid training. I was really excited on this contract when I
asked for an HTML editor and they handed me Dreamweaver, knowing I
didn't know it inside out. By the time I leave, you can bet I'll be able
to confidently say that I'm a Dreamweaver user! Of course, many folks
claim to know a software and then learn it over the weekend before the
One thing you can probably bet on when dealing with contractors: most of
them likely paid for their own training and/or spent their "free" time
learning new tools, technologies, and domain areas. Yes, you get plenty
who are satisfied with their little niche, but you can probably identify
them through their resumes. We're talking highly motivated, curious,
intelligent, driven folks.
Next Qs from the interviewer: "Tell me, why did you feel that full-time
employment didn't afford you these opportunities? You clearly
risked financial security, so what prompted that move? What was
about FT work that you'd take that risk?"
Kelley, I've seen you say this now several times. I'm curious where you
developed this notion that contracting is financially risky? Here's
what's financially risky: equity spending on stock options and/or
ill-thought investments that turn out to be a pipe dream. Buying
everything you want the moment you see it, putting it on the credit
card, and worrying about it later. The risk is not in the kind of
employment; it's in how you organize your financial life. And it's not
always that full-time is unpleasant. It's just different.
Our economy is very clearly tied to contract employment, which gives it
stability. Although it is somewhat cyclical, it's real and it's here to
stay. I'm not sure how other industries use contractors, but in high
tech and big industry in general it seems pretty prevalent. How many
folks do you know where the company lays off a third of the staff and
then promptly engages many of the same people as contractors? They pay
them a higher hourly rate, but it's less than the overall burden was,
plus it now comes out of the expense column instead of the liability
column, and that accounting mojo makes the investors happy, even though
money may still be pouring out the doors. Then somebody gets a fit about
intellectual assets and corporate knowledge or whatever today's buzzword
is, and suddenly they only want employees. So, people shift. That's one
reason why you may see a mix of contract/"permanent" employment on a
(Regarding full-time employment allowing these opportunities, I will
simply "ditto" Bruce's response.)
Coming back to the "focus" issue for the moment, the job I had where I
learned so much was actually a double-edged sword: I had to *learn
about* so many things (many of them far-flung from core tech writing
tasks, though almost all the normal things that tech writers stray into)
that I don't feel I *learned* any of them with any degree of expertise.
I am relishing right now being able to focus--I feel like I have the
opportunity to seriously apply and dig into the things I was only able
to skim last year.
So, happy me! And the next time I consider being an employee, I think
I'll try to find a job where I can dig deep into something without
becoming stagnant. I've got an idea, and some leads to follow on the
kind of organization that will let that happen; maybe it will
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