23314358There’s a lot to be said for full time employment. But you know what? I personally think it’s over rated. As witnessed by corporate implosions, nothing is secure or sacred these days. I’m not a full time type of person myself. Never have been. Although I can respect those who want the stability of a constant paycheck and benefits, I prefer to think of myself as a free agent and keep my options open. I don’t want someone to dictate how much I’m allowed to make in any given year, or at any time for that matter.

Back in the days, a good salary and benefits package would be the hook that got people to commit to a job. My parents , just a generation ago, used to drive home the point that we needed to get a good job with stable benefits and advance through the company as high as we could then retire. Loyalty was a big thing for them. My Dad worked for New York City Housing Authority (city job) and my Mom was a bank supervisor for many years before being wooed by another company. Guess what though? I’m not my parents as you could pretty much guess. I’ve never been one to want that kind of long term committment. Not because I didn’t feel I could hack it in the corporate environment, but because I always felt I wanted to diversify and advance my skills, learn new things, meet new people, and I never believed I could do that working for just one company forever. Plus, I love being able to pick and choose which contracts I want to work. Talk about total freedom!

I long ago joined the ranks of the Free Agent, the Independent Contractor. Yes I am considered a business, and there are no corporate perks, but I get to call my own shots. I don’t need any fancy benefits package because I did my research and comparisons, then I chose the appropriate medical, dental, life and disability insurance for me and my family needs. Yes this can be a little costly, but here’s the beauty of it…I make more as a contractor than a salaried employee. I can set my own rates and make it where I can afford my coverage. I also researched and found a good self 401K program and enrolled. So the benefits package doesn’t sway me. As far as vacations, the best part of contracting is I take off the months of November and December- by choice- each year. If I need to take a few days here or there during the year, it’s ok. Sure I don’t get paid for hours I don’t put in, but again, the freedom of being a contractor is well worth it. Some websites to check out are: http://www.ehealthinsurance.com/, http://www.ahip.org/, http://www.healthplans.com/, http://www.sharebuilder401k.com/, http://www.401kadvisor.com/, http://www.mykplan.com/, http://www.401k.com/. So don’t let insurance be a determining factor for you. It is becoming easier to set up your own plans. Remember, contractors make more money so consider it part of your overhead when calculating your rate.

Contracting is not for the faint of heart though. As I stated earlier, many people are happy with knowing that a timely paycheck will be available every week, biweekly, etc. They can’t handle the unpredictablility of the work. Contracting can be short term, long term, or even end abruptly. And usually here is nothing you can do about it. Oh, but yes there is. Remember, being a Contractor is like being in business. Just as you take care of your own expenses and taxes, you also need to prepare contracts. Most times, companies want to give you a standard contract that ends up protecting them more. But you have a right to revise a contract. I eliminate this need by having my own. If a company needs to make changes within reason, I allow it. But I always make sure to have an attorney look it over and I put in verbiage about giving at minimum two weeks’ notice of terminating a contract. In the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t help to know you only have two weeks before you have no gig. But you can contingency plan in thet two weeks. Actually, as a contractor, you need to always keep your ears and eyes open for new opportunities, even when you have a contract, simply because you never know.

There are a few places you can search for contract positions.  Of course, they are listed on some of the major job boards. But you can find them on Craig’s List, Sologig.com, Civiliancontractorjobs.com, SimplySAP.com, Contractjobs.com, ContractJobHunter.com, iFreelance.com, Freelancewritinggigs.com, GoFreelance.com, Project4hire.com, Contractedwork.com, Elance.com, Guru.com, ODesk.com, and of course Dice.  Of course you can do a good old fashion Google/Yahoo/Live.com search using keyword criteria. And you can always find out through networking what companies hire contractors. Tap into Linked In to find contract opportunities as well.

So if you’re looking to step into a Contractor’s Life make sure you prepare yourself and you’ve got the resolve to deal with uncertainty. Do your due diligence and investigate all of your “benefit” options. Make sure you cover yourself legally with a solid contract. And finally, take advantage of every contract opportunity you get and soak up as much knowledge as you can to enhance your skills. Get to know as many people as you can so that you can leverage those contacts in the future.
Til next time.
Adrienne Graham
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Diversity is a wonderful concept.  Total Inclusion is even better, when you can find it.

There was a discussion on a recruiting site that I occasionally visit in their Diversity Forum regarding the lack luster performance (is that an accurate term for a job board?) of diversity job sites. Now, I do keep up on what sites are out there. That’s my job as a Recruiter, to keep up on all the places to seek talent.  But being that my specialty is Diversity Recruiting, I go to great lengths to keep in the know about where to find diverse talent.  Ethnicity specific, gender specific, disability or veteran specific, all the way to total inclusion (which would make it supposedly like all the other job sites I suppose). But there is a lingering misconception that a diversity job board will magically bring in diversity candidates. I can’t tell you how wrong that is and how frustrating it is to me as someone who specializes in diversity recruiting. I think some people just don’t get it. Some companies are tight fisted with the dollars and don’t want to put their money where their mouth is as far as diversity initiatives go. Recruiters on the average don’t care about diversity because their objective it to fill the job by any means necessary.

I bring you this post from the perspective of a recruiter and a diverse candidate and hope you’ll feel compelled to fill in any areas I may inadvertently leave out.  I won’t get too heavy into it from the recruiter perspective, as that is not my intended audience.

Job boards of any kind are but a tool and should not be relied on to be used for a major portion of “diversity” sourcing. I think everyone would agree with me that a true diversity (or rather inclusion) initiative would include the company GETTING OUT IN SIGHT OF CANDIDATES. Posting an ad on any diversity job board is not enough. I believe candidates want to see companies who get out and get involved to show that they stand by their mission. Attending events that target diverse candidates, creating a message to share that will catch the interest of diverse candidates, and contributing time, expertise and writing talent to deliver content attracts diverse (or specific) candidates.  Most employers fail to take advantage of those opportunities to step forward and present their company in a different light from the competition. Honestly speaking, I, as a diverse candidate, would only utilize a diversity job site if it had other things besides job postings to catch my eye. Show me why I stand out. Show me why I matter as a diverse candidate. Show me how you as a company promote diversity, not just that you are posting a job on a site to attract my attention. You need to HOLD my attention. Show me how you have a message I might be interested in. Show me that your experts look just like me. Show me that I can see a kaleidescope of people in your company that match the global landscape (and I don’t mean just in the call center). Wouldn’t you agree?

There are lots of sites in the internet to choose from.  In terms of Diversity sites, I know people sometimes want to visit a site that relates to them in some manner.  A site that shows they understand the needs and wants of you as a person from a certain gender or ethnicity.  Some hit the mark and provide a range of tools, articles and activities to keep the continuity of interest. Others are an extension of a network or organization (such as Empower Me! Careers…which is still in development).  Then there are some that put up some cute graphics or flash and proclaim to be the #1 source for [insert ethnicity or gender here] and want to charge exorbitant fees for access to their “exclusive” database of resumes.  Newsflash….if they are selling their database to anyone who pays for it, how is it exclusive?  But I digress.

As a diversity recruiter (and an African American and Hispanic Woman), my approach is different than the average recruiter. I gauge a job site by how useful it is to candidates. I put myself in the mindset of a (so-called diverse candidate) and try to understand the draw of the site. Is it related to an active organization? Do the members actively participate? How does the site get into the mindset of the candidates who visit the site? What types of people does the site draw? What is the attraction and why do people want to return? Are there things for me to do there as a recruiter other than just posting? Will I be able to create a relationship with the site through contributions (articles, etc) that will brand my company as being truly involved in diversity initiative? The answer to many of these questions for a lot of diversity sites is often NO.

As head of Empower Me!, I know that my members are fickle. They are not looking for companies that are just fishing for black women to add to their staff. They are savvy when it comes to making their career decisions and are interested in looking at genuine opportunities from top notch companies. They want to see more than just a job ad, so they expect more in a job site than just a colorized version of Monster or Careerbuilder. Companies that do advertise jobs on the Empower Me Careers site need to understand that they need to create a message for the candidates they seek, and they are agreeing to a partnership of sorts to promote their employment brand to members. They can’t just post a job and run. Companies that we partner with are excited about being able to answer these very same questions (I mentioned above) and know that they are not just being sold the same database that other employers are receiving the same access to. Oh yeah, and I don’t sell the resume database. The site allows for companies to create their brand identity to attract diverse candidates. In other words, they have to put in time and work to cultivate relationships and get their message out.

So I ask you as visitors and potential users of the site.  What, besides job postings, keeps you returning to a job site?  How important is the diversity message that each company portrays? What tools would be helpful to you? What type of content will make you think and take action to use in your own career?  What do you like to see from employers?  And finally, what are your thoughts on a website created “just for you”?  Your answers will help me in further refining the site to bring you the best tool possible.

Til next time.

Adrienne Graham