Contractor Downturn – How I survived the downturn

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Contractor Downturn
Contractor Downturn

Contractor Downturn Survivor

This article, about a contractor downturn survivor, is from Aussie contractor site www.Brainbox.com.au.

Last month They offered me a six month contract on quite a nice rate. I start next week. This will be the first time I have worked full time in IT for 14 months.

Probably a lot of people found themselves in the same situation as me. I thought you might have an interest in hearing how I struggled through.

14 months ago, I was twenty-eight years old and earning quite a nice salary as a helpdesk team-leader. I was in charge of four others, and was with the same company since leaving Uni four years earlier.

I have a Bachelor of Information Technology. Then I landed a help-desk job straight out of Uni. It wasn’t as glamorous as what some of my friends got, but the starting salary was pretty good.

Promotion to Team Leader

Somehow I ended up staying in the same job. I got promotion to team leader after two years, with a big pay rise, so I thought why not?

I don’t like looking gift horses in the mouth and I was earning more than enough to support my lifestyle.

Some of my friends from Uni went over to the US and Europe where they earned better money than me, but they had experience in software development and the like. I don’t think help desk jobs pay any better overseas than here.

Anyhow, I had in the back of my mind that I’d move over to software development, which seemed more interesting and paid better, but somehow I never did it.

I liked my job and my team and the time just passed by. That was until 14 months ago, when my company outsourced their help desk and me and laid off my team.

How Contractor Job Market Works

I was a bit nervous about what would happen next, as I’d never had another IT job and had not much idea how the job market worked. It was also during a contractor downturn.

I bought a nice flat back in those days and the price rose a fair bit, so I wasn’t too worried about running out of money. I’m a pretty good saver, so there was money in the bank too.

I thought my team-leader experience would guarantee me a job, but NOBODY was hiring help desk people at the start of last year. Even getting an interview was extremely difficult.

I kept hearing the same sentence from agents and employers “there has been an overwhelming response to our advertisement etc. etc.”

Wallowing in Depression at Contractor Downturn

I did a bit of wallowing in depression, but I’m not the type to do that too much. I know it sounds corny, but I’ve always believed there can be opportunity in adversity. For me, it was a chance to catch up with my development skills.

Now that I had free time on my hands, I decided to do some Java certifications.

I studied up for the Sun Certified Java Developer exam, which is a pretty hard exam (in my opinion). Those guys at Sun are really pedantic. Anyway, I passed that and did the J2EE and EJB ones as well.

All up, it took me the best part of last year to complete them all. I just spent an hour or so studying ever day until I got through them. I also messed around on my PC building projects in Java.

Got Experience

I knew that experience would be needed too, so I contacted some charities and community groups to see if they’d like the benefit of my expertise at no cost. It was pretty easy to find some that wanted a website or some other system built for them.

I also had a lot of say in what got built, so my project management skills improved. When people aren’t paying you, they give you a lot more power over the project.

Soon, I had a nice little portfolio of experience.

What did I do for money, you ask?

Well, my brother owns a restaurant and I did some nights waiting and working in the kitchen. It was a bit of a drop down from my office life, but could actually be fun sometimes.

It was certainly a much more social environment!

I also lived off my savings and drew some value out of my flat. When you’re a young, single guy, you don’t need a lot of money really. I don’t have a fancy car or anything like that.

Offered a Job

Now I’ve been offered a contract running the IT for a successful medium-sized business. I’ll be running the help desk, but also doing some development for them.

I have an assistant to do most of the less-interesting stuff (sorry whoever you are!), so should be able to concentrate on development.

From a financial point of view, the last 14 months have been pretty bad, although not disastrous. From a career point of view, they’ve probably given me a lift. I was getting stuck in a bit of a rut, but didn’t have the time to pull myself out of it.

Now it looks like I might have the development career I’ve been longing after. A contractor downturn doesn’t last forever.

Anonymous

For more great stories click on Unemployed Contractor Stories.

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