Staying Competitive in the Ever-Changing Contract Jobs Market

7 min

Contract jobs are increasing in popularity globally. The flexibility, work-life balance, and the ability to gain experience in different sectors is invaluable. The general freedoms and practicalities associated with contract recruitment are incredibly appealing. However, the recent evolutionary changes in economic and business landscapes, such as financial difficulties and digital transformations, have left contractors needing to adapt to the changing job market and remain competitive.

For the businesses and clients that employ contract workers, nearly 91% of those businesses are currently engaged in some form of digital transformation or digital initiatives. This highlights the need for contract workers to participate in skill development to keep up with these changing technologies. The current economic landscape has also affected businesses, which may be forced to reassess employment. Staying competitive and increasing your skillset has never been more significant. 

This guide delves into the ever-changing job market and its implications for the contract jobs market. It explores the impact of a changing job market for contractors, shedding light on the challenges facing contractors in 2024 and the in-demand skills necessary for securing fixed-contract jobs.  Additionally, the guide discusses skill development and provides our top five tips on staying relevant, employable and confident. 

Navigating the Contract Job Market

Contractors are an incredibly large part of the global economy. In 2022, it was estimated that there were more than 2 million freelancers working in the UK. Changing landscapes, digitalisation, legal changes, and financial uncertainty make staying relevant and employable challenging. 

Challenges Contract Workers Face in the Evolving Job Market:

As the job market’s transformation continues, navigating these hurdles requires a detailed understanding of the shifting landscape and how to prepare and adapt to this environment. Here are the key areas to consider:

Technical Skills

The current digital transformations that businesses undergo mean contractor skills must be moulded to align with this. Even industries not directly related to IT, software or technology will update systems and software to cut out repetitive tasks while increasing efficiency. 

While streamlining programs is a significant positive for businesses, as automating daily tasks like spreadsheets and data analysis will reduce operational costs, there is a downside. All jobs require specific skill sets, training, and experience, but businesses seek individuals who can work with these systems. Permanent staff receive training on new technologies and programs, but contractors must take the initiative to enrol in computer training courses or advance their learning.

It is estimated that by 2024, up to 69% of day-to-day repetitive tasks will be automated. The competition for digital skills is fierce. Developing skills and personal knowledge is essential for contractors and the contract job market to bridge the gap between job insecurity and success. 

Networking, Social Media and Digital Advancements

The evolution and digital transformation of businesses mean that clients and companies seek talent differently. The use of multiple online platforms, tools, and resources by clients and businesses has wholly altered contract recruitment. 

Networking is an extension of ‘word of mouth’ advertising, promoting skills, vacancies and connections on a global scale. With up to 70% of jobs never officially advertised and gained through industry connections, social platforms like LinkedIn are a proven way to beat the application process. 

With our current dependency on social media for every aspect of our private and professional lives, the primary way to ensure long-term success as a contractor is to be involved in the digital process. According to a recent survey, up to 88% of professionals use LinkedIn in their everyday lives to network, socialise and as an endorsement of their skills. 

Contractors who do not engage with these networking platforms will struggle to gain the support, references and connections expected for employment in 2023. Engaging with these platforms and learning their functions is essential in modern contract recruitment. 

Remaining Employable In a Changing Landscape

Staying relevant is vital to obtaining contract jobs. Clients are most likely to select contracting professionals if they present with proficiency in the latest technologies. Up-to-date skills enhance a person’s marketability and assist in future career development. This section explores the essential considerations for ensuring you remain employable in an ever-changing professional contract environment. 

Identifying In-Demand Skills

When employers and clients hire contractors, they expect higher knowledge and skills relevant to that industry. The skills employers are looking for and the skills you need to stand out as a contractor are certainly altering.

According to a recent study, up to 70% of employers are willing to hire and train individuals with transferable skills. This powerfully demonstrates the importance of transferable skills in the workplace. But what skills are and will be in demand for contract jobs? 

While the desired specialist skills may alter depending on the industry or nature of the position, transferable skills are invaluable in any sector. These include:

  • Strong time-management skills, including organising your schedules to meet goals and objectives. 
  • The capability to learn quickly, even in unfamiliar environments and industries. 
  • The ability to collaborate effectively with other team members to complete projects to a high standard and ensure organisation. 
  •  The presentation of strong leadership skills to coordinate projects and take ownership of tasks. 
  • The knowledge of standard computer programs (search engines, media platforms, Microsoft Office). 
  • The ability to Work on your own initiative to complete work to a high standard. 
  • The motivation to complete work and advance your knowledge. 
  • Being dependable, taking accountability for your work and learning from past experiences. 

Constantly building on these transferable skills will ensure that you are always relevant in the contract job market and have the skills clients seek. 

Skill Development and Training

Approximately 73% of contractors are reported to have higher education degrees or equivalent qualifications. Though qualifications are essential to clients and businesses, these must be combined with relevant skills and training to stand out from the crowd and remain competitive. 

Transferable skills are incredibly significant to securing a job in the current market. The growing demand for specialist skills in the digitally-dominated environment means that developing these skills is invaluable to obtaining contract jobs. 

Though industry-specific, the general experience and hard skills that contract workers in 2023 need include:

  • Experience working with data, including effectively organising, finding, collecting, and storing data. 
  • Knowledge of the functions of Microsoft systems (Outlook, Word).
  • Awareness of different social media platforms and their functions. 
  • Training in specialist industry-relevant skills. 

Identifying your strengths and weaknesses concerning these skills is even more significant to your career progression. Identifying skills and experience you may not possess helps you identify subjects and skills to improve. Developing these skills through up-to-date training courses can give you a competitive edge in the digital age. 

Contractor Advice: The Top Five Tips For The Current Job Market

As we have established, it is no secret that the job market is experiencing a period of turbulence and innovative development. Combining this and implementing new IR35 contractor regulations can leave the atmosphere perplexing. 

Changes in any job market can disrupt any job, but the threat of changes can create uncertainty for contract jobs. That’s why we have collated our top tips to help you navigate this transition period, enabling you to stay up-to-date and in demand and continue doing what you love. 

1. Define Your Career Goals and Keep Learning 

The rise in demand for skilled contractors and the advancement into an Internet of Things (IoT) environment, especially in the information and technology industries, means a shift in what employers seek. To continue moving seamlessly between roles, your skills must appeal to businesses to give you a competitive edge over others. Alternating between sectors means you must be skilled in all your chosen industries. 

Take online courses focusing on the latest transferable skills to ensure income stability and successful career development. Examples of these include:

LinkedIn Learning:

This learning platform has a variety of online courses in several different industries. The courses are up-to-date and include training sessions ranging from computer training to supporting communication skills. Engaging in various industry courses will increase your knowledge and assist you in securing your future contract jobs.

Indeed Skills Assessment:

Once you feel confident in your skillset, you can test your knowledge using this tool. This tool can help you test your digital knowledge and ensure your skills are as relevant as possible. Some employers use these assessments to determine whether your skills suit the position. 

Ted Talks:

Ted Talks are an informative and visual method of education. Qualified professionals in various industries give advice and share their experiences to assist you in your learning. These visual and auditory learning tools can assist you in learning new topics, brushing up on in-demand skills and developing the transferable skills employers seek. 

Informative Guides: 

Various helpful guides contain information detailing the current technological developments and the future of digital recruitment. Engaging with relevant guides can help you stay up-to-date with the latest tech advancements and the skills you need to be proficient in any new software. 

If you want to learn more about how recruitment is changing, check out our insightful guide on The Future of Digital Recruitment: Emerging Trends and Strategies

UK Government’s ‘The Skills Toolkit’: 

The UK government offer a variety of courses with the aim of knowledge development. These courses mainly focus on combining your current abilities with relevant business, digital and mathematics skills that appeal to employers. These courses will also assist in your future career development. 

2. Keeping a Relevant and Personalised CV 

Your CV is the first piece of information that an employer or client receives from you. Your experience, skills and qualifications are packed onto an A4 document. A positive first impression is imperative to remain a candidate for contract jobs. 

Due to technological developments, many clients and businesses now use an applicant tracking system (ATS) to filter out candidates whose CVs show relevance to the job. A competitive CV will be tailored for every job, even if the job postings are in the same sector. Including strictly relevant experience and hard skills is essential for elevating your CV. 

A strong contracting CV should feature the following:

  • A dedicated skillset section that is already tailored to the skills required for the job role. 
  • Any volunteering work or relevant experience. 
  • An education section containing any certifications. 

A successful contracting CV shouldn’t include:

  • Lengthy sections 
  • More than two pages of text
  • Unnecessary information that will not be relevant to that job. 
  • Any irrelevant personal information like gender or marital status. 

For more information on creating the perfect CV, head over to our blog on elevating your CV: tips for contract professionals.

3. Make Use of Networking Platforms 

Unsurprisingly, the way jobs are secured is changing due to rapid digital transformations. Networking and social platforms have become our communication methods, and this is the same for clients and employers. Utilising these platforms to benefit you and your career development will enhance the likelihood of being a successful contractor in 2024. 

LinkedIn is a networking platform increasing in popularity and intended to allow users to make connections, advertise their services, and present their experiences. Keeping professional social media and networking accounts up-to-date with relevant skills and training courses is a tactical way to ensure clients and employers see them. This is especially relevant, with over 67% of companies examining applicants' profiles on LinkedIn during the application process. 

Social platforms can be influential when presenting your skills and achievements to potential clients or businesses. Tailor your socials to what you want future employers to see to maximise contract job opportunities. 

How to utilise networking platforms and social media: 

  • Connect with all past clients and employers who can endorse your skills.
  • Utilise LinkedIn’s ‘Open Candidate’ feature to notify any recruiters that you are ready to work and may be interested in being contacted regarding contract jobs. 
  • Keep your platform professional by updating your profile to reflect your latest work and achievements. 
  • Keep in contact with all connections by sending greetings and best wishes or congratulating them on their achievements. 

4. Create Positive Relationships With Clients 

In the era of connectivity, it should be no surprise that up to 80% of jobs are filled through professional or personal connections. Connections are important. Keep in contact with these clients and send them helpful information regarding how you have developed your knowledge, experience and skill set. 

Maintaining positive relationships can allow you to build a client base to increase the chances of completing more work for them or providing references for your next job. To businesses, the prospect of employing trusted contractors who are known and have a positive reputation is invaluable. 

5. Manage Your Time Effectively 

Though being a contractor comes with certain time-related freedoms not usually associated with permanent positions, in a period of financial uncertainty for contractors, securing new jobs is difficult, even with the relevant qualifications. The competitive nature of these jobs in 2024 means more preparation is necessary to secure continuous contract jobs. 

Managing time effectively is incredibly significant to maintaining a constant contract work supply. 

To avoid gaps in between jobs, you should:

  • Actively seek new contracts throughout your current career.
  • Be constantly looking at networking sites for new positions. 
  • Continually update your networking sites to incorporate your recent experience. 
  • Give yourself enough time to apply and interview to prevent significant gaps between employment. 
  • Talk to past and present clients to explore any opportunities that may be available. 

Final Thoughts on Navigating Contract Recruitment

In this guide, we've explored the transformations in the job market, shedding light on the evolving nature of contract employment in the face of competition, digitalisation and economic uncertainties. To empower contract workers in this evolving environment, we've provided practical advice on staying employable and competitive. 

From identifying in-demand skills and engaging in skill development to effective communication strategies with employers, our top five tips serve as a map for navigating the current job market.

Remember that change is the only constant in the contract job market. Embrace it, and be prepared to constantly develop your skillset to secure the best opportunities and market your skills. The key to thriving as a contract worker is embracing change, remaining flexible, and investing in continuous skill development. As the job market continues to evolve, contractors who stay adaptable, informed, and committed to growth will appropriate

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