Many people find comfort in the standard five-day, 9-to-5 workweek: knowing what time they need to arrive at work and what time to call it a day.
So when the pandemic set in early 2020, the conventional, work-from-office models were significantly impacted. With no office or workplace to come and go from, lockdowns meant remote working was now the norm.
But evidently, flexibility was not quite for everyone.
Contractors and specialists refer to ‘flexibility’ and ‘freedom’. Some might call ‘instability’ and ‘inconsistency’. If you are a full-time permanent professional who relishes the idea of a more flexible work arrangement, a contracting career might be just the thing for you.
The unparalleled impact caused by the coronavirus pandemic has altered working models, exposed weaknesses in supply chain systems and sped up digital transformations over the last two years.
At the same time, these seismic shifts have had repercussions on employment trends and workforce scalability, specifically on the contracting landscape. Despite economic uncertainty during this coronavirus pandemic, the contracting business in Malaysia is showing resilience.
Contracting has been a popular employment strategy both by businesses and working professionals. “While it was predominantly a mainstay hiring solution for low-cost employment previously, we have observed a huge demand for contract staffing solutions for different sectors. That demand has also grown across all employment levels,” says Marlinda Zulkifli, Head of Page Contracting Malaysia.
Laura Houlston, Director at Michael Page Australia, says that during COVID-19, the local contracting market has seen substantial growth and proven beneficial for both employers and contractors.
“Contracting allows both parties to support a business case for longer-term opportunities. As a contractor, you can try new industries, work on projects and expand your skill set. Be it short or longer-term, building up a strong relationship with a recruiter can also see you move from one contract to another and forge a career as a professional contractor,” she shares.
And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
A Growing Phenomenon
Contracting as a career path is relatively common in the Western world — and the trend is growing too. According to a recent NPR/Marist poll, one in five jobs in the US is held by a worker under contract.
Economists Alan Krueger and Lawrence Katz estimated that the percentage of people engaged in ‘alternative work arrangements’ – freelancers, contractors, on-call workers and temp agency workers – grew from 10.1% in 2005 to 15.8% in 2015. Almost all the net jobs created during this period were these so-called ‘impermanent’ jobs.
On the other hand, the situation is quite different on this side of the world. Aarti Budhrani is the Director for Technology Contracting at PageGroup Singapore and has been living and working there for the past decade. In her hometown, Chennai, India, contracting is almost unheard of.
“Singapore is in a better position, especially regarding technology contracting,” Budhrani explains. “It is a very readily available market and common for banks and insurance companies to hire contractors. Many companies, like Accenture, NCS and Singtel have thousands of contractors working for them.”
Opportunities go beyond the technology industry, too. Daphne Boey has been working as an operations strategist since December 2018. Before embarking on her career as a contractor, she was the Associate Digital Director at Hakuhodo Singapore Group, the local branch of the Japanese advertising and public relations company.
Contrary to popular belief, an economic downturn is high time for contractors to step in
Becoming a contract operations strategist wasn’t always part of the plan. It was during her travels that the idea of contracting came to her.
“I realised that many start-ups and small businesses have good ideas, but they don’t necessarily know how to get from ‘I want to start a business to running a successful business,” she explains. “So my role is to help my clients develop business strategies, product positionings and corporate identity. It’s a lot like being a project manager, but more strategically inclined.”
She says that while contract opportunities in Singapore are not comparable to those of the US or Australia, contracting opportunities in APAC are getting better.
All the tell-tale signs of a contractor
Contracting allows both parties to support a business case for longer-term opportunities.
As a contractor, you can try new industries, work on projects and expand your skill set.
Having matched thousands of professionals to contracting roles over the decade, here are five key reasons why a contracting career could be right for you.
1. If your contract is ending
Compared to their permanent counterparts, contractors are available on short notice. This is why many job candidates typically approaching the end of their contracts can take on something new immediately.
One significant advantage of contracting is that you can jump from project to project while developing a diverse skill set and gaining exposure and experience working across multiple sectors. Contract workers can typically pick up a role far faster than their permanent counterparts, offering their employer a quick start and immediate relief without having to sit out a lengthy notice period.
Houlston adds that her client base frequently hires contractors who have proven their abilities with other clients: “Loyalty and a good referral do go a long way.”
2. If you have just relocated
Budhrani reveals that most contractors she’s worked with are expatriates from overseas. “We see a lot of these candidates. They want to break into Singapore, so they take up contract jobs in the meantime – it’s one of our biggest markets,” she says.
This extends to the partners of these expatriates too. It is not uncommon for Dependent Pass holders to also take on a contracting career, as many of them are highly qualified professionals.
3. If you have just been retrenched
Retrenchment is often an organisation’s last resort to cut costs, and, unfortunately, they rarely have good timing from the point of view of the retrenched.
However, Houlston shares: “If you’ve just been retrenched, contracting is a good alternative for professionals with skill sets they can quickly apply to the new job. The hiring process is usually shorter, so you will start work much quicker. Also, contract roles are sometimes paid on a weekly cycle. Leaving a long-term permanent role and moving into contracting means you have the opportunity to try out a different industry, learn new skills and expand your network.”
Are you a potential contractor?
- Jumping from project to project appeals to you
- You want to expand your skills and portfolio quickly
- You’ve been considering a career switch but want to get a feel of different industries and roles
- Periods of disruption motivate you to find other pathways from permanent, full-time work
4. If you want to expand your portfolio quickly
As a permanent employee, the experiences you gain are often limited to the work that comes your way. In many instances, there’s only so much you can learn within the same company or industry before you hit a plateau.
Contract workers can amass a decent portfolio of clients within a relatively short period of time. Every job presents a different set of challenges, which allows you to skill up within a short span of time, thus expanding your portfolio.
5. If you want to make a career switch
Making a mid-career switch can be intimidating, especially if the industry you are switching to is dramatically different from the one you are coming from. With that said, a contracting career means that you can test the waters before diving in.
The typical length of contracts can last anywhere from a few months to a few years. This means you have more than enough time to assess if this new industry is the right decision for you as a professional.
The here and now
Even if you are suited for a contracting career, is now a good time? As the world continues to reel from the ongoing impacts of COVID-19 and prioritising recovery plans, is it the right time for contracting?
Angela Chan, Director at Page Personnel Hong Kong, believes it is. For one, periods of uncertainty make it difficult for businesses to make long-term decisions — such as hiring permanent staff and increasing headcounts. Contractors fit the bill perfectly, especially those available at a moment’s notice.
So contrary to popular belief, an economic downturn is a high time for contractors to step in.
“Many people misunderstand that because there’s a slowdown, they want to be permanent staff because of the stability. However, I always tell my candidates that if you are permanent staff, chances of getting laid off [during a recession] is higher because of the ‘last in, first out’ policy,” Chan explains. “Whereas if you join as a contractor, the cost is minimal.”
Are you looking for contracting roles? Here are the latest job opportunities for contract professionals. If you would like to speak with a recruiter, contact us here.
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