When to look for your next contracting assignment

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One of the many perks of contracting is the ability to work on a variety of assignments, giving you lots of new experiences and a greater sense of freedom.

As one assignment comes to an end, you’re left with the task of sourcing the next gig – but how long do you wait before putting your feelers out? Here are a few points to consider:

Can you afford to be out of work? 


Experienced contractors will have probably built up a ‘war chest’ over the years, a cash reserve they can dip into if need’s be. Those new to contracting are unlikely to have this luxury, so may not be able to be out of work for too long.

If you find yourself in this position, it’s a good idea to leave plenty of time to complete the interview process so that you can get started with your new assignment as soon as the old one has finished. Remember that it never hurts to be inquisitive, so keep checking with agencies to see what opportunities are about.

They’ll soon let you know if they think it’s too early, but will probably keep your details on file and contact you closer to the time when a suitable gig becomes available.

Do you need a break?


Remember that a major benefit of contracting is the chance to enjoy a better work/life balance. If you’re constantly on assignment, you’re unlikely to be taking full advantage of this perk, so it may be a good idea to put your feet up for a short while and recharge your batteries.

Something else to think about is that if you’re working too much, you have a greater chance of becoming stressed. If left unchecked, this could start affecting your work and even your health.

You should therefore avoid taking on more than you can handle. This is especially important for new contractors as they could easily find themselves overwhelmed if they try to do too much too soon.

Think like a “permie”


Now that’s something we never thought we’d say! However, when it comes to looking for a new job, “permies” can get timing to an art form.

The minimum notice period for leaving a permanent job is around four weeks, giving the employee plenty of time to finish what they need to do at the old place, before starting at the next the following week.

Contractors may want to take a leaf out of the “permie” book and start looking around four weeks before their current assignment is due to end. They can contact a recruitment agency to see if there’s a chance the existing project will be extended, or look for something completely different. They could also contact new recruiters to cast their net even wider.

You might not need to look at all


The best case scenario is if a new opportunity falls right into your lap with no effort on your part at all. If you’ve managed to build up a good network of contacts, they might get in touch with a potential gig.

You might even get approached by the agency, either for an extension to your current assignment or the offer of a new one. In addition, those who have been contracting for a while will have been able to build up a reputation, meaning recruiters will already know where to look when an opportunity arises.

However, it’s important not to rest on your laurels and wait for things to come to you. It’s a good idea to always make enquiries so you don’t end up having to take unplanned time off.

Timing comes with experience


As you progress through your contracting career, you’ll end up building up a good idea of when is a good time to start looking. Every contractor and industry is different, each with unique requirements.

Experienced contractors will know the exact length of time that works for them, meaning the task of looking for a new assignment will soon become second nature.

Over to you

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