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How to thrive in the coming tech gig economy

Paul Heltzel | Oct. 27, 2015
The rise of contract and contingent work is shaking up the traditional IT career path. Here’s how to navigate for success.

“Whether or not to ‘reinvent yourself’ depends on your skill set,” says John Reed, senior executive director at staffing firm Robert Half Technology. “If you’ve been working with older languages that may not be as relevant broadly throughout the job market or if you want to venture into an area that you haven’t worked in before -- for example, data roles -- it could be advantageous to take on additional training in order to gain new skills.”

Either way you play it, Fieldglass’ Brimm says it may not even require new certifications, merely a competency at rolling with new tech.

“It’s becoming a lot easier to download tutorials, watch clips of videos, and connect with others digitally that can increase an existing skill set and help flexible workers broaden their niche talents,” Brimm says. “There is always room to grow and always room to improve. In any industry there should be a continued appetite to learn and grow.”

Step out or stay put?

Despite the obvious appeal of running your own show and setting your schedule, going freelance isn’t for everyone. What if the gig economy isn’t for you? Job security, steady pay, and the benefits that come along may be the prime motivators in your work life. And if companies are likely to increase staffing via contract work in the years ahead, how can you set yourself apart in the potentially dwindling full-time IT employment market?

“Companies are driving greater efficiency,” says Work Market’s Chou. They’re “handling more and more work, while expanding partner, vendors, and contractor relationships. One example is Apple. Its product development is all about design, so it keeps the quality control function in-house. This points to a need for positions that involve strategy, supplier management, R&D with skills in project management, strategy, operation control, communication, contract negotiation, and management. All things that are core to the business will not likely be outsourced.”

Are the full-time jobs that remain more strategic, closer aligned to business, more about products than projects?

“Employers are looking for those with the technical skills to carry out or implement projects, but they are also seeking employees who are able to provide thoughtful recommendations for the business,” says Robert Half’s Reed. “Whether it’s new processes that may increase efficiency and decrease spend or presenting business leaders with the latest and greatest in technologies or data security measures. The most valuable technology employees right now are those with the ability to balance technical skill and business acumen.”

Fieldglass’ Brimm, like others we spoke with, brought up the push from the bottom. A new generation of IT workers enjoys the flexibility of contract jobs -- but there’s an obvious downside.


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