Top 10 list for contractors

Posted on November 22, 2008 by


I began a consulting services contract this week for a large, fortune 2000 company.  The mission is to support their consolidation efforts into some massive data centers.

This is the seventh longer term contracting assignment I’ve had since going solo in 2002/03.  The first few assignments were challenging in that I was unlearning the “successful full time employee” habits and needed to learn and get smart about “successful contractor”.  Now there are different stripes and kinds of contractors from, an ala Big 6, 4 (OK how ever many there are now) consultant, to a true time and material laborer.  I tend to fall in between the two.  Success characteristics tend to be similar.

I’ve found that success in growing TAPUniversity and delivering training is slightly different than success in being a “roaming Jedi, hired hand”.  While there’s a lot in common there are some differences.

So here’s some tips – a top 10 list if you will that may help you if you’ve found yourself joining the ranks of “contractor”.  These tips are not all areas I’m perfect in — in fact I’ve stumbled on each of these at some point over the last seven years. Please feel free to add, comment and respond!

  • 10 arrive early for bridge calls – nothing raises the ire of the full time, permanent crowd than that late arriving conference call “beeps” and drive by call participants.
  • 9  understand you’re expendable and can be bounced in a day… so mute or tone down your personality.  This is tough for me to do and is different from my training delivery and small business growth.  In those I let my natural self show.  Yet I need to mute the “Dave show”.
  • 8  don’t use the client’s computer to surf the net.  Even where permissible for permanent employees, understand that it’s a privilege that may not be conveyed to contractors
  • 7 save your drama for your mama and away from work.  I’ve overhead some rather bizarre Dr. Phil conversations over the last six years and, while strange for managers of full time, permanent employees to deal with, are a real liability for contractors.  Take personal calls at lunch and away from the limelight.
  • 6  pitch into the local corporate goodwill.  Though you’re a passerby and stranger in a strange land, you can still help with community food-banks, santa cops, etc.
  • 5  do pitch in outside your role (this is not a contradiction to #2).  If a team member needs a hand, help them.  You are on a team, whether for 4 weeks or 2 years.  Help out.  Just don’t call a lot of attention to it.
  • 4  offer your collective wisdom in private conversations — especially with your direct report “boss”.  Yours is a temporary life and you really don’t need to “grease the execs”.  Help the one signing your timesheet / approving your bill rate and life will be good.
  • 3  Stay positive, at all times.  You may be frustrated and feel XYZ organization is inept.  But unless you’re a Merger and Acquisition Tsar it’s not your job to inform them of their ineptness.  A bit like Patrick Swayze portraying a tough yet smart bouncer in the movie “Roadhouse” — be nice, then be nice, then be nice outside (meaning don’t take the fight inside the bar or office).
  • 2  Don’t gather unnecessary attention — fulfill your role (explicit and implicit) and only your role.  It’s unlikely you’ll earn a promotion by ranging far and wide.  You might be given additional assignments as you carefully network.  Grandstanding typically leads to short assignments
  • 1  Don’t engage in the internal politics.  you’re there for 4 weeks, 6 months or maximum of 2 years (US Federal Code due to Microsoft class action suit).  Nothing is gained by engaging in turf wars.

Please do let me know of your tips as well!


Posted in: TAPUniversity