Each contract position requires several technical skills but, in general, there are a few soft skills you need if you want to thrive as a technical contractor. Whether you’re just making the transition from full time work to contracting or you’re a seasoned technical contractor, fostering and developing these 10 soft skills will help you succeed.
1. Communication: To advocate for yourself, to express your ideas and qualifications, to work well with others, and to interact with customers and clients you need to have excellent communication skills. Sharpening your communication skills will serve you well as a contractor, particularly if you can communicate effectively in both a written and verbal context.
2. Adaptability: One contract may have you working by yourself, another may have you collaborating with a large team, and many others will fall somewhere in between. Your adaptability matters as a technical contractor because, the more adaptable and flexible your work style is, the easier it will be for you to thrive in every contract position that comes your way.
3. Organization: Technical contractors are often asked to meet tight deadlines and self regulate their time. The more organized you are, the easier it will be for you to effectively manage your time, meet deadlines, and deliver results that are outstanding.
4. Self-Motivation: Though many full time professionals have micromanagers breathing down their neck or managers holding their hand every step of the project’s way, contractors face an entirely different circumstance. You’re often asked to self regulate and stay productive with little-to-no guidance or management. That’s where self-motivation really comes in handy! If you have the drive and the focus to excel and complete a project on time without someone stepping in and telling you what to do and when to do it, you’ll be a more effective technical professional and a much better contractor.
5. Curiosity: Because technical contractors are often asked to have knowledge and experience with the latest and greatest technologies, your curiosity, particularly in regards to technology, is a soft skill you should constantly develop and strengthen. The more curious you are, the easier it will be to pursue new technical skills and knowledge outside of work hours. And, this curiosity will also propel you into thinking about ways to do things better, more efficiently, and differently than they’ve ever been done which will help you do well in contracts at innovative companies.
6. Problem Solving: Every technical professional needs well-developed problem solving skills but it’s an especially important soft skill for contractors. A lot of contract positions are created when a company is having difficulty with their current project, which means you’ll regularly be stepping into a situation where there are already problems galore. Thinking analytically and solving complex problems is essential if you want to be a successful technical contractor.
7. Focus: If you want to be productive and meet fast-approaching deadlines, the soft skill you need to sharpen is your ability to focus. Contract positions could have you working in quiet, independent environments or hectic, frenzy-filled open offices with plenty of distractions. If you’re able to focus and get work done at a steady pace in any of these environments, you’ll be a much better technical contractor.
8. Self-Regulation: Just as important as self-motivation, self-regulation is the key to success as a technical contractor. If you can assess your progress, pivot your efforts, divvy up your time, and stay productive you’ll do well as a contractor and all of these qualities fall under the umbrella of self-regulation.
9. Confidence: One soft skill that you may not take the time to develop as a technical contractor is confidence, but you should! You need to be able to jump from project to project, adapt quickly to vastly different circumstances, and deliver results that are up-to-par. If you’re not confident in your abilities, you won’t be able to do this very well. Plus, your confidence can help you secure future contract positions.
10. Resilience: Part of being a contractor is dealing with a lot of ups and downs, ebs and flows. If you take the time to develop just one soft skill, make it your resilience. The ability to persevere and succeed no matter what challenge is thrown your way will help you have a more fulfilling and less stressful career as a technical contractor.
If you want to be a technical contractor, you need to spend time cultivating your technical skills. Similarly, you need to spend time sharpening and developing these 10 essential soft skills. If you do, you’ll be a more desirable hire to a wide variety of companies and you’ll have an easier time succeeding throughout your career as a contractor.