tl;dr — If you want the best contracts, you’re going to have to build out your own network of ex-colleagues and fellow contractors. Go out of your way to help them and then sit back and wait for them to return the favours.
I’m on a mission to interview some of the best contractors in London to learn the secrets to their success and pass them on to you. The people I’m interviewing are either the most highly paid, most respected by their peers or purely people that have been recommended to me by others.
Recently I sat down for a coffee with an experienced contractor who has had a very successful contracting career, and I’ve come to highly respect. One lesson he said he’d painfully learnt was around the importance of networking within the contract industry.
A Painful Lesson
This particular lesson was learnt after he missed out on a series of the best contracts. He found he’d get past the initial interview stages, but then discover that the contracts had been awarded to people the employers knew. He also noticed that many of the highest paid contracts weren’t advertised on job boards. His breakthrough came when he was referred to a highly paid contract by an ex-colleague. At that point he decided that this was the way forward and set out to start building his network. As a self-confessed introvert, networking had never come naturally to him but he decided that to get ahead he’d have to find ways to do it.
He found that it was quite easy to start building a network by connecting with people he’d worked with previously through Linkedin, something he now makes a point of doing at the beginning of every new contract.
He also attended regular events and made a point of gravitating towards and connecting with people that shared his interest for low level JVM coding.
He made a point of keeping in regular contact with his network regarding his status when his contracts were finishing. Through these simple steps he was able to build and maintain a strong network.
He learnt that there were more benefits to working on his network. Not only was he able to pick and choose between more interesting contracts, but he also found that he was offered higher rates, and the contracts usually came as a result of shorter and more pleasant interview processes, often fast-tracked application processes. This is something I’ve heard from many others too, that on occasion, steps of the interview process can be bypassed, such as long-winded technical exercises. This is especially true when people have previous work experience.
Since starting to network he’s learnt a great deal about the psychology of networking and developed his confidence and skills as a networker. He believes this has been a crucial skill in his success.
I’m a big believer in networking. I’m the founder of five successful networking groups including the LJC which has over 7000 members. Over the years I’ve personally attended hundreds of networking events, and met tens of thousands of people. I’m the proud owner of a recruitment business which has been built primarily off the back of these networks.
I’ve also read extensively on networking and feel it’s often misunderstood. One of the biggest themes of networking is that you shouldn’t look at what you can *get out of* a relationship, but what you can *give back* to it. If you constantly seek to help others within your network, to ‘pay it forward’ then the benefits will come back to you tenfold. Not everyone you help will repay the favour, but many will… and those return favours can be life changing introductions or opportunities. This is something I aim to do as much as I can, continuously help people, going out of my way to do so, safe in the knowledge that over time those return favours will come.
Lessons From The World’s Best Sales People
One of the best books I’ve read on networking was called ‘Life’s a Pitch’ by Philip Delves, one man’s quest to interview the world’s best sales people to understand the secrets of their success. The book is full of stories of people from different industries, continents and cultures who have made their fortunes around networking. It really does come down to being a nice person, meeting people, helping them out if you can and keeping in touch with them.
My simple actionable advice to anyone either contracting or thinking about contracting is to ramp up your network today by doing the following:
- Join the RecWorks Contractor Network and engage with contractors on there
- Connect on Linkedin with everyone that you have worked with that you respect
- Keep a spreadsheet with the names of your network, any notes and the last time you reached out to them
- Try to keep in touch with your network once every 3–6 months, either for a coffee or just a quick email to give an update on what you’re doing and an offer to help if they need it
- When you go to an event aim to meet 3–7 new people each time, exchange email addresses and keep in touch
- If there is a particular niche you’re looking to get into then gravitate toward people that have those skills and add them to your network
Good luck to you all, any questions let me know. Barry Cranford — firstname.lastname@example.org
The RecWorks Contractor Network is a free-to-join group to bring contractors together to share advice, contacts and support each other in all matters relating to contracts whilst also being the first to hear about contracts from RecWorks. You can learn more here.