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How to Build Bridges as a Career Contractor with These 3 Steps

Bear BridgeAs a technology professional, all you have to do is take one look around and you’ll see how the workforce has changed in the last several years. This evolution rings true even more so over the past few decades.

Gone are the days of corner offices, paper rolodexes and working at one company for the duration of your career. In addition to the economic ups and downs that dictate workforce changes, our culture has shifted to a more transitory workplace model. While many people are choosing to “job hop” even full-time roles, freelancing, contract and “gig” opportunities have become the norm. As a result, more and more people are switching roles, companies and projects than ever before.

According to Deloitte’s 2016 Human Capital Trends study, one in three workers in America are freelancers, and that number is expected to grow 40 percent by 2020. Employers are responding to this massive shift, as more than four in ten (42 percent) of U.S. executives expect to use more contingent workers in the next three to five years.

With so many workers frequently on the move, it’s imperative that you go to great lengths to not burn bridges. Staying professional and maintaining relationships in our ever-changing workforce dynamic is challenging though. How can workers who often switch jobs uphold and cultivate their reputation as they move from company to company?

Here are a few ideas to consider:

  1. No matter what, stay positive.
    This career adage rings true if you’re moving between long-term, full-time positions, and applies even more so to workers who are constantly on the move. If you’ve had negative occurrences with a client, company or project, do your best to highlight the positive attributes of the experience. A potential future employer, of which you’ll be having many if you’re a freelancer, wants someone on their team who brings confidence, positivity and constructive ideas. What they don’t want is a nay-sayer who may inhibit them from reaching their goals.
  1. Be aware of potential non-competes, contractual obligations and potential conflicts of interest.
    Be sure to read the fine print of any and all paperwork you encounter as you take on various projects. The reason? You want to respect and honor any non-compete clauses or other legal directives to maintain your working status. If you don’t, there’s a possibility that a former employer could take legal action against you and that’s a situation you want to avoid at all costs! Potential conflicts of interest, even if they aren’t legally implied, should be top of mind as well. 
  1. Make an effort to maintain relationships.
    Freelancers and contract workers are often juggling many projects, while at the same time managing the “business” side of their operation, including taxes and legal regulations. Despite an incredibly busy schedule, taking time out of your day-to-day routine to maintain relationships with past colleagues, employers and project managers is key. Luckily, technology and social media has made this easier than ever, so staying connected isn’t as time consuming. And when you can, make an effort to reach out and set up personal meetings to help maintain your “bridges.”

While many of these career credos apply across the workforce spectrum, as a contract, freelance or gig worker, they should be considered with a unique perspective. Building bridges is essential to keep yourself working and successful, and you never know from where your next role, breakout project or career-making opportunity may come.

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