Within Momenta, we are very fortunate to see all aspects of the contractor market. This includes contractors actively looking for roles - as well as companies and organisations searching for contractors. We have traditionally observed this more at junior experience and salary levels, where once a long and successful career has come towards its end, there was a historical shift towards Board Directorships, pro bono work and the like.
Of note however, in recent years we have also seen a significant increase in contracting at both “ends” of the experience and salary curve and in fact these ‘ends’ have begun to expand dramatically. This can be seen in the first and fourth quarters of a career, and now includes the second and third quarters as well.
Early career contracting
We have seen a substantial increase in the volume of contractors within the Millennial demographic. For those people with only a few years of corporate experience, contracting is, and has always been frequently regarded as an outstanding way to diversify their career experience. Contracting is a means of gaining visibility across a range of roles and industries, without making the commitment to a permanent position.
This experience has substantial benefits for the contractor and organisation, financially, as well as in the inherent flexibility the contracting model offers. It is this flexibility that has become rapidly more sought after by those at the senior and experienced end of the career curve.
Late career contracting
We have seen many professionals with substantial and successful legacy careers, looking to step away from the traditional 9 – 5. They may not admit it publicly, but in private we are seeing a significant groundswell of interest. This has led to an increase in active enquiries for Senior, and VERY Senior contract roles. This demographic is increasingly looking to contracting as a viable way of manoeuvring through what might be considered as the third quarter of their working career.
This “Bar Bell” effect is beginning to shape the way the modern workforce evolves. People who historically might have expected to plan the latter part of their careers in wind-up (or even wind-down) mode, have seen how contracting has become prevalent within those in the early part of their careers and can see the benefits for themselves in this model. Maybe it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks. Further to this, as the proportion of people wanting a contract role increases, companies will respond. This changes the dynamic from Push vs Pull, to Push AND Pull. In many cases, the flexibility required to move from contract to contract is actually regarded as a positive skillset. It breaks away from the potential perception of being “institutionalised” and demonstrates additional capacity to handle complexity.
For many professionals, the traditional 9 to 5 (or more realistically 7 – 7) day, no longer holds the appeal it once did. The capacity, opportunity and ability to move into or towards a contracting (or even a “portfolio approach”) with a multitude of Directorships, freelancing, interim and Senior Contracting roles is a very viable and appealing scenario. In addition, following a long and successful career, the appeal is simply ‘just doing something different’ – even if the role itself also has substantial appeal. These opportunities already exists, at levels that many people may not even consider possible. While for some people the idea of contracting is challenging due to the lack of “security”, the reality is that almost all permanent roles are no more secure than the notice periods they include. To that end, the vast majority of people are already in a similar place as a contractor with a one month notice period.
From these observations, we should ask ourselves: Is there now any real difference between our careers and the other aspects of our society shifting towards the “gig economy”? This goes well beyond the idea of “Uberisation”, towards something vastly more significant. Nobody expects to start and finish their careers at the same company anymore, and in the vast majority of cases, it has been many years since this was an expected norm. Contracting in the third and fourth quartiles of a career – and at the most Senior of levels - is merely a further progression of this nature.
Is contracting becoming the norm?
If this observation is true, and the middle of the Bar Bell reduces as the ends expand, will it mean that we see a time when contracting is the norm. Could a career without a substantial portion of contracting (at whatever stage(s) of a career it happens) be considered the exception, rather than the rule? The concept of a “career” has always been in a state of evolution. From the industrial revolution, through to automation and the usage of AI, the shift towards contracting in the manner described above is merely a continuation of what has always occurred. Denial, or the belief that “I’ve always done it this way” has never been a good strategy for anything. Being on the front foot and “owning the outcome” however – that’s a very different scenario.