“How do I demonstrate my skills and worth during the contract so the Manager realizes it’s a no-brainer to convert me to a full-time contributor? How do I prove myself and secure permanent employment?”
These are questions on the minds of many Contractors who want to find a professional “home” after an initial contract period.
Between the two of us, we’ve now been immersed in the world of Information Technology staffing for 26 years. Throughout this time, we’ve identified 6 key trends related to performance that separate our “great” contractors from the “good” ones, making them indispensable to their Managers/teams and helping enhance their likelihoods of converting to a permanent employee after the contractual period!
1 - Individuals who understand not just the “what,” but the “how” and “why!”
We repeatedly hear it during conversations with hiring Managers when qualifying their open positions: "We really need someone who not only understands what they’re doing, but how to do it best, and why they’re doing it in the first place.” During the interview, and then when starting, we always recommend going macro to micro in terms of details. Understand the industry you are in, the purpose and goals of the company, the primary function and priorities of your group/team, and the responsibilities of the specific role you will be in, and then connect the dots on how your role will contribute to the big picture goals of the group or company. The second piece of this is always striving to do your job better and never becoming complacent! Managers appreciate when you conduct regular self-evaluations of how you approach work/deliverables, how you engage and work with others, etc. If you want to stand out, seek to understand the big picture of how what you’re doing contributes to the group/organizational goals, and then take steps to constantly evaluate and improve your work processes/deliverables and interactions/communication.
2 - People with a “growth mindset” who “fail forward!”
Another key trait Managers admire is continuously learning and evolving as a professional. In the technology world, where the only constant is change, it is especially important to invest time in training and development and continuously expanding your knowledge base. One of our Senior Directors recently vocalized “I’d rather hire a candidate with 50% of the requirements and has a strong initiative to learn new skills (plus the competence to do so) over someone who has 100% of the skills but no interest in furthering their skill set.” Initiative is one of the key traits managers look for. Additionally, recognize that mistakes are inevitable. Managers respect those who bring any mishaps/issues up with a “lessons learned” mentality and communicate, “Here is what I learned and here is what I will do moving forward to minimize this from happening again.” One of the Directors we support shared “If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not taking risks, and therefore you’re missing out on rewards and you’re failing to grow.”
3 - A positive attitude above all else!
One of the primary reasons we see our clients part ways with contractors has nothing to do with technology, but rather one trait that we are all in control of: our attitude. A negative attitude is one of the easiest ways to single yourself out for the wrong reason, especially when your pessimism/negativity starts to influence the team and overall culture. Most good Managers are showing an individual with a negative attitude the door, despite how technically skilled they are! We have both had to let go of individuals for their negativity. In one scenario, an individual’s overall pessimism and very unprofessional comments about others, despite their high productivity, gave us no choice but to say a farewell. After parting ways and removing that “negative culture influence” from the workplace, the resulting impact to the culture of the team was very apparent. The following day, one team member even commented, “it’s like a black cloud has been lifted.” This goes to show that most Managers will never tolerate a negative attitude regardless of how strong someone’s technical skills and productivity are. In need of an attitude adjustment? Here’s a past MSSQLTips article we wrote on ’15 Ways to Maintain a Positive Attitude.’
4 - Effective communication skills.
Demonstrating clear, concise, and compelling communication, along with follow up and follow through, is a skill that will considerably distinguish you. We all get a plethora of emails and workloads are heavy, but not responding, or a significant lag time in responding, is not an option. Even if you do not know the answer or do not have the time to complete a task right away, ensure you are effectively communicating that and not just ignoring it altogether. In addition, if you commit to doing something, do it. If you need help, alert the necessary parties so you do not face the awkward situation of an impending deadline with little to no progress. Also, be effective with the communication channel you are using. Recognize what you should communicate in person, via phone, or via email. We wrote a Tip on ‘The 10 Cs of Communication’ that provides insights into the key aspects you should be considering when evaluating your communication skills and trying to determine where you could improve. You can also pose this as an open-ended question to your Lead or Manager, such as “What is a recommendation you have around how I could improve my overall communication?” or “I want to focus on taking my communication skills to the next level. Where should I focus? And what other recommendations do you have for improving overall communication?”
5 - Take complete ownership of their tasks, deliverables, relationships, and mistakes, etc.
“I really need this individual to take the ball and run with it!” Cliché? Yes. Something we regularly hear? Yes again. Good Managers do not have the time nor interest in micro managing, and they want individuals who take ownership of their role, priorities, projects, etc. We recently had a Manager who let an individual go because they failed to take ownership of two programs they were tasked with building out. Their feedback was “I need a real go getter who understands the vision of what we’re trying to achieve and then builds out and assumes accountability of these programs. This individual could generate some ideas of what they should be doing but then failed at holding themselves accountable and taking the steps (i.e. the execution) to actually get it done and make the impact without being micro-managed.”
6 - Proactive in nature.
Whether it be suggesting enhancements to a process, solutions to an issue, training around a knowledge gap team member/s have, or sharing a critical/negative update, Managers value those who are proactive and do not wait for others to make things happen or bring items to light! One of our favorite employees of all time stood out instantly for first understanding all of our short and long-term goals and their role, but then in their second week was proposing additional ideas and “value-adds” for extra tasks outside of their job description that then contributed to those. In another instance, an employee saw that certain tasks were bogging us down and they not only volunteered to take it on, but they ending up making overall process improvements that reduced everyone’s overall time commitment! These are win-win situations for everyone!
While there are many qualities that Managers seek and value in their contractors and employees, these 6 traits are common themes we hear from our Technology Clients/Managers! If you are unsure what trait/s might be opportunities of improvement for you, do not shy away from meeting with your Manager and inquiring “What else could I be doing to further contribute? What’s 1+ area I could be focusing on improving to take my performance and work quality to the next level?”
Last Update: 2018-05-17
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