A reader posted this, about their first contract, as comments.
After graduation, with a newly minted Master’s in hand, I reflexively dipped into the world of permanent employment.
The degree had prompted an inundation of job offers. The worst of which was twice as good as I’d ever earned prior to masterdom.
‘Hello’, I thought, ‘I can pick and choose here’.
I went to a few interviews.
The first one was great.
When I arrived they told me they interview candidates in pairs. The other candidate is already in the interview room. I should join him and wait for the interviewers who would arrive shortly.
The other candidate was a snot-faced under-grad git still wet behind the ears. So to ruin his chances I came in like Reggie Perrin, announcing ’11 minutes late, sticky bogie at Wokingham’.
They hadn’t told him, apparently, about the interviewing in pairs. So he took my self-assertion to mean I was the interviewer. I, in turn, rose to his challenge and started interviewing the poor sod.
Real First Contract Interview
During the real interview that followed I jotted down a quick integral for the interviewer demonstrating mathematically how the summation over the annual expected salaries he was offering actually fell well below my own expectations.
The next interview involved a job that offered certain conveniences. So I took it on the assumption I’d find a decent contract job well within their six-month ‘probationary’ period.
However, I didn’t find a contract within that six months because I found that cubicle-centred career-type job so soul-destroying that I quit after three months.
It took another two to land a contract, what with the fledging CV being a little bit sparse, and all.
I did the interview from the Isle of Mull, although the job would be based in Brussels.
However, I happened to be in Tobermory when the phone call came through. I was working on some private project that has nothing at all to do with IT contracting.
I took the call.
It was from an agent . He wanted to know my availability for interview in Brussels, where my expenses would of course be paid business class.
‘That’s the ticket’, I thought, but considered it pertinent to mention that Tobermory was some considerable distance further away than London.
As it was Thursday already I would not be able to attend until Monday.
So a telephone conference was arranged, and in short order signed and counter-signed faxes had been exchanged, bob was my uncle, and I was to report in on Monday morning.
The money was five times higher than I’d been getting in the soul-destroying permie world, and I took the job.
What else was I going to do?
I like trains and I already had a sleeper ticket from Glasgow to London for that Friday, so
I had Saturday to pack and then the Eurostar 1st class to Brussels on Sunday.
Therefore, I packed enough for a couple weeks, and took my suit.
Arrival for First Contract
I got to Brussels fairly late on Sunday. I factored in enough time to a) book myself into a reasonably priced hotel in the city centre, and b) go out for a couple of beers.
Next morning I woke up to my alarm in what the evening before had seemed to be a reasonably-priced family-run hotel that had, by morning, turned out to be a flea-ridden dive full of scumbags.
It was the kind of place your mother used to warn you about.
My mother always said it was where I would end up. I was thinking about how maybe she had a point.
Imagine a fight in the next room spilling over into the corridor because the visiting John, who had only booked his room for 30 minutes, had discovered his date had a dick.
That’s the kind of place.
I was overcome by nausea and nerves what with the hotel, the suit, the lady-boy in the next room, the six-figure salary that these berks had signed up to pay me, and all.
‘I can’t go through with this’, I said to myself.
Sitting down on the bed through fear of passing out, I was ready to tear off the damn suit, put on something comfortable instead, pick up me bags and head back home, getting righteously pissed in commiseration en route.
I can’t do this.
See Contract Through
But never one to give up on an enterprise I figured I may as well see it through to the bitter end.
I checked out of the hotel before leaving, cancelling my fortnight’s reservation and haggling a cockroach-themed rate-reduction for my bill, ignoring the accompanying elephant of moral impropriety in the room – especially the room next to mine – for effect.
There was a taxi outside. As I figured I would earning more in the next hour – whatever happened – than the taxi driver would make all week, he could drive me to the office.
I had my bag with two week’s supplies with me, and a laptop.
And I was still wearing the damn suit.
Reception for Interview
At reception I had to wait for the manager to come and get me. When he did, he turned out to be a real cool Flemish guy wearing sneakers, jeans and a t-shirt with the company’s logo it.
I apologized for arriving over-dressed and he said it often happens with new joiners and he’d overlook it this time.
He noted that I had my bag with me, so I could change into more suitable clothes later if I wanted.
After showing me to my desk and giving me a laptop – another laptop – his PMO came over and gave me ‘my’ tickets, a book full of them – Flights, five-star hotels, schedules, maps, the works.
Apparently I was to fly up to Amsterdam either that day or the next morning, check into the Hilton, and spend the next two days at a conference.
On Weds evening or Thursday morning – my choice – I was to fly onwards to London, spend two days there, can’t remember which hotel they offered but I stayed in the Tower at my own expense – which to my surprise was reimbursed anyway – because I like it there.
Then I had a flexible ticket to be back to Brussels by the following Monday.
Turned out the entire team were going.
That’s why they needed to hire me right away and get me out there first thing on Monday.
Good job I’d checked out of the Hotel Fleapit as it turned out.
It meant I would be carrying all my own bags plus an additional laptop all week but there was little alternative.
On the scheduled overnight stop in Amsterdam the firm had arranged an event including evening meal, an hour or two free-time, then meet up in the centre for a canal cruise with unlimited free beer.
My ‘freetime’ was spent in the nearest coffee-shop, and I included a couple of ready-rolled take-aways intended for consumption on the booze-cruise.
As I would be flying onwards to London it wasn’t worth the risk of purchasing anything substantial to take with me, so two smokes would have to be enough.
Smoking with Manager
When everybody else is gorging themselves on free alcohol I’ll be damned if I’ll accept any criticism from any one of them for smoking a joint in a place where it’s legal.
My manager came over and asked to share a couple of tokes, he explained he didn’t buy any himself because he has easy access to it back home in Brussels.
Of course, I could have shat myself and promised to not do anything naughty in front of my boss, but if I was like that I probably would never have found permie-life so interminably dull and unrewarding.
There was a faux-pas on day three.
On the Wednesday, I turned up five minutes late for the first meeting and gained a frown from the manager.
Means, ‘whatever you do in your own time is your own affair but you shouldn’t be late for meetings’.
It was in fact the hotel’s fault as everybody who stayed at the same hotel I was allocated also turned up late, apart from a couple of permies who never actually made it into the office that day at all.
Check with Agency
The hotel wake-up call system had crashed and nobody got their alarm call.
I was lucky as I’d woken up spontaneously just a half-hour later than I’d scheduled.
Some of the other guys tried to blame me for ‘not having woken them up’, but I denied it was my responsibility and even threatened to check with my agent if ‘baby-sitting’ was included in the contract?
First Week on First Contract
So it went well.
The first week of my first contract was a breeze, and although it was only supposed to be a twelve-month contract, the next 120 weeks followed along pretty much the same lines, requiring an equal and sustained balls-out rude approach.
But it was with a balls-out kind of company.
I flew an average of a thousand miles a week with them over the next two or so years, and spread my air-miles and loyalty points over a number of schemes enough to keep me in business class travelling comfort for more than a year afterwards.
The money rolled in so fast I couldn’t keep count of it.
Some months I would spend entirely in expenses-paid hotels and didn’t even bother putting a time-sheet in.
I’d gotten into the habit of submitting bi-monthly timesheets, since the sight of twenty-five grand dropping into one’s offshore account – more than an entire year’s salary for that first shitty job – every two months is a wonder to behold.
Six Figure Contract
My bank back in England were not happy.
As far as they were concerned I had only graduated less than a year earlier and thus could only have a student account with a maximum five-hundred pounds overdraft.
I showed them my six-figure contract, the spamming of my offshore account with cash, the tax-exile requirement of keeping that cash offshore until at least Apr 6th, as well as the average ten-thousand dollars a month expenses that I was churning through their account and that the company were reimbursing, but to no avail.
Presently their ATM in Oxford Circus would refuse to return my card because I was ten pounds over my limit.
I’d only needed the damned tenner to get to Gatwick in order to board my expenses-paid flight.
Never Came Back After First Contract
I never came back to the UK after that first contract, except for the occasional business meeting.
And any permie job offer I might get would have to be at least as good as what I got on my first contract, wouldn’t you think?
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