Re: Thank You Letter

Subject: Re: Thank You Letter
From: "Steven J. Owens" <puff -at- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Mon, 7 Jun 1999 12:58:18 -0700

John Posada writes:


Next time, try reading the text of my message before replying. I
stated quite clearly that this is my attitude on the topic. I also
made it clear that any such approach is both highly irregular and
dangeorus, and should be used as a last resort where there are
important reasons for keeping the contract negotiation from going
south. I've stated my opinions about contracting in general in the
past. I was trying to keep my comments in that post restricted to the
specific issues.

> There are way too many contracts out there to have to act this way.
> The agency brought the contract to you. Without them, you would not
> have known about it. Even if they "screw it up", you are no worse
> than not having known about it in the first place.

The contract shop is trying to sell me to the client. They have
every right to their cut, as I made clear in my post. However, they
do not have a right to misrepresent me. It is not uncommon for a
contract shop to mishandle a project. It is all too common for me to
receive repeated calls from the same contract shop for jobs that are
irrelevant to my resume. It is also all too common for the multiple
levels of filtering (from the hiring department through personnel,
through the contract shop, to me) to remove any and all useful
information with respect to the job.

> I would never consider using this approach under any circumstances.

That's a judgement call you make. Others may make it differently.

I have had contract shops renege on agreements, lose the
paperwork for my health care (really fun to find out about that when
you call the insurance company and they say "Steve who?"), and
otherwise demonstrate incompetence.

I have had contract shops quite literally screw up existing
contracts where the client was begging me to stay on for another term
and the contract shop would not deliver on a rate *they* (the shop)
had agreed to give me at the start of the contract.

I have had contract shops set up the job, do the interview,
negotiate the rate, fill out all the paperwork, have me sign the
confidentiality paperwork, *then* turn around and say "Oh, by the way,
could you piss in this cup for us?" (I refuse to tolerate drug testing
or any other invasion of my rights; the more skilled professionals
take a hard line on this, the more employers will learn they're
limiting their own competitiveness).

I have watched contract shops screw up contracts for friends when
they had interviewed, been offered the job *through* the contract
shop, at the asked-for rate, then the contract shop got greedy and
burned the bridges at what should have been the "fill out the
paperwork" stage because they saw an opportunity to place that friend
in a shorter-term, higher-rate situation - at a much less desirable
employer (which is why the rate had to be higher).

There are good contract shops; there are competent professionals;
there may even be dream contract shops that will take care of your
every need, be loyal to their employees and keep you employed steadily
for the rest of your life, happily making you *and* them big piles of
cash. None that I've seen, but there's a great big world out there
that I haven't seen.

All of that said, in my experience, the best contract shops are
the ones that are honest and professional with you instead of wasting
your time with manipulative behavior and straight-out lies. A good
contract shop will devote their time to:

1) keeping in touch with and aware of employers in your field/area
instead of relying on you and the clients to contact them
2) keeping current enough in your field to fit your resume to a position
instead of playing buzzword-bingo
3) checking with you before submitting your resume
4) being honest with you about the position
instead of trying to browbeat you into accepting any position
that happens to have any relation to your skills or history
5) keeping on top of open negotiations
6) being honest with you about negotiations
7) take the healthy cut they deserve
instead of the obscene cut some demand

None of the above are especially complicated; why are they so
exceptional in the field?

As a contractor, you have to take as much and in fact more
responsibility for your career than the contract shop. It is in fact
_your_ career that can get screwed up, not the contract shop's.

As a professional, you owe any professional you work with -
including the contracting shop - professional courtesy, ethics and
behavior. But that cuts both ways.

Steven J. Owens
puff -at- netcom -dot- com

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