As a contractor, you’re an expert in your field. You may even be overqualified for roles you apply to!
Over-qualification is, however, hardly surprising. For a hirer, the extra costs of onboarding an interim (versus an employee) is an investment in skills and experience that the interim brings to the table from Day 1.
With a lack of a meaningful challenge, it can mean that your opportunities for personal development are low.
For those in the tech sector, there is also the danger out that your core skills lose significance as the world around you moves on to a different technology. Therefore, it is imperative that you focus on upgrading and diversifying your skills.
Helpfully, there are several ways that you can develop and learn new skills – without taking a hit on your billable days.
3 Ways to Upskill as a Contractor
Here are 3 ways that you can continue to build sustainable skills and expand your personal and professional development, whilst working in a role you are over-qualified for.
Option 1 – Online Training Courses
There are a plethora of online training platforms, such as LinkedIn Learning, Udemy and Coursera, where you can grow your skills, and develop an understanding of an area you have may limited familiarity with.
For example, you may want to familiarise yourself with contemporary tech trends, such as digital transformation, AI, or bitcoin.
A search for ‘Digital Transformation’ on LinkedIn Learning brings up 58 courses and 148 videos.
It is unlikely that you will get a job on the back of such training alone, but they do widen your understanding and allow you to think about the implications of the new technology on your role.
Furthermore, such topics can come up in interviews, and you will have an edge over another candidate who has shown little desire to explore anything beyond the skills they needed in their previous assignment.
Which Online Training Platform Should You Use?
An advantage of using online training platforms is that many of them have free courses. Udemy and Coursera are both free to join and they have a wide selection of subjects and topics. However, bear in mind that some of the more popular courses have to be paid for.
LinkedIn Learning is perhaps one of the best known online training platforms and operates a subscription-based model, charged at £14.99 a month. Therefore, this is likely to suit you if you want to continually complete training courses, rather than on a one-off basis.
It is best practice to choose the topic you want to familiarise yourself with in advance. You can then select the training platform that has the best training modules in that specific subject area.
Before making a pick, do note the ratings and reviews from previous participants of the courses. This is often more enlightening than just reading through the course description authored by its creators.
Option 2 – Professional Certifications
Professional certifications are a great way to extend your knowledge and expertise in a specific subject area. To receive a professional certification, you will usually have to complete some form of online training and then pass an exam. Is some cases, the exam is monitored by an invigilator. This is called a proctored online exam.
Certifications have more credibility than online training courses as they are usually run by industry-respected professional bodies, providing an objective, third-party assessment of your skills. For example, the CIPS certification is awarded by the globally-recognised professional body for the procurement and supply profession.
It is important to bear in mind that some professional certifications are expensive and may require a considerable amount of time to complete. However, the benefits of attaining a professional certification will usually outweigh the negatives. Typically, contractors with professional certifications can apply for better jobs, and on average receive a higher salary than contractors without certifications.
When we are hiring at Mindful, we look out for such certifications.
Which Professional Certification Should You Get?
It depends entirely on the industry that you work in, and the subject areas that you are interested in. The aforementioned CIPS certification is highly recommended if you are a procurement professional. However, this certification does require a considerable amount of time and money to complete.
If you work in Oracle Cloud, we would recommend starting with the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Foundations 2020 Certified Associate Certification. Passing this exam proves your strong foundation skills and ability to best use Oracle Cloud Infrastructure services. You can then work your way upwards to getting certified on skills relevant to your specific technical or functional role.
From our Director Amit Kapoor – “I took the Oracle Certified Associate certification to support both my roles; as a Commercial Manager for Digital Transformation programmes and as a hirer for our clients using our Programme Services. The knowledge gained from taking the certification allows me to have more informed conversations with our stakeholders and prospective contractor candidates.”
Option 3 – Webinars
Company webinars are a great way to learn about contemporary tech trends from knowledgeable thought leaders and experts. Webinars will usually have 1-4 guest speakers and last for between 40 minutes and 1 hour, which doesn’t take up much of your day!
Although they are usually quite short in length, the value and insight that can be gleaned from an informative webinar is incredibly meaningful and powerful. Furthermore, webinars are usually followed up by a Q&A, so you can ask questions to the guests and learn directly from them.
Research suggests that 92% of webinar attendees want a live question and answer session at the end of the webinar.
The great thing about webinars is that they are very convenient. Since they take place over the Internet directly on your computer, there is no need to leave the office or factor in travel time. Most will also send a recording of the webinar that can be referred to later on. It is almost always a bad idea to not sign up for a webinar just because the timing doesn’t suit you!
You can use these learnings to improve working practices in your current role. Furthermore, in an interview you can illustrate that you have a broad range of skills and interests. This will help you to stand out against other candidates.
Head over to our blog post, The 5 Key Ingredients for a Successful Job Application, for five proven ways to ensure you make it through the sift and have a successful job application.
Where Can You Find Company Webinars?
Most company webinars can be found on Eventbrite, which is one of the largest event management and ticketing websites. Just type in a topic or subject area you are interested in, and hundreds (if not thousands) of relevant webinars can be found.
A search for ‘Bitcoin’ on Eventbrite brings up over 500 pages of upcoming Bitcoin webinars.
It is also a good idea to follow on LinkedIn companies and groups you are interested in. Advance notices of webinars will make it to your feed from time to time.
So What Are You Waiting For?
Even if you aren’t learning new skills in your current role, there are several ways that you can diversify your skillset.
Online training courses, professional certifications and webinars will quench your thirst for new knowledge, and help impress in your next job application.
Mindful Contract Solutions was built by IT and commercial contractors – meaning that we truly understand the brief and can communicate with you in an informed and transparent way.