Starting any new office job can be pretty daunting; meeting new people, getting familiar with a new environment and learning a new role. We’ll be the first to admit that we think contracting is an excellent career path, but with contracting comes that daunting feeling all the more often. You’ll potentially be starting in a new contracting position every few months, so here are some of the common challenges you can expect to encounter when you first arrive at a new job (and how to deal with them too).
You need to find a balance
As a contractor, it’s really important that you find the right balance when starting in a new role. On the one hand, you might want to keep yourself to yourself and just get on with the job that you’re there to do. You’re not there for long, after all. But on the other, you want to get to know the people that you’re going to be working with. You might be reluctant to get too friendly with people, knowing that you’re not sticking around, but it’s better to make a good impression and make friends with colleagues in order to make the time that you’re there run smoothly. As a self-employed contractor, you might find that you’re a bit of an introvert. But in many contracting situations, it pays to be sociable.
You could get off to a slow start
In contracting, you expect that you’ll be drafted in and will be able to hit the ground running, ready to tackle any challenges of the role that come your way. But this isn’t always the case. Some businesses aren’t always as prepared for a contractor as they are for a new permanent member of staff, so you might find yourself without things such as a desk, a computer, a security pass or an email address when you first arrive. Use this hold-up wisely by getting to know your team and surroundings whilst everything else gets sorted.
You need to know what’s what
You’ll have a lot to take on board and need to be ready to soak it all up and crack on. You’ll be meeting lots of people and getting to grips with lots of new methods and ways of working too. In order to not get left behind and feel overwhelmed, it’s important that you take plenty of notes, both physically and mentally, and do your best to remember names, job titles and learn where everything is. Notes are helpful in the moment, but also for future reference when you may need to look back on them and remember the contacts that you made.
You won’t get the same easing-in period
Contractors never get the same kind of induction that a new permanent employee would get. So don’t be afraid to ask questions. You need to know how the office functions and things like how formal your surroundings are. What kind of tone should you be using in your emails? Is there a dress down Friday? Where’s the best local pub to pop to for post-work drinks? You don’t have as long to get to know things, so don’t waste any time when you start. Plus, asking questions is a great way to make connections with other people in the office.
You won’t get the same perks as other employees
You’ve got to remember that all those perks of the jobs that employers use to tempt people to work for them don’t often apply to contractors. There’ll be no special rates at the company gym, no cycle to work schemes and maybe no subsidised prices at the staff canteen. You probably won’t get any discount on the company’s products either. But you’ve just got to remember that, as a contractor, you get a different set of perks that are just as good; arguably better. You get so much more freedom to choose the work that you do and you get paid a considerable amount more to do it too. And that’s naming just two things…
You’re likely to encounter jealousy
It’s a common occurrence as a contractor to experience someone in the office that you’re working in who just doesn’t like you. There’s no easier way to put that. You don’t need to have done anything to them, it’s just their preconception of a contractor. More often than not, this boils down to jealousy. This could be about the money you earn, the skills that you possess or even just the fact that you’re happy in your work and have had the courage and determination to go it alone. And that’s just it, you need to remember the reasons why you became a contractor in the first place and not allow people like that to drag you down.
You might have people try to gain power over you
Similar to above, it’s not uncommon for someone (maybe the same person as above) to always try and have power over you in your new contracting position. This could be the person who hired you, your line manager, or just someone within the team who’s been doing the same job for the last 20 years. Chances are it’s for the same reason as above too; jealousy. But they’ll do their best to try and put you in an inferior place to them. It can sometimes be hard to assert your authority as an outsider, but just remember that you’ve been drafted in because they need you. They couldn’t do it without you.
You’ll be expected to work miracles
Leading on from our previous point, you might find that your new company actually assumes far too much of you and will be expecting miracles to happen almost instantly. They’ve got you there for a purpose; they were struggling without you and you’re going to be the superhero who comes in and fixes everything. Obviously, you’re more than qualified for the role, but sometimes you’ve just got to be open in managing their expectations. Yes, you can help them, but it may take time and you can’t necessarily succeed if they’re wanting you to salvage a disaster project. Don’t step too far away from your original brief, but by all means, show off some extras skills if you have them. It might help you to be the contractor of choice going forward.
Don’t let any of the above put you off being a contractor. These are just some of the hard facts that we at Contractors Anonymous want to help you deal with. What else have you learnt about starting a new contract? We’d love to hear your thoughts.