After years of being in the 'system', working as a process and quality management consultant, internally and externally, for some large corporations all over the world, and generally being considered quite good at it, I decided to go freelance for several reasons. Some of those reasons were:
- I wanted to be able to have some choice over what assignments I took on and where they were
- I didn't necessarily want to work all year round, as I wanted time to spend on personal projects not necessarily connected with my chosen speciality
- My financial commitments had changed and I didn't need to rely on a high salary to make ends meet
- I didn't want to get caught in the upwards spiral of progressing into more and more senior roles and becoming less hands-on with regards to the things I enjoy doing
- I wanted the freedom of being my own boss
Since 2009 I've worked on average for about 8 months a year which suits me fine. Some contracts have been senior departmental roles, others more project and hands-on oriented, just as I hoped. I've just started the search for the next interesting opportunity and I confess, I'm struggling a bit. There are great contracts out there - some very senior, some much more 'junior', but I don't seem to be getting past the agency stage. And I'm beginning to wonder if recruitment agents are using some of the same criteria for contractors as they do for permanent staff. Namely, do they fit into the appropriate position in the target hierarchy, and will they fit snuggly into the organisational culture.
I can't help thinking that if this is the case, then both contractors and businesses are getting a raw deal. If I slip into the shoes of an organisational manager (which I have been!), if I have a task that needs to be performed I would like someone who is capable of performing that task to the best of their ability and to the highest standards, regardless of their previous level of seniority (or possibly lack of it). And if that task is only going to take a limited amount of time, maybe just a few weeks or even a few months, I'm not sure that I need to be too bothered about how well that person fits the company culture - they simply aren't going to be there for long enough to upset things, and even if they do, the company can get rid of them relatively easily!
So, if I apply for a contract which involves doing some low level process analysis, mapping or documentation, why do you, as a recruitment agent, think that I'm not the right person for it? Is it because it's only paying a moderate day rate and you think I'll be unhappy with that? Or is it because you think it's beneath me? Or that I'll be unhappy taking direction from someone with less experience than me? Please tell me how I can be over-qualified to perform a task that I can do extremely well and that someone needs doing!
Don't you think that I might have made those decisions for myself when I applied for the role in the first place and that those issues are irrelevant as far as you are concerned? Isn't your job to find the best person for your client and let your client decide?
In the last three or four weeks I've applied for a number of roles where I match the specified skill requirements with flying colours and tick all the other boxes, but I haven't even been contacted regarding any of them.
I can't help but wonder that I've suddenly become one of those increasingly common beasts - an over-qualified expert who is no longer considered able to do the very things that they are best at, and even more frustrating, not being able to share the wealth of experience I've amassed whilst trying my best to become over-qualified!