How to keep up your professional development as a Contractor

Sorting out your professional development

Today, no other industry is evolving as rapidly as computing and IT.

Announcements of new technologies and computing products and services are now a daily occurrence. We continue to marvel at the pace at which these developments are eventuating. Ensuring as an IT practitioner that your skills and knowledge keep pace with the exponential speed of these technological innovations is proving a challenge for many of us.

Unlike being a full-time employee, IT contractors are generally not extended the opportunity to participate in internal professional development programmes or any meaningful skills improvement schemes.

It is evident that as a contractor you need to take a proactive personal ownership approach to ensure that your skills remain technically fresh and that you maintain professional standards. From having spoken to many contractors on how they address their professional development it appears that the overriding issue is that development plans often come with a real opportunity cost – this being their ability to earn during the time spent training.

As a result, from these discussions it is apparent that contractors need creative learning and development strategies to help minimise these impacts.

To help you build your own personal strategy we came up with the following suggestions of ways and places to find training:

  • Budget yearly-allocated time. Consider starting your financial year with a planned amount of time that you will commit to upgrading your skills through training and account for it. This could possibly be done between contracts or consider a flexible training provider that will fit in with your contract work.
  • Look for paid and free online courses to improve your skill-sets in your own time such as Udemy and Coursera. These are now mainstreaming and their course subject matter spans the full IT landscape.
  • Consider formalised training. You can access formalised training at times that suit you through the Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platforms such as edX and iversity. Many major international universities expose their learning collateral across all paradigms through these platforms. Some of the MOOC’s are also leveraging Virtual Instructor-Led Training (VILT) initiatives. VILT is one of the fastest growing methods of internet-based learning delivery. With steady increases in bandwidth and collaboration, software technologies have started promoting VILT as a practical and inviting solution as its cost effective and doesn’t matter where in the world you are located.
  • Locate training providers that offer face-to-face training programmes after core business hours or during weekends to minimise the impact on earning potential. • Have a look at local networking or Meetup Groups in your specific area as many organise evening events, which involve informal learning and development opportunities.
  • For each contract assignment make sure that you develop some defined skills during the assignment – after all, most learning happens on the job and you will learn by merely delivering the assignment.
  • Consider getting a mentor or career coach who specialises in your area, as they will be able to guide you through your professional development plan.

Ultimately, you need to take control of your own continued professional development. Above are some strategies and options available to you – please share any other suggestions that have also worked for you. Above all, when searching for new training and development opportunities, target areas of improvement and/or cultivate skill sets that you are particularly passionate about.

Please feel free to shout out to me should you wish to discuss your experience as a contractor seeking professional development or even if you would like assistance towards progressing a personal continued professional development plan.

Thanks,

Abinesh Krishan