questions manI wrote this a few months ago, before I had a web page.  It was originally published under the “Career Development” forum on the ATD’s (Association for Talent Development’s) website, but since this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart and I’ve been getting a lot of questions about the options for contracting since then, I thought it was worth sharing here as well!

Experienced learning and development (L&D) professionals are always needed in the industry, but since the “Great Recession,” companies have been wary of hiring permanent staff.   Instead, many have turned to contractors or “contingent workers.” Whether you have years of industry experience, are exploring a career in learning and development, or have recently finished school, contract work may be a place to start. This article provides introductory information about why contracting is becoming a viable alternative, and how it might benefit you as a learning and development professional.

Times Are Changing
The workforce is changing, and over the past decade there has been a significant increase in both the number of workers who are classified as “contingent” and the number of large companies that hire them. Here are some statistics:

  • In 2006, a U.S. Department of Labor study showed that about 30% of the U.S. workforce held part-time, temporary, or contract positions;
  • Between 2009-2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of “contingent” workers increased by 29%;
  • In 2010, an Intuit survey of 200 large companies indicated that by 2020 about 80% of employers at large corporations plan to increase their “flexible” workforce;
  • In 2012, research study done at the University of Minnesota projected that by 2020, 50% of the U.S. workforce will be “contingent” workers; and
  • In 2013, Bersin and Deloitte reported that corporate training budgets increased by 15% ($70 billion in the U.S. alone) between 2012 and 2013.

Why Should L&D Professionals Consider Contracting?

  •  They need you. Corporate training budgets have INCREASED and training is now a priority again!
  • Businesses gutted their training departments a few years ago, and no longer have the staff to do the work. But the work still needs to be done – and you know how to do it!
  • The pay can be very good, and you may get a higher rate as a contractor. For a general idea of salary expectations based on job type, geography, and experience use an online calculator like PayScale.com, Salary.com, or Glassdoor.com
  • More flexibility. You can work for who you want, when you want (although you still have to stick with project deadlines and client requirements)
  • Great opportunities for networking and learning
  • Lots of variety

Why Would L&D Professionals NOT want to Consider Contracting?

  • It’s not permanent. You only get a paycheck for a set period of time or a specific contract, and when it’s over, it’s over. Cash flow needs to be carefully managed.
  • No benefits, and usually no performance reviews or raises
  • You are expected to “hit the ground running” with each new contract and may get little or no training to do the job
  • You have to be adaptable, resilient, and flexible. Having a tough skin and being o.k. with uncertainty are “musts.”
  • There are different rules for “employees” vs. “contractors.” Regular employees will likely have resources available to them that you do not.
  • Depending on whether you are working on your own or through an agency, you may have to pay your own taxes, including self-employment tax.

What Are the Best L&D Jobs for Contractors?
Many jobs in our field lend themselves nicely to contracting, but those that require specific skills and knowledge, and are general enough to be highly transferrable are good options. Instructional designers / developers; eLearning designers / developers; media designers / developers; project managers specializing in learning development; and learning management system administrators are usually in demand.

How Do I Find Contract Jobs?
The better your technical skills and training, the more likely you are to find jobs and keep working, but sitting home thinking about your great skills is not going to get you hired! You need to put yourself out there, let people know what you can do, and find ways to market yourself. Here are a few to start with:

  • Personal networking. Friends, family, community organizations, and especially – getting involved with your local ATD chapter is a great way to meet people and spread the word!
  • Social networking. LinkedIn is the premiere site for professionals (Hint: You don’t need to pay for a professional account)
  • Staffing agencies that specialize in your field of expertise.
  • Job sites like monster.com, careerbuilder.com, glassdoor.com, etc. (Hint: Filling out endless profiles and sending huge numbers of resumes is not the best use of your time, but having an active and updated profile will generate some leads)

Thanks for reading!  If you have questions or want more information on this topic, please connect with me on LinkedIn!

References:

  • Fisher, Thomas: The Contingent Workforce and Public Decision-Making, downloaded at http://blog.lib.umn.edu/cdescomm/cdes_memo/Thomas_Fisher_Public_Sector_Spring2012.pdf
  • Bersin, Josh, Spending on Corporate Training Soars: Employee Capabilities Now a Priority http://www.forbes.com/sites/joshbersin/2014/02/04/the-recovery-arrives-corporate-training-spend-skyrockets/