It is a golden question and one that I get asked all the time. Do you keep your head down and wait to begin your search until your current engagement is complete or do you take a more proactive approach?
My advice to anyone who is contracting is that the key to securing the most interesting, challenging and lucrative engagements is to keep yourself consistently employed, or, even better, re-engaged by the same organisation on multiple occasions (this is often even more powerful than a reference – if an organisation liked your prior work enough to put their hand in their pocket to bring you back, you must be someone that delivers value!). So, if you are not sure that you will have something to roll on to when your current contract finishes, my advice is to get out there and start conversations!
From my perspective, the question that a consultant/contractor needs to ask is how strong is my network?
Do I have good relationships with the key decision-makers in the organisations I contracted for previously? Do I know where the big programs of work are taking place now, and in the next 3-6 months?
If so, am I connected to the right people in those organisations to get a look into that juicy role?
There are many ways you can build your network, a few key tips are:
- Ensure you have an exit interview/conversation/coffee (whatever is appropriate) with the key influencers and decision makers before you leave an organisation. Ask them to give you frank and honest feedback with regards to your performance and if they would engage you again in the future. Hopefully all is positive, and if so, ask if you can keep in touch.
- Establish a relationship with a recruiter that is a specialist in your area who you can trust to keep you abreast of what is happening in the market
- Sell yourself! LinkedIn is one of the most powerful tools that we have to showcase ourselves, use it wisely and make sure it communicates your value add and core specialisations.
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