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New to Contracting? Here are 5 Career-Changing Tips to Help You Find That First Job

When it comes to finding a job, freelancers usually have a different flow. That’s because assignments are temporary, and contractors typically need to update their skills and resume frequently.

As the saying goes, “you’re only as good as your last job”. That instability sometimes forces freelancers to go above and beyond regular permanent employees when it comes to upgrading their skills and staying current. Each new client is like a new interview, and the process constantly repeats as assignments come and go and clients turn over.

Finding work is especially hard at the beginning

For most contractors, the first few jobs are the hardest to get. Part of that challenge is due to limited contacts, and the other part is the lack of work experience.

Once the flow gets going and your skills increase, getting work becomes easier. It may sound simplistic, but the key to success is simply to complete contracts successfully according to your client’s requirements. Besides earning you positive reviews, satisfied clients generate referrals. All this brings confidence, and that’s one of the most essential ingredients needed to succeed in an increasingly competitive freelancing world.

Contractors are used to challenges

Contracting is a business, and starting a business of any kind requires overcoming many challenges in the beginning. That’s definitely not easy, so it helps cultivate the attitude that there will always be challenges.

Getting your business off the ground is the initial challenge for many freelancers. The competition at the beginning is tough, so try to focus on building skills instead of job titles. What you offer is far more important than what you say you are, and even your degree is secondary to what you can actually do.

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Our top tips for finding work

Finding work can be as easy as answering every single job posting on the internet and hoping to get a response. That’s analogous to a “ready, fire, aim” type of strategy. It may work for some people, but probably won’t generate the best jobs for specialised skills.

That’s because there’s a difference between “getting a job” and “building a career.” The former might result in work that earns you money, but it may not generate the kinds of jobs where you’ll be most successful. And if you can’t be successful, then you won’t get positive reviews or referrals, and that may lead to stagnation.

On the other hand, building a career fuses personal development concepts with the work you do. These five foundational tips can help you get you started on that process:

1. Set Goals

A random path leads you to a random destination. You don’t have to know your exact location and job title 20 years from now, but it’s essential to set goals to keep orienting yourself on the right path.

The S.M.A.R.T. method for goal setting works great across all industries, from fitness to finance. It specifies that each goal must be:

S: Specific

M: Measurable

A: Attainable

R: Realistic

T: Timely

You may have a long-term goal of being the CEO of your own company netting multi-billion profits. Or you may have a dream of owning a 20-room castle in Scotland. While we’re not saying it’s impossible, it’s essential that you’re able to bridge where you are right now to where you want to be in a realistic way that seems attainable.

We suggest you start with some smaller goals and build from there. For example, if you really want a castle you should probably be able to buy a house first. And if you need to buy a house you should probably be making a set amount of money per month. And since castles cost millions, your business should be scalable.

Setting unrealistic goals can lead to frustration and disappointment. The best goals to set are ones that you can actually achieve. Some examples include:

  • Generate enough money to pay rent plus 20% in savings by December of this year
  • Earn a specific hourly wage or make a specific amount of money each day by October
  • Complete an online certification by September
  • Make enough in earnings to be able to invest 10% of profits in high-dividend stocks
  • Create an app for your niche by January of next year

Each goal above fulfills all the characteristics defined by SMART. They are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely. Try making three goals to start, and write them down each morning.

2. Discover your strengths

Now that you know where you want to go, your next task is to figure out how to get there. Knowing your strengths is an essential part of that process because if you know what you’re good at, then you have the confidence of knowing you can be successful at what you choose to do.

Here are some questions to ask:

  • Am I a good communicator?
  • Do I like executing plans?
  • Am I an “idea” person?
  • Do I prefer to work independently?
  • Am I good at dealing with conflict?
  • Do I thrive in a competitive atmosphere?

Next, you can use an assessment like Clifton Strengths (no affiliation) to get some insights into where your talent lies. Once you have a general idea of your strengths, you can combine that knowledge with your existing experience to define a path best suited to your unique skills.

3. Find a role model

Being the leader on a solo journey is hard because there’s no one clearing the path for you. That’s why even the most independent of souls have a role model of some sort – even if it’s just in a limited capacity or for inspiration.

Social media networks make role models are easy to find these days. Seek out the most genuine thought leaders and business owners sharing their stories and see if you have any similarities or differences. There’s a role model for almost every facet of life – whether it’s someone with a job you like or a physical skill you’d like to attain.

Finding and emulating role models is not about copying someone’s path. Everyone has a different destination, however sometimes we cross paths. Role models are the people that have been there and can share with us what they have seen and learned, so don’t hesitate to open your mind and learn about their experiences.

4. Strategically develop your skills

Some of the most successful people out there started with a humble attitude and willingness to take any work that would give them experience in their field.

Today’s online environment makes that easier than ever. Online job marketplaces usually have people willing to give new users a chance in exchange for a reduced rate and positive review. That might mean working for less than minimum wage at first, but it is similar to “on-the-job” training that earns you reviews and ultimately better-paying work.  

While you’re building your reputation, you can also upgrade your skills with online courses offered by organizations like:

Success is almost guaranteed when you combine what you like with services that are genuinely needed in the world. The internet now gives us a fantastic opportunity for continuous learning across an almost unlimited number of subjects.

5. Repeat the process, forever and ever

Grapes can age two ways: they can turn to wine or vinegar. Be like fine wine and continually build your career by doing this process over and over again.

Your goals will likely change over time, along with your priorities. As you mature, your strengths will develop in different areas from what you have accomplished – similar to what happens to an athlete when they focus on a sport for many years.

You may also eventually become a role model that could benefit from seeing the world through the eyes of your students. The key to continued success is to never get stale, and never stop growing.

Building a career is a holistic process

For all of you starting out, you will learn quickly that sending resumes in bulk won’t land you the best contracting work for your skills. Instead, it helps look at your job search as a holistic process that includes goal setting, self-discovery, and skill-building.

Besides building an impressive portfolio and skillset, the process can help you build confidence. What’s required from you is time, commitment, and a career partner like Cool Company that will take care of administration so you can focus on building your career.