I got a call from a recruitment agent a few weeks ago. I get them all the time, mostly from agents checking up on my availability. He was looking to fill a permanent position, but I told him I was a contractor. He asked if I would consider permanent employment. I told him I wasn’t interested. He asked me why.
I’ve never had an agent ask me why I wouldn’t work permie before. The answer was too long winded to give to a guy who called me cold, so I told him that I was a contractor and that’s all there was too it. But, I do have my reasons.
I’ve been offered permanent employment in quite a few contracts before. When I politely decline, I get the same response â âI suppose the money’s too good as a contractor, huh?â But that’s not the motivation at all.
The main reason I work the way I do is for the freedom. I like to choose the work I do based on how interesting the company or project seems. I also like the idea that I will move on at the end of the job.
I suppose I’ve been burned in permanent employment before, and I didn’t like it. I didn’t like having to ask for raises, or get permission to take a few weeks off, or have someone tell me what they thought I should be learning. I hated working longer hours or weekends because there was a promise of a year-end bonus based on how hard I worked. I hated staying in the same place, hoping that the environment would get better around me and feeling stuck where I was.
Moving from permanent employment to contracting was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. I was so afraid for myself and my family. I didn’t know if I would get any work at all. I looked at my kids and thought about how selfish I was to leave a perfectly good job just because I hated it. I worried about losing my house, or not being able to buy food, or not having any presents at Christmas time.
But soon I found work. Then I found more. Then, I ended up in situations where I was practically in a contracting âjob for lifeâ, but that bothered me and I knew it was time to move on.
I work harder than most people I know to keep my skills up and stay sharp. My competence is my job security. The competence I have today won’t be sufficient for tomorrow, so learning never stops. I get teased for being the guy who codes on his own at weekends– but I love having some control over my destiny.
Now, the most comforting thing about my work is the end date on each contract. During my first contract, which was only 10 weeks, I was terrified about what I would do at the end of it. Unlike I did as a permanent employee, I started saving for being out of work. Luckily, I found a job immediately after that one ended, but I’m still always ready. When redundancy or a bad market hits, when redundancies are announced and no work can be found, I’m prepared psychologically and financially. The old ‘premie’ me permie would have been one of those sob stories you see on the news about a guy who was laid off after working 24 years with a company and now can’t find any work. With an end date, I know when I’ll be out of workâand I’m working now to make sure I’m marketable when that happens.
I don’t necessarily see myself as being a contractor forever– in fact, my work on Overpass is trying to break me out of that cycle. I don’t want to be a 50-year-old software developer (or even a 40-year-old one), but I love the work I do and have a hard time leaving it behind.
I may change my tune one day. Permanent employment is one of my fall-backs if one day everything goes horribly wrong. So is my teaching degree. So are my language skills. But for now, I love what I do.
I’ll take freedom over security any day.