Tuesday, 30 April 2013

A pause for reflection

So last Friday brought me to the end of my contract. It's been 12 months since I set out on the self employed route, and became the highly paid contractor that all the permanent staff hate when they turn up in the office and tell you what you already know.

12 months is a decent slug of work for your first contract I'd say, - in fact it was two blocks of 6 months - so no need to complain. It was the best of three contract jobs I was offered at the time. The one permanent job I was looking at the company couldn't make up its mind what it wanted.

So, seeing as how contracting was forced on me rather than being a career move of choice how did it go for me (leaving aside for the moment the commuting aspect)?

I think I'd say that it has been a really rewarding last 12 months. The work has been new and stimulating. It has been very liberating working on a project with no line management strings attached to it. All I had to do was get on with the appointed tasks and deliver. Actually the project was sufficiently fluid that I got to determine a bit of what I did and also help out in other project areas as well. The fact that a lot of what I ended up doing was different to what we talked about in the interview was unimportant.

What I did find frustrating was my inability to influence in the same way that you do when you are senior and permanent. Meetings would be held and decisions made and I'd be thinking why on earth did you do that without involving me? Then I'd remember I wasn't in charge any more and just get on with it. The client is always right and there's no point in dying in a ditch over a point of principle.

I didn't really miss the line management for a lot of the time, - although as one of the more experienced team members I ended up doing a bit of mentoring. I find that side of management the most rewarding so I'm glad I didn't miss it completely. On the other hand sometimes I'd look at the way things were being managed and think I wouldn't have done it like that, - then move on. After all in 20+ years of management I haven't got all my decisions right. It would be good for my next contract to do some interim management.

The other aspect of it has been the chance to work in the City. More than 20 years in a Treasury and I never worked in the City. That has been held against me in the past, but I think I held up pretty well when finally tested. Sometimes it is evident that there's a lot of jobs chasing a small pool of talent. The commuting has been tough but bearable, so no qualms about doing that again.

It is true to say that contracting is lucrative, but when you take into account the extra insurance you need, pension contributions and lack of paid holiday I probably came out not far off square with working permanently in my previous job before tax.

Other positives? Well I got to work with a really interesting bunch of talented people, - clever, intelligent people with very different skill sets. And I got to work in a business stream I'd never even thought of before. The combination of learning new things and applying existing skills was stimulating and invigorating.

And finally, they gave me a really good send off. An excellent turnout for farewell drinks, then an 8am breakfast at Simpson's on Cornhill. And a collection that put enough in my pocket for me to afford a really nice wide angle lens (10-22mm Sigma). A considerably better leaving experience than my previous place where I'd put in nearly 30 years service.

So, all things considered, a rather good year on the work front.

Now it is time to pack our suitcases and go off on holiday for a few weeks. China here we come.


  1. Having been made redundant myself in the past it is an incredibly stressful experience but can be ultimately rewarding in terms of new challenges and experiences.

    I am currently in a pretty stable job working with people I like so it would be daft to jump ship into the unknown but part of me would like to do it!

    Have a great holiday and keep blogging!

  2. Trebian, I completely sympathise with your point about not being involved in the decision making process. I was awarded a really exciting interim management placement for 14 months through Marble Hill Partners and the frustration I experienced for much of the time was almost unbearable. It sounds like you took it much better than I did, I almost threw a mini-tantrum when a decision caused issues and I was tasked with sorting it. Took me almost a week, when a 5 minute consultation with me would have prevented it in the first place. But like you so aptly said; "The client is always right and there's no point in dying in a ditch over a point of principle."

    1. I went on holiday a day or so before you posted this comment.

      I'm not familiar with Marble Hill, but I think I'll give them a go.

      When I finally recover from the jet lag.

      And clear my back log of post!