Contractor Queries: Q&A

Subject: Contractor Queries: Q&A
From: George Mena <George -dot- Mena -at- ESSTECH -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 24 Jul 1998 14:04:59 -0700

Responses to the anonymous poster follow:

Q: How can you ensure that the job that you were told about in the
interview translates into the job you actually do? Do you write it in
the contract?

A: If you're going through an agency, this isn't even an issue. The
agency handles that. Regardless, though, most of the time you'll be
doing the job you were hired on to do. You'll probably also be asked to
do other jobs. If you're working on a 1099 basis, you can negotiate
that. Either way, you're getting paid to do whatever job the client
needs done. Do it and don't stress about it if you're working through
an agency. Otherwise, write it into the contract and always negotiate
the extra stuff. :D

Q: If this happens to you, do you just confront the boss about it?
I've made several lighthearted remarks, but am ready for the "serious
discussion." However, I don't want to sound like I'm whining, and I've
also considered that I'm doing work that really needs to be done, and
other people in the group absolutely refuse to do it. I've thought that
I could contribute a few months, get it done, and leave. At least, I
will have made a contribution that no one else is willing to make.

A: Nobody made you sign your life over to the company, so you can do
pretty much whatever you want. Just keep it legal and do the best job
you know how to do. If a client has you doing something besides what
you thought you were hired to do, that's his choice. It's called "at
will" employment. If you're there on a 1099 basis, talk it over. If
you're there through an agency, keep the agency advised and let the
agency deal with the client.

Q: Another consideration is that my resume is lacking in the latest
technology, because the last company I worked for was behind the times,
to say the least.

A: That's why I advocate staying loyal to your skills set. That's
going to take care of you. Keeping your people skills even sharper --
which is harder to do -- will take care of you even more, especially if
you feel like strangling someone who's driving you nuts yet who also
signs your time card.

Q: The job situation in this area is really tight, and I've come to
realize that I really need referrals from my agency, which they are not

A: Most *good* agencies typically keep in touch with their clientele as
well as their contractors, as the agencies want to make sure their
clientele is *happy* with the contractors they send out. You can help
yourself out with the referrals by staying in touch with your agency as
well. If you go in to pick up your check at the office, talk with the
recruiter who helped place you there and let him or her know how it's
going on the job. If you *don't* pick up the check at the office, get
on the phone and talk to your recruiter. Do this on at least a
bi-weekly basis.

In your dealings with the client, don't be just a 9-to-5 type. Your
professional reputation's at stake especially as a contractor,
regardless of whether you work on a W2 basis or a 1099 basis. Stick
around after hours now and then. Get to talk with some of the client's
key personnel, such as the director of software engineering or the
resident modem evangelist (these are only examples). Let them get to
know you and take the time to get to know them. The more both sides get
to know each other, the greater the likelihood you'll get the good
referrals *from the client(!)*, which is *exactly* what you *and* the
agency can use to your benefit, especially when the contract ends. If
you're a kick-ass kind of contractor who really knows how to turn and
burn on the job, especially without pissing people off, people will come
looking for you. :D They'll also give you business cards and be more
than willing to write letters of recommendation on your behalf,
sometimes without your solicitation! Make sure your agency gets a copy
of the letters. They're gold for you when it's time for the agency to
market you to another client.

Q: I'm wondering at what point do you decide if your agency is still
taking the time to scope out good jobs for you.

A: Reality check time here. First, remember that the marketplace is
especially competitive where agencies are concerned. As such, it's not
unusual to get calls from two or three agencies on your answering
machine for the same contract job. If more than one agency submits your
resume without telling you which company, chances are you may get
knocked out from consideration altogether because the client company
wants to deal with only one agency in the end.

It's also important to remember that the agency is looking for the best
candidate in their database who's readily available for a contract
position, keyword being "readily available." You may not like a client
you're currently servicing for your agency du jour when a better
contract comes in, but if it's a long term contract you're already on,
it would take your replacement some time to get up to speed and for
*you* to educate the newbie on what's happening before you leave. A lot
of client companies don't want to have to deal with that. As the agency
also wants you there, chances are excellent that this position will go
to someone else; someone "readily available." When you contract, you're
an off-the-shelf commodity. Everyone involved wants the contract to
work out, especially the agency. They know repeat business is the best
kind of business to have. That's a win-win situation, especially for
you. Agencies want to work with good, responsible people. That's us.

On that note, have a good weekend. :D

George Mena
Technical Writing Consultant
George -dot- Mena -at- esstech -dot- com
ESS Technology, Inc.
Fremont, CA
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