A silver lining to a down economy is that it stirs a spirit of entrepreneurship. When people lose their jobs, they start thinking of being their own boss or going into business for themselves. Contracting or working on a temporary basis are ways professionals take control of their career paths. Companies also look to hire temporary staff or contractors in a down economy for many reasons: it saves money on hiring costs; it saves money on employment costs such as taxes and benefits; it fills what might be a temporary need for talent in a specialized situation; and finally, it allows the company to “try before you buy” for possible permanent employees in the future.
If you are considering going down the path of independent contracting, make sure your resume and cover letter are adequately prepared for your direction. Contractors and consultants are hired for their expertise in very specific skills or areas. Your resume should be focused on your precise skill set and how you have used that skill set in the past to bring value to projects, programs, and initiatives. Here are some tips to make sure your resume shows you have the right stuff for the job.
Specific Branding Line – Objectives are generally not used in resumes these days but branding lines are. Make sure your resume has a clear branding line that establishes the focus of your resume and clues the reader in on where your expertise lies. For example, if you are an expert in collections, you might have a branding line of “Accounts Receivable Specialist”. If you have a specific technical expertise related to your goal, use the branding line to make that clear; for example, “Software Assurance Engineer – Agile Methodology”.
Core Competencies Section – Focusing on a specific expertise can be a great strategy in a tight market, and a core competencies section can make that focus laser-like. Build a keyword section in the first half of the resume, bringing in phrases, skills, and knowledge that show your expertise. These should all be detailed, not “fluff phrases” such as “Good communicator”; for example, if you are a benefits specialist, you might have keywords related to pensions, compensation analysis, or risk management.
Tech Skills Section – Technology specialists should have a strong technical skills section in addition to a core competencies section. Employers look for specific technology exposure such as operating system versions, development tools, network management tools, etc. Your tech skills section should be up-to-date and reflect skills most in demand for your goal job. Carefully consider older skills because providing an exhaustive list of extinct technologies can make you look like a dinosaur instead of someone on the leading edge.
Strong Summary Section – Keeping in mind that you are targeting consulting or contracting, it’s likely your role will not involve a great deal of strategic actions. Most consultants are hired for a specific project or need, not for fitting into a long-term, strategic program. When constructing a strong summary, it may not be wise to expound about strategic planning, long-term vision, or team building because those skills are not going to be high on the list for a great consultant.
Temporary assignments or consulting are a viable option for job seekers and many thrive on the ever-changing landscape of independent contracting. Employers also lean toward temporary hires or hiring independent consultants in a down economy because it makes sense money-wise. Everyone is seeking to get the most important things done with as little expense as possible. Historically, demand for temporary employees increases during times of recession and recovery as employers keep tight rein on budget expenditures. If you have not considered temporary assignments or working as an independent consultant, now may be the time!