Why upgrading your contract skills is the only option

You may have had a vague suspicion at the time, that nobody actually read that CV you submitted for a contract role a while back…

I don’t just mean that the recruiter glanced at your profile and decided that you didn’t sound quite right for the role. No, what I mean is that the recruiter never even saw your CV. You were filtered out along with hundreds of other candidates by a simple piece of software called a CV scanner, a technology that has slowly and quietly crept into the recruitment process over the past few years.

If that thought doesn’t send a chill down your spine, it should, because the real message is this: If you haven’t got the qualifications to back up your experience, there is a good chance that will fall at the first hurdle when you apply for your next contract.

CV scanners might not be smart enough to recognise that you have 10 years industry experience in project management, networks, or servers, but they will certainly be able to work out that you don’t have your PRINCE2, your CCNP, or your MCSE.

It might seem harsh but the reality is this: It takes, on average, about 30 seconds to skim read a 2-3 page CV and, in the current job market, it is not uncommon for a recruiter to receive 200-500 applications for a single contract.

Simple mathematics dictates that it would take 2-4 hours to read all of those CVs – which is utterly unrealistic in such a fast paced industry where a single recruiter will be responsible for multiple clients simultaneously.

Even if they did, the unfortunate reality is that most of the applications will be completely irrelevant anyway because, sadly, there are still large numbers of contractors out there who believe that using the “one click apply” button is a reliable recipe for success. (Top tip: It isn’t.)

Upgrading your skills is the only option because, if you don’t, there is a good chance that your next contract will be taken by somebody with less experience than you but who has the right qualifications.

The good news is that there has never been a better time to find great deals on training courses leading to professional qualifications.

Training companies have been hit hard by the recession because organisations have tightened the reins around training budgets to preserve the core of their business. It is common to see large training companies offering significant discounts (particularly for last minute bookings) and there is often room for negotiation, particularly if you are prepared to book more than one course with the same training provider.

The perfect time for a contractor to schedule training is generally immediately after finishing a contract. It can be unnerving to shell out hundreds (or even thousands) of pounds at a point when you are not earning, of course, but it is important to remember that the right qualifications will significantly improve your chances of securing your next contract.

It also avoids the psychological “double whammy” that you experience as a contractor when you schedule training in the middle of contract and suffer the cost of the training combined with the notional loss of earnings.

If you prefer the security of scheduling training while you are “in contract” then it is worthwhile looking at the increasing number of training companies that offer either weekend training or compressed “boot camp” courses.

Alternatively, if you are really pushed for time and money, then it is worth remembering that fully accredited online courses are becoming increasingly popular and the demand for this type of training has been recently recognised by the creation of National Skills Academy for IT.

This article was written by Peter Roy, a freelance project manager and personal productivity trainer. Peter also wrote the recent article ‘6 simple questions you should have asked your agent – here.

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