After you've managed to secure your first few contracts and you've gained a bit more experience, the next step up the ladder is choosing your contracts wisely. In my life, the best example of the importance of choosing the rights project is Barry. Barry was a security guard at one of my first employments. He used to spend 8 hours a day sat in a small entrance with no television or computer. His main job was to just watch people come and go and phone up to someone for visitors. One day I got chatting to Barry about his past and he said he used to be a developer. I work in technology and this revelation actually shocked me.
I asked Barry why he wasn't a computer programmer anymore and he said that he never learnt any other language except COBOL. As the time passed and COBOL became less popular, the only other job he could get was a security guard. The story's actually quite sad but it's always been a great reminder for me about the importance of taking responsibility for your own career path. If Barry had kept up with the times or tried to improve his knowledge, his future might have been a bit rosier.
Instead, he worked at a company doing what they told him until a certain point where they stopped using COBOL and booted him out the door. That brief story takes us to the point of this post, how can you tell a good position from a bad one. A lot of it is luck if I'm honest. I've taken contracts that seemed amazing and when I turned up it was utter chaos and I've taken contracts I've not been keen on and it's been amazing. After a while, you start to notice the patterns of what I consider good and bad.
Do They Know Why They're Hiring Me? This might sound stupid but it's by far the biggest reoccurring issue I've come across. I've been woo'ed in the interview stage, turned up excited to start a new day, set my laptop up and they have no idea what I should do and I ended up sitting around for weeks or months twiddling my thumbs. My worst example was having a contract terminate early after I turned down another two opportunities because, when I got there, they were several months away from being in a stage that I could even start. Now when I start a contract, I always ask what exactly they're expecting from me. Do they have everything I need to get started, or, will I be responsible for finding out this information?
How will this affect my CV? If you aren't keeping your skills up to date then, like Barry, you will be left behind. Whenever I look at a contract, I always think that, by the end of it, will my CV be better or worse? If my CV will be the same or worse then I'll dismiss the contract.
Will There Be Someone There I can Learn From? I'm a strong believer in craftsmanship. I enjoy creating well-designed products as elegantly as I possibly can... basically I care and I want to learn to help me get even better. Over my career, I've learnt so many tips and tricks by working with talented people. If I'm working on a project with a bunch of people who just want to get the job finished, then the chances are that I won't be working with talented people and I won't learn anything.
Will They Pay Me On Time? I lead a busy life and if you hire me I'll do a great job for you. What I don't want is to have to then chase you for my services, months after you should have paid me. Not getting paid affects my taxes, it takes up my time and frankly is extremely disrespectful. If I even get the whiff that the client is a bad payer, I'll kindly pass on the offer. Life's too short and there are plenty of other good clients out there.
Software Architect, Programmer and Technologist Jon Jones is founder and CEO of London-based tech firm Digital Prompt. He has been working in the field for nearly a decade, specializing in new technologies and technical solution research in the web business. A passionate blogger by heart , speaker & consultant from England.. always on the hunt for the next challenge