Contracting gives you more autonomy as a professional.  However, the flipside of this is a greater responsibility for you to manage your career and its future health.   One of the key areas of this responsibility is ensuring that you as a contractor have the skills and certifications businesses are looking for and that they remain current.

This is critical to your success

The fields of finance and especially information technology are highly dynamic and subject to new regulations and ever evolving technologies, both revolutionary and evolutionary.  While an employee can sometimes get away with being dated technologically, a software contractor (for example) is usually expected to be proficient in the latest version as well as potentially older versions of a software application.  As such it is important for you as a contractor to understand the scope of your expertise (niche) and work to stay up to date and anticipate change within that scope. 

Some potential techniques to accomplish this include:

  •  Reading periodic publications such as trade journals, newsletters, magazines, online articles, etc. in your field of expertise to understand specific topics, where the field is going, or to broadly explore a new area 
  • Develop a formal training plan including conferences, classes, workshops, online training, books, etc. depending on your style of learning and money/time considerations
  • Gain hands-on experience by volunteering on a project in an area you want to learn more about.  Even better – get paid while you learn on the job.



  •  If looking into a new area of technology for example try and leverage transferable skills you already have.  Chasing hot technologies can be a risky strategy.  If you decide to go this route you will need to supplement training with hand-on experience.
  • Always weight the pros of a given form of training with the direct as well as opportunity cost.  Remember that time spent in training is usually non billable so make sure you will see benefits
  •  Ensure time spent on seminars is worthwhile and they are designed to teach and not sell you something.  In many cases conferences and seminars are an expensive and inefficient way of learning something or staying up to date.


Certifications can also be of significant benefit and should not be overlooked.  Decide how much value a given certification will provide and how many doors it will potentially open.  Then compare this with the cost of acquiring and maintaining the certification.  Do prospective clients consider the certification a must have requirement or it is just icing on the cake?

So what’s the payoff?

As a contractor by ensuring your skills are up to date you will be more marketable, have less downtime, and potentially higher contract rates. 

If you are a contractor I’d welcome comments on what has worked for you with respect to keeping your skills current so please share.

Next Month:

 Part 3 of 3 – Want to be a Contractor?  Interview preparation.